Welcome to February! It means that 2017 is well under way and we’re edging closer to Spring – a time when spirits lift and attentions turn to fresh starts and new beginnings.
It’s around now that New Year Resolutions also tend to be forgotten.
I’ve pondered the value of these resolutions. They’re fun in many respects, life changing in some, but what they tend to share is a vision of a better future.
Future gazing – it’s something we all do. We’ve pondered the impact Brexit might have; we’ve eagerly awaited the first Hammond Autumn Statement and soon we’ll start predicting what the Budget may bring.
I enter these debates: I offer my two pennies’ worth and observe with interest the views of my contemporaries. But in terms of better future, I believe we need to get back to basics.
This doesn’t mean regressing. It doesn’t mean abandoning the progress that has improved the industry over the years. It simply means remaining focused on what we’re here to do: matching people with properties.
I’ll be honest - I believe that as an industry we all have a social responsibility to do this and to do it properly. That means matching people with the appropriate property - either the home of their dreams or simply a shelter, depending on where they are on their property journey.
As a business born out of the vision of the great social philanthropist, Cecil Jackson Cole, it should come as no surprise that Andrews is committed to its work benefitting wider society. We continue to be owned by three charitable trusts and our profits are channelled to causes that tackle, amongst other issues, shelter.
With this commitment front of mind, ‘back to basics’ is all about engaging with the customer to understand their needs and wants. We need to evolve towards a position of ‘everything property’ rather than the often-used silo mentality of focusing on transactions in isolation.
This isn’t about mis-selling properties, it’s about ensuring customers have the right products and services to enable them to realise their wishes.
In order to do what is right, I believe that a shared set of values and culture needs to permeate throughout the organisation and only when all team members behave in the same way can a positive, customer-first, value-laden culture become endemic.
To truly meet the needs of our customers (ALL our customers), we need to listen to not only their sales or lettings needs, but also think about the mortgages that we recommend to them, ask ourselves if they’re truly affordable and consider if the customer is suitably prepared with the appropriate insurance products. The same goes for the survey products we recommend and sell to them.
Our recently launched ‘Property Consultations’ address this very point. They’re a free, no obligation service whereby we’re able to bring the branch, its services and advice directly to our customers. We’ll spend time with them to discuss their needs, review their options and help them decide what their next move may, or may not, be.
It’s entirely possible that the outcome of this interaction will be that they decide not to move, re-mortgage, invest further or realign their portfolio – and that’s just fine if it means we’ve supported them to the right outcome.
Likewise, if the fit isn’t right then it may be appropriate for us to turn business away – a landlord who doesn’t care for their tenants can cost you both financial and reputational damage. By being open and transparent with all our prospective customers, we find the desired outcome is normally achieved and our reputation (our greatest asset) is preserved.
So, whilst resolutions may be history let’s ensure that we don’t lose sight of what sits at the heart of everything we do - let’s not be afraid to get back to basics!
*David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group