As the founder of Jupix, I worked in the property industry between 2008 - 2014. I had the privilege to lead a team of passionate technologists who worked with thousands of estate agents to build software that made their business more efficient.
In the early days of ‘the cloud’, web-based software represented a shift away from ‘desktop’ technology. The idea that offices could share property and client information in real time was a game changer.
What’s more, properties could be automatically uploaded to portals and, depending on the hosting provider, upload to the agent’s website too - saving time on data duplication and administrative tasks.
You’d be forgiven for seeing these ‘innovations’ merely as standard features nowadays; where software must do much more to keep up with the demands of a modern day estate agent.
I am always excited by the rate of change that technology can have on an industry and I’m delighted to be back with a new team and a new product that is solving these challenges.
Many of the frustrations faced by estate agents stem around the lack of connectivity from their centralised property software (commonly referred to as CRM) to other systems.
It’s a problem that appears to be unique to estate agency; as many industries solved this some years ago. Estate agents simply don’t have the time nor the inclination to keep disparate systems in sync with their property and client information. They need visibility in one place.
The term ‘dashboard fatigue’ sums up the tiresome job of needing to log in to multiple systems just to see what is happening at any one time. Wouldn’t it be great to see everything in one place?
One such example of how this can be solved is to look at the connectivity that can be achieved by linking your property software to, say, an eMarketing platform. With a solution such as MailChimp, you are able to send targeted marketing to specific groups of buyers or sellers with relevant messages, for just a few dollars a month.
Here’s how it works; The profile and status of your client is governed by your CRM (cash buyer, under offer, investor etc.) and the eMarketing platform holds various mailing lists of these people, sorted by status.
With a good integration, the mailing list will be automatically synchronised despite client information in your CRM changing all the time. When it’s time to send a message, you can concentrate on the message content and not worry about whether you’ve got the right people in your list.
When you send emails out, MailChimp tracks who opened your email, who clicked on the link and where else they navigated to on your website. You would expect your CRM system to pull those statistics back so that you can use this insight to prioritise your time with those clients who are engaged which is a clue to their motivation on buying or selling (or both!).
With less time than ever in your day, your software should be supporting you in these value-add ways.
The data advantage offered by integrations goes further than just eMarketing. Anti-money laundering checks, tenant referencing and document signing are all examples of possible integrations that achieve a seamless ‘two-way’ flow of data to specialist systems that help you reduce administrative costs and help you focus on delivering an exceptional service to your clients.
As technology changes, so too does the way people work. In the last few years, we’ve seen different operating models emerge; one such model is known as ‘hub and spoke’.
A centralised administration centre - the hub - provides support and marketing services to the various ‘spokes’; typically small offices or roaming agents that work remotely.
A different business environment requires different technology to support this new way of working. Mobile teams must have quick access to information that helps them serve their clients.
Access to buyer and seller information, appointment schedules and property information that may have traditionally been provided by back office staff from a local office, must now be in the hands of the field staff.
With property information at your fingertips you are empowered to offer meaningful advice to your clients without the need to respond ‘I’ll get back to you’.
On a viewing, for example, having instant access to a comprehensive property file on your phone where you can answer questions on the property about the heating system or the rights of way or amenities nearby, enable you to stand out as a better informed property expert - and your clients will love you for it.
Over the past few years we have seen mobile messaging usage gain popularity and reach its potential, so much that it now dominates smartphone usage. However, the more recent and interactive phenomenon is where messaging is used as a platform for estate agents to engage their customers and build advanced conversational experiences.
Home movers expect immediacy in your response and via a channel such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
They also expect to interact with your agency at times where they are considering their personal circumstances (evenings and weekends, not normal office hours).
In my experience, agents that have embraced these new ways of communication and the unconventional hours that it inevitably brings, gives them first mover advantage on market appraisal enquiries and builds trust and reputation with buyers.
With the world moving faster than ever before, it’s time to rethink the role technology and software has to play in the estate agency sector. Your clients expect more, and with the tools by your side, the opportunity exists to build better relationships, deliver a better service and ultimately establish yourself as a market leader.
*Oliver Gleave is founder director of Loop Software