The ‘on-demand’ economy is reshaping our world. The way we order food, get around, and even access healthcare has changed irreversibly as new technology increases the expectation for instant gratification.
But what does this mean for the property sector and how can agents keep up?
In the on-demand economy, customer experience is king. We don’t use JustEat because we want the best burger ever; we use it because we want the convenience and immediate gratification that comes with having a burger delivered directly to our door.
The same rules apply to letting agents. Different firms may pride themselves on having a recognisable brand or the best local knowledge, but in this on-demand world, what matters more to prospective buyers and tenants is their end-to-end experience. If the process is too difficult or they feel neglected, then they’ll walk away and won’t be back.
One area agents must focus on in order to cater to the evolving demands of the on-demand consumer is improved communication. The lines between professional and private communication spheres are becoming increasingly blurred and we expect businesses to be as responsive as our friends.
This creates a big issue for sectors whose services are traditionally run by office-based staff who are feeling increased pressure to become ‘always on’.
With 60% of agencies’ leads received outside of standard office hours, the chances of leads going cold is heightened if round-the-clock communications aren’t possible or practicable.
Investing in ways to extend client communication around the clock without increasing your staff count should therefore be a priority for agents.
Whether it’s through built-in website functions or specialist software, agents are finding new ways to engage with users outside of office hours and satisfy the demand for instant answers.
A number of firms are turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and online virtual assistants to solve this problem and attend to customers 24/7. Others are offering ‘WhatsApp-first’ communications, for tenants who dislike calls.
You can also reduce the number of unnecessary queries by ensuring your website is clear, comprehensive, accessible and up-to-date.
Decision vs fulfilment
Reducing the time between decision and fulfilment is another key feature of the on demand economy. Consumers aren’t used to waiting and, if offerings look similar, they’ll pick the one that serves their needs fastest, and in the least painful way.
If time regularly holds the casting vote, agents must do all they can to make their processes quicker, smoother and more efficient.
That’s a tall order in the paper-laden property sector but it’s crucial. Agents need to work out where there’s time-wastage and decide how they’re going to reduce it.
Some firms have opted for technology which helps them auto-generate holding deposits and manage payments to take work off teams’ hands. Others are looking to virtual viewings and 3D interactive tours to speed up the house hunt.
Still more are using tech to expedite lengthy reference checks so renters aren’t frustrated by admin lags. In all these cases, solutions can be embraced to make the renting process more efficient and get tenancies signed more quickly.
Broadening horizons is key
However, the on-demand economy isn’t solely about speed. Whilst this economy idolises immediacy, it also reveres convenience. The agents who are keeping up are those who have broadened their services.
From all-inclusive bills packages to tenant-focused insurance, firms have expanded their services to become a one-stop-shop for renters wanting fewer admin headaches.
It’s a savvy move - learning from the successes of the Build-to-Rent model - which simultaneously meets on-demand needs and diversifies business models.
As competition pushes expectations ever higher, these kinds of ancillary services will be increasingly important to help agents stand out from the crowd. The firms that are constantly looking to improve the overall renting experience will be the ones that win big.
Renting a property is complex but it doesn’t have to be painful. A property sector that’s fit for 2020 and beyond is one which embraces the on demand economy and prioritises user experience; extending client communication, cutting down time wasted, and increasing convenience.
The on-demand economy shouldn’t be feared, but it can no longer be ignored. Adapting to this instant world must be at the top of every agent’s agenda.
*Tom Mundy is co-founder and COO of Goodlord