The self-serve revolution is coming… is your agency ready for it?
The industry is now on the cusp of a digital transformation. Agents are being forced to reinvent their traditional approach into one that’s more reflective of our societal needs and consumer demands.
This change isn’t just necessitated by a need for convenience. Consumers also crave greater control, transparency and accessibility to information regarding what is possibly the largest financial transaction of their lives.
What do consumers actually want?
According to Google research, more than two thirds of consumers are likely to buy from a business that offers convenient communications - while the same amount of consumers will avoid businesses if the buying process is too tedious.
The research paper states: “In the age of the customer, consumers gravitate to businesses that offer simplicity, speed, and convenience when they need a question answered or a problem solved.”
How many agents out there can say that they offer simplicity, speed and convenience to their clients or applicants? While applicants may not be your clients now, they may well become clients in the future, so it’s just as important to consider their needs too.
I moved house recently and whilst my agent was excellent, I was at the mercy of waiting for phone calls and emails to inform me of where the process was up to. That impatient feeling when you’re waiting to hear how a viewing went, or even if it went ahead, is a feeling well known to anyone moving house. This is what the right technology can help to eliminate in order to deliver a more positive experience.
The impact of a ‘phone and email only’ approach
Many agents are currently getting away with the ‘phone and email only’ approach because their competitors also offer the same type of service.
Submitting a portal enquiry as an applicant is, quite frankly, a painful consumer experience; something I have had to do a lot of myself lately.
You submit a viewing request... and then you have to wait. You’re usually contacted the following day and it always seems to be at the most inconvenient time, such as when I’m in the middle of a meeting. The person on the end of the unknown number then proceeds to ask you the same 10 questions you’ve answered several times previously with different agents.
I personally swore never to use those agents that responded so poorly to us as applicants when time comes to sell again.
Convenience is more important than you may realise
An excerpt from the recent Google study reads: “Businesses underestimate the importance of speed and channel choice in consumer preferences. Consumers prefer fast responses and communicating via their preferred channel, but most businesses underestimate by how much.
“While 54% of consumers say fast response is critical, only 29% of business respondents expect the same. Similarly, 48% of consumers say being able to choose the communication channel is critical, while only 27% of business respondents predict the same.”
Agents solely relying on calls and emails may soon start to find their competitor next door is using tech that offers the omnichannel communication preferences that so many consumers want.
With such tech, consumers can submit a viewing request on a portal and get an email back at any hour of the day or night from that agent - allowing them to book in a viewing (and a valuation!) then and there. I know many of you will be thinking: ‘But what about our diaries? Wouldn’t we have to rearrange everything?’. The answer is not with the right technology.
Technology like Street.co.uk takes into account agent availability, staff roles, existing appointments, travel times and traffic to ensure appointments are only offered to applicants when it suits the agent - streamlining and optimising your calendars.
How self-serve tools are driving operational efficiencies
There are also huge efficiency benefits to agents adopting this type of tech - it’s not all just about consumer preferences.
For example, Street.co.uk instantly sends viewing requests to a vendor via WhatsApp or SMS, whichever is their preferred method of communication. Vendors can confirm appointments by simply replying ‘yes’ to the message, which automatically triggers confirmation emails sent to the applicant and vendor - resulting in more efficient, faster and positive interactions.
Self-service tools like these are transforming the process of buying, selling, renting and letting. Agents who embrace the technology available to them could gain a USP and competitive advantage over those that don’t.
However, there may soon be a time when digital moving experiences will become the norm, meaning agencies risk getting left behind if they don’t succumb to consumer demands.
Finding success with estate agency tech
Number One Real Estate partnered with Street.co.uk from day one of launching their start-up agency. Within just 15 months, the brand has grown from scratch into a leading agent in the area.
Katie Darlow, director and founder of Number One Real Estate, commented: “Previously, so much time was spent on back-and-forth calls between clients. Now, vendors can confirm appointments online at the click of a button, which then automatically confirms the appointment with the prospective buyer.”
It is simple solutions like these that consumers, and agents, really value - not only freeing up an agent’s time to spend on tasks of higher value, but delivering a consumer experience that’s far superior from the rest.
Referring back to the recent Google study, the following excerpt sums up the impact these changing consumer preferences are having:
“In response to this changing consumer behavior, business decision-makers are boosting their support for digital engagement. Following the onset of the pandemic, 61% increased consumer education about how to digitally engage, and 56% have added more digital channels for consumers to reach their brands.
“These trends are not new. 79% of business leaders agree that customers’ self-service preference has grown in the last two years. The pandemic didn’t create digital demand, but it did accelerate it.”
If you would like to further explore how Street.co.uk’s solutions could enhance your agency and consumer experience, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to answer any questions.
*Heather Staff is the co-founder of Spectre and Street.co.uk