If this past year is anything to go by, outsourcing is firmly on the agenda for estate agents. Rather than being a dirty word it’s now something I’m seeing agents embrace more and more, and they are really feeling the benefits.
Not only that but the variety of jobs being outsourced is huge, from IT services to appointment bookings. Even property viewings can now be outsourced, as we’ve seen by the recent launch of Viewber, led by Ed Mead, formerly of London firm Douglas and Gordon.
With this boom of agents clambering to outsource tasks, there are some who have dived straight in and handed a job over without fully thinking about how this might affect them and their team.
Just as you would take time and consideration to onboard a new member of staff, the same attention must be given to an outsource partner to avoid miscommunication and detachment from the agent. Put simply, so the right hand always knows what the left is doing.
So, for agents outsourcing jobs, how can they ensure they don’t feel disconnected?
Be confident in your outsource partner
Handing over important tasks to a third party can be an intense experience for an agent. More than a cost-saving exercise, it’s also freeing up precious time, so the last thing an agent wants to do is have to contact their outsource partner because they’re not happy.
Here, confidence is key. Get to know the outsource company. We’ve learnt that taking the time to introduce new clients to their Moneypenny Receptionist goes a long way in instilling the confidence in our clients.
Liza-Jane Kelly, Sales Director Marsh and Parsons, comments: “Initially we thought this service would never match our own customer service level at Marsh and Parsons, but on meeting the team we knew immediately the relationship would work, as the teams are professional, knowledgeable and focused on delivering excellent customer service.”
Get the right people-match
There is no disconnect when the right person is well-matched to the agent. Ask yourself if you can envisage this person actually sitting in the branch. Does their personality match the agent’s brand values?
We discovered early on that personality matters hugely in getting the right receptionist for each estate agent. For example, an estate agent in the Lake District might prefer a more experienced receptionist who deals with callers looking at buying a second home, which is very different to a bustling city centre student-let firm who might need a younger more out-going receptionist whose personality will chime perfectly with that market.
Work together as a team
To get the very best from outsourcing, an outsourced partner should feel as much a part of the team as the agent’s in-house staff, and vice-versa. At Moneypenny, the teams are empowered to act as they feel is fit in that situation, always placing themselves in the shoes of the caller.
One of our receptionists received a very distressed call from a lady who had just returned from holiday to find that her house, which was let, had been broken into. Their receptionist stayed on the phone with the caller, whilst a colleague called the police, and remained on the phone until the police arrived, just as the agent would.
At Barton Wyatt the Moneypenny team are fully integrated: “Moneypenny is an extension of Barton Wyatt’s in-house team and the seamless service instills great confidence that the phones are covered. Engaging Moneypenny gave us peace of mind from the start,” comments James Wyatt of Barton Wyatt.
Another important way to avoid any disconnect is to always ensure good communication so that the outsourced part of the business is treated as an extended member of the team. The more clients engage, the better the service that can be delivered.
Many Fine & Country offices send their Moneypenny team copies of their adverts and any promotions that they run, so everyone is always up to speed. This proved invaluable recently when a receptionist received a call from a potential buyer who asked directions to the open house they had seen promoted in the national press.
Fortunately, the receptionist was aware of the featured house, was able to Google directions and get the caller to the open house on time.
In essence, there is no need for a disconnect in outsourcing. Good communication and the right team can ensure a seamless service.
*Samantha Jones is Commercial Manager for Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny.