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During industry change, service still matters most

Estate agents are facing the biggest industry changes seen in decades. The rise of online and hybrid agents alongside more traditional high street outfits means that there are more agents slugging it out for a finite amount of stock. 

We’re also seeing more sellers attempting to sell their homes themselves. Only time will tell how that works out in the long-run. But these changes mean that competition is fierce. 

All of this is despite the apparently sluggish housing market; people still need to move. Families grow and need more space – another bedroom, a bigger garden, a move to a school catchment area. 

In the same breath, people get divorced or want to downsize to a more manageable property. None of this stops because of changes to the estate agency industry. Life will always move on, even an unpopular stamp duty system cannot quash the need to move. 

This isn’t the first time an established industry has seen a big change in a short space of time. Traditional shops have fought it out with online retailers for well over a decade, with most settling on a mix of both a website and physical shops. Eventually the market naturally resolved itself. 

Estate agents will most likely settle in the same way and come to a natural conclusion; both the convenience of online and the knowledge and assistance of the physical.

Until this happens, agents still have to attract and retain sellers. At this very moment, who will succeed over another appears to be anyone’s guess. But one thing we can absolutely count on is that the winners will have outstanding levels of customer service. Why? Because businesses that listen to their staff and look after their clients seldom fail, just as we’ve witnessed in retail. 

So now more than ever, agents must put their service under a microscope and look for areas of improvement. 

This is a practice that Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire-based estate agent, Henry Adams, holds in high regard. And it’s paid off many times over. Currently the firm has six branches in the Best Estate Agent Guide, and an allAgents.co.uk rating of 4.4. 

“Certainly from our perspective, delivering good customer service is of the highest priority,” explains Gareth Overton, Head of Residential Sales at Henry Adams. “Happy clients are the most important thing to us because it’s from these satisfied customers that we can build our business for the future.”

Henry Adams believes that good customer service begins and ends with the staff who work there, and is fueled by interactions between staff and clients. From the first conversation to asking them how their journey as a customer felt. 

“We ask questions to everyone who buys or sells with us, and from here we can get a really good idea of trends and demographics – who is buying what and where – and we share this with the agent staff. But it’s also an opportunity for the client to talk about their experience with us,” explains Overton.

“It means we can really get into our client’s heads, and use this information to actively improve our service. If someone has received very good feedback from a client, I’ll talk it through with them to understand why they performed so well. At the end of the year we award the agent with the best rating with a case of champagne, which always goes down well.” 

“Through our knowledge of client needs we are able to really help when they need it most, which shows just how valuable customer service actually is,” Overton adds. 

“For instance, when there are issues with a chain, a skilled agent can keep it together. Without that there is a greater risk of it falling apart. For this reason alone, I believe there always will be a place for agents giving great service, regardless of whether they’re online-only or not.”

*Samantha Jones is Commercial Manager for Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny.

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