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Corporate agents too busy measuring targets to do real work - claim

The head of a hybrid agency has made a blistering attack on the corporate agent business model, accusing it of being obsessed with Key Performance Indicators.

Lee O’Brien, director of David Lee estate agent - which promotes self employed agents working under the same brand - says: “Any agent that has worked at any level in corporate estate agency knows all too well how KPIs rule the roost. A relentless, blind passion for numbers on a spreadsheet that seem to occupy every waking hour that branch managers, regional directors and managing directors have available.

“More time is spent ‘measuring’ their employees’ work than actually doing the work. Surely a career should be more enjoyable than adding figures into a computer until stupid o’clock?”

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As the self-employed model expands, he believes regimental targets and ‘performance traps’ should become a remnant of an industry that is being left behind. Instead, in a supported self-employed role his agents are left to have the freedom to decide what they do, how and when.

O’Brien accepts that performance measurement is important but says many of them in practice are simply not fit for purpose.

Listing targets and bonuses for listers, not sales - He says: “This backwards metric simply encourages over-valuation, not a successful completion for the client.  Sellers are not interested in mere listings – rather a happy move in the timescale that they desire. Corporates that focus on the listing ‘at any cost’ know that they are often misleading the client in order to achieve such at the volume that the business insists.”

In-house Conveyancing targets, often as high as 100% of all listings ands sales - ”I worry that the thirst for commission has been prioritised over quality – again a deal at any cost. We’ve all heard, especially recently, of the consequences of relying too heavily on the conveyancer for income. When it goes wrong it has far reaching consequences on reputation.”

Mortgage income: appointments, sign-ups and completions targeted heavily - “The financial dependence of corporates on mortgage brokers and lenders is still significant. But unhealthy. Remember those cases where agency giants were brought to task for insisting that a buyer uses their mortgage service, unlawfully? Promoting uncompetitive mortgage and insurance products is rife and buyers get hoodwinked all the time. Some corporates even insist that buyers see the in-house mortgage broker ‘whether they want to or not’. Not exactly ‘customer friendly’ is it?”

Market Share pie charts - “Come on, really? Who does it matter to apart from the boss’s ego that for five minutes you had more listings than competitor A, B and C on Rightmove? Do agencies truly believe that absolute listing volume is more important than fee or should be achieved at the expense of it? Or that over-valued stock is ok if you have lots of it versus your peers?”

Sales meetings that start at 8.30am - “Mentioning no names, but there’s a rumour that one corporate has CCTV cameras in managers’ offices to check that they have started their morning meetings on time. I’ll leave that right here with no further comment necessary.”

Time on the phone - “Yes, it’s a thing. I know of more than one online agent that targets phone call duration. Frankly, when this industry starts to commoditise and control the length of a neg’s phone conversation, we have meandered into a very dark place”.

  • Simon Bradbury

    Really great tips for effective KPI's - thanks Lee!

  • CATHERINE HARRIS

    Well said Lee, the Large agency’s care more about their KPI’s than their customers.

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    This is so very true, when i joined agency it was about the customer experience but the last company I worked for grew to such a large size that this got lost in monthly targets, KPIs, market share etc. now back with a small agent that actually values their customers.

  • Vilesh Rew

    I know from bitter experience that targets are the only thing that interests the Sequence Group. They have no interest in customer satisfaction or best customer outcome. They certainly pay lip service to it on their websites, but it all about targets, targets, targets. And as anyone who has been a manager in a corporate knows, they don't let you manage properly, your simply the targets whipping boy or girl on the front line. Your area director is then target whipped by the regional director, and so on. Any client satisfaction comes down to exceptional individuals within the corporate machine - and for those who act drone like in those front line offices, who can blame them. It is soul destroying. With the small independent model, or self employed model, there is usually a much better level of genuine customer service & outcome, imho.

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    I have been saying this for years. Been in the industry 20 years, nearly all of that time spent in independents. I took a director role at a corporate and had to walk out by the Thursday the same week. They were massively underperforming with regards to sales which was fine as I felt I could turn that around. However, they weren't even interested in selling. The list of KPIs was insane. Their system was like something out of North Korea. They couldn't care less about bad reviews, staff retention, selling a property. As long as staff hit their KPIs of minutes on phone and calling around to win new business. The emphasis was to win as much as possible to show they have the biggest market share and tie vendors into 16 week contracts. Down to week 4 and the huge incentive was to secure another 16 week contract.
    Call me old-fashioned but I'd rather just price correctly, sell, get a good review and recommendation and move on.

  • Matthew Gardiner Legge

    The above comments in reply to the original article should make the main offenders (I also worked for Sequence) sit up and take notice!

    I experienced every one of the points detailed and would only add that I will never forget the day when my ‘area manager’ said to us in a meeting not to worry about complaints from client/applicants to directors about our individual aggressive performance as it ‘showed we were doing our jobs properly’.

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    Perhaps the builder/developers should also read this.
    I could n;t even get an appointment to view an Elan site in build, as i was a cash purchaser and didn't require finance or the services of their external advisers.

    Same goes for agents who have relationships with builders for self-build sites cutting out the private bidders

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