Graham Norwood recently wrote that it’s going to be harder than ever to predict the shape of the property market in the coming year and I tend to agree.
I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but as I take up my role as Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group, it’s only natural that I look to the future and wonder what it holds. And I’ve concluded that there’s never been a more exciting time to be embarking on this next stage in my journey.
When I stepped in to my new position, I said that I prefer to focus on certainties rather than uncertainties and while in the last 18 months we’ve ridden the wave of a series of ‘uncertainties’ that included a general election; the introduction of stamp duty on second properties; the continuation of historically low interest rates; and then of course, the big Brexit surprise, I believe that throughout this, there remains one certainty.
That is, that people will continue to move house and serious investors will continue to invest. Our job, therefore, remains to match people and property. Quite simply it’s our core objective.
Of course, our customers are engaging with the property market in increasingly varied ways and there’s no escaping the rise of online and hybrid operators. So how does someone like me, inheriting a well-established, largely branch-focused brand ensure it remains relevant, not just now but in the future?
For me, it all hinges on delivering first class customer service.
What customers need is an agent who will provide an unrivalled level of service; an agent who will go over and above; an agent committed to exceeding expectations. Being average or good is simply not enough.
First class customer service should meet the needs of all our current and potential customers. Looking to the future, we’re not only investing heavily in our digital presence through our award-winning website and recently launched innovative new app, but also in our branch network which is being refreshed throughout this year to offer welcoming and customer-centric interiors.
Some may view branches as a dying aspect of estate agency, preferring instead to invest in increasingly popular online offerings but I firmly believe a strong branch network continues to be pivotal to the overall experience, so long as it remains contemporary and relevant. It is, after all, the primary place for customer-agent relationships to be built and it’s all about offering choice.
So, as I take to the helm of a business with a rich heritage and strong traditions, I don’t feel unsettled by the path ahead. Instead, I see it as a series of opportunities to be seized and as I look to the coming year, I do so with much anticipation and excitement, safe in the knowledge that I have around me a team that oozes passion and positivity for what they do and which always keeps the customer at the heart of that.
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group