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Countrywide online 'pause' is unforgivable says leading analyst

Countrywide's decision to 'pause' the roll-out of its online option for sellers and landlords is "unforgivable and dumbfounding" according to a leading property technology expert.

James Dearsley - whose PropTech Today column appears on Estate Agent Today each Wednesday - says in his separate weekly newsletter to subscribers that Countrywide "claim to be re-evaluating the need for the digital rollout to continue, to decide whether or not it’s truly helping the firm’s fortunes."

This is in the context of another dramatic fall in revenue for the firm in the third quarter of 2017; it was £47.8m compared to £57m in the same period of 2016.

"It is unforgivable and dumbfounding to cut a digital rollout halfway through! ... It suggests that Countrywide was sat on a razor’s edge - either they join the digital transformation and fight for survival against Purplebricks, or they reject innovation and fall by the wayside. It seemed, for a while, they had chosen to fight, now, does it feels like they’re thinking twice?" asks Dearsley.

Yesterday morning Estate Agent Today asked Countrywide how long the evaluation process would take, and whether - if the pause turns into a permanent stop - the digital option will be scrapped in those branches where it currently is offered.

So far there has been no response.

Countrywide's pause, revealed in its trading statement last week, is surprising as only a few days before the group's chief executive addressed The Negotiator conference and spoke highly of the success of the roll-out - part of a strategy called Every Customer Counts.

Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt is quoted in The Negotiator as saying at the event: “For the business, the brands where we’ve rolled out Every Customer Counts have seen better performance at every step of the journey, increased traffic, more valuations, better conversion, improved sales progression and increased revenue.".

You can see Dearsley's full newsletter here.

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    The IT illiteracy that this business suffered from 2008, has made this 'new 'model' operate effectively if at all. Add this to the inability of Alison's senior management to train this ut to the branches due to the chasm she has built in the middle management, means this cannot work. The only way to get this to work is with great leadership, huge market share and the ability to sell add-ons at an unprecedented rate. Three more reasons why cutting your pricing by a third may not work. The old guard may have gone, but it looks like they left their broken calculators behind. Really ironic I keep getting spam from this publication from businesses set-up by the 'it illiterates' who broke the, simple math

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    Even more ironically, the post went up before I did a spell check, so...
    The IT illiteracy that this business suffered from 2008, has made this 'new 'model' unable to operate effectively if at all. Add this to the inability of Alison's senior management to train this out to the branches due to the chasm she has built in the middle management, means this cannot work. The only way to get this to work is with great leadership, huge market share and the ability to sell add-ons at an unprecedented rate, when they have little or no management control of the behaviours of their branch staff . Three more reasons why cutting your pricing by a third may not work. The old guard may have gone, but it looks like they left their broken calculators behind. Really ironic I keep getting spam from this publication from the businesses set-up by the original 'it illiterates' who broke the highly effective model of UKs Largest Estate Agency. I understand their enthusiasm withtheir 'new toys' however, their 'new toys' have been peddled by people who know how they work for decades.

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    It would seem the CEO is at fault over fall of Countrywide. Has it not morphed into a 'shop selling cans of beans mentality' under her watch?

  • Kelvin Francis

    Why is it considered, that if you rely 100% on technology, that you are better than experienced agents who utilise the best of technology, together with their personal involvement and people skills? The human brain with its ambitions, initiative and enthusiasm, will never be matched, let alone bettered, by technology alone.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    I'm going to disagree with James here and (whilst a huge advocate of PropTech myself) it is essential that businesses assess any endeavour they engage with to assess if it delivering in terms of company profitability as well as consumer engagement. CW are the only large agency to roll out these services under established brands, rather then developing a new digital brand or acquiring one, and many were sceptical that this would end up diluting their full service offerings. Agents must innovate and embrace digital services but mustn't do so blindly.

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    Let’s be absolutely clear here the reason the online offering has not worked is solely down to the senior management, namely instead of going toe to toe with the online agents from day one they were too short sighted and instead were shouting from the rooftops and to their entire workforce and the world at large that the online agents won’t succeed and we had nothing to fear, move forward a couple of years whilst the new regime gets rid of every single estate agent at senior level and then all of a sudden great news everyone we were wrong and actually have an online offering and all of us senior managers who have never sold a property in our lives are going to teach you how to sell it, oh and by the way you dare actually sell an online offering because we don’t want anybody to actually take us up on the offering now do we……. And if you have to give a vendor an online offering whatever you do not actually sell it! We need to wait until such time that we can up sell them to the same/different “full package”.
    Come on AP and cohorts do you really think that any of your workforce believe, trust, or have any confidence in anything you say or do?
    The entire senior team should hang their heads in shame and leave immediately by the back door taking their healthy severance payments and give the employees a chance……

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