Technology has been continuing to shape the way estate agents manage their customer service offering for years. It’s now a completely integrated part of how we serve people.
In fact, it could be argued that most people expect some kind of technological means of customer interaction – be it an app or online platform – it’s become an accepted, if not preferred method, for customers to communicate with us.
But how true is this? It’s no secret that people love to get an instant response – anything longer than immediately just isn’t good enough – and this is regardless of the time of day too, with the increase in use of live web chat functions and extended helpline hours.
However, when we explore this in more depth, we find that while customers want a fast response, this is often for instant gratification. They will still require details, advice, and want to talk their options over with a real person.
It’s at this point we find ourselves at the intersection between personal service and technological interaction. As businesses we’ll try to make a decision as to which is better for both ourselves and our clients; with many perhaps opting for technology as it provides support outside of traditional office hours and allows a more ‘hands-off’ approach. Usually, however, the best solution is a combination of the two.
Simon Bradbury, Director at estate agents, Thomas Morris, explains: “As estate agents, we have embraced all that technology can do for us as a business, particularly in terms of our customer service offering.”
“Consumers want high quality information, very quickly. And luckily, with the accessibility of the internet, we are able to provide this. But there is a limit on what we are able to give them in terms of detail and progression. However, we are always evolving what we do, and how we do it, and technology has enabled this evolution.”
“We were able, for instance, to offer customers a way of viewing a property without actually going to visit it using Periscope – Twitter’s live video streaming function. Now we offer virtual viewings using something called Smart Viewing, a function hosted by Zoopla, which has enabled us to host an open house online, providing the service to a greater customer base.”
Simon continues: “We’ve also been able to break new ground with ways for agents to connect with potential and existing customers. We’re finding increasingly that customers like a ‘first point of contact’ using technology, but will either follow up themselves or expect us to get in touch with them in person to further their enquiry.”
“A great example of this is the online valuation tool we use, ValPal (a product from Angels Media, which publishes Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today). This lets customers get an instant valuation on their property without speaking to an estate agent – they simply use the tool that sits on our website by inputting a few details. We are alerted once someone has used ValPal, and from here we can get in touch personally, and see how we can help further. Very often the prospective seller wants to have a meeting following its use. It doesn’t even need to be someone looking to buy a home.”
“We’ve spoken to customers who have used the tool who tell us they needed a valuation for their mortgage renewal. At this point we can inform them of our own in-house mortgage advisors,” concludes Simon. “It’s yet another way of letting customers reach us.”
FixFlo’s Director, Rajeev Nayyar, agrees in harnessing the power of tech to meet the demands of today’s customer.
He said: “Companies like Amazon have dramatically raised consumer expectations around the accessibility, speed and quality of communications from service providers. They offer a self-help portal for customers and proactively manage customer expectations as packages are delivered.”
“Likewise, if the right technology is adopted and properly implemented by a letting agency, the opportunity exists to raise service levels and boost efficiency in service deliverables such as tenancy, referencing or repairs processing. Any advantage that can be obtained by leveraging technology to support great staff should be embraced by agencies looking to not only survive, but thrive, in these challenging times.”
A mix of contact is increasingly becoming the preferred approach to client experience across many different industries, and in particular, customers in the property sector are reassured by an instant response.
At Moneypenny we’re certainly finding growing numbers of clients are opting for a hybrid of technology and human interaction. And unsurprisingly so.
With innovative and seamless technological options available to agents, the right balance of tech and real people ensures they’re able to offer the best possible service, every time.
*Samantha Jones is Commercial Manager for Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny