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By Jonathan Stein

Founder, Vaboo

OTHER FEATURES

The two most expensive mistakes the property sector is making right now

The fallout from Covid-19 has hit everyone hard. With breaking news today that agents are able to look at how to reopen, they are having to find their place in the changing landscape of a new ‘normal’, with rules we’re all trying to figure out.

Agents are being forced to rethink, not just the way they deliver their services and create their products, but how they communicate with their customers.

Carefully planned marketing strategies for 2020 have gone out of the window, and in their absence, unprepared agents are left scrabbling for clues on how to behave. What should they say to customers? And how should they be marketing right now?

As a result, many have reduced or even cut their budgets completely, furloughed staff and resorted to waiting for the complete removal of lockdown.

But is that the right approach? And what happens now? In the short-term, restrictions will begin to be eased, but the memory of what has happened will take a long time to go away.

With predictions for pent-up demand of over 450,000 moves for lettings and sales to be released, how should agents be communicating with landlords, tenants and prospective purchasers right now?

Or perhaps more pertinently, what should they NOT be doing? If you’re trying to work out a post-lockdown communications strategy, here are our insights on the very expensive mistakes you need to avoid.

1) Not talking to your customers

In its truest essence, growing your business is about relationships. It’s about building mutually beneficial relationships between your brand and customers, suppliers and other businesses. And in a healthy relationship, people are there for each other, through thick and thin – not just the good times.

Right now, we’re collectively experiencing a ‘thin’ period. People are still restricted in movement. Some have lost their jobs and businesses. Others are furloughed or trying to cope with a new working reality.

Many are worried – not just about money, but their health, the wellbeing of others and what the future looks like. So what happens in a good relationship right now? We stay in touch. We reassure. We check people are okay. We offer comfort, advice, hope.

What we don’t do is disappear. Go silent or ignore.

And yet that is what many agencies have been doing. This is an incredibly risky (and expensive) strategy. Because customers will remember the agencies who were there in the bad times. The companies who – even if customers weren’t buying – were still talking to them.

And when the good times roll again, it’s these agencies that customers will return to. In fact, recent research that showed that 86% of consumers feel better about brands’ commitment to products and services when they continue communicating in tough times and that these brands were front of mind when the time came to make purchasing decisions.

So don’t give your customers the silent treatment right now. Yes it might take time, effort and money to keep communicating, but you’ll be more richly rewarded for it.

2) Mirroring your customers’ fears

Our customer research data has shown a clear and increasing trend – particularly amongst millennials – in demands for better customer service. In fact, they are having a huge influence on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) of agencies, as well as consistently being the demographic most likely to return feedback. This is an example of the responses collected in one month by Vaboo for one client:

Age group NPS Number of responses
18-24 8.28 145
25-34 39.19 74
35-44 13.51 37
45-54 69.57 23
55-64 71.43 7
65+ 50 2

It is this younger demographic who are the future of both lettings and sales. Agencies must meet the expectations of customers who are accustomed to being talked to by businesses and brands, on a daily and consistent basis, in this digital age.

But what should you say? It’s easy for agencies to lose their way right now. And instead of leading the conversation with their customers, they make the mistake of following it. Tapping into the fear and doubt that customers are expressing online and simply mirroring back what customers are feeling.

The problem with this is that it is your job to lead, not follow. Yes, you need to listen to what customers are feeling and saying, and be mindful of their emotional state, but you also have a responsibility to care for and guide them. How agents are treating their customers will not go unnoticed by landlords in an increasingly busy online market when it comes to winning new instructions either.

This is an opportunity for your agency to lead positively. With our research showing that the biggest concern for over 78% of tenants is the rising cost of living, customers will gravitate towards reassurance and certainty. They want to see that you are strong and resilient. They want to trust that, in a world of chaos and change, you’re consistent and strong.

So be the one who leads the conversation, not follows it – and takes it to a more optimistic, (while sensitive and realistic) place. Be a positive, consistent presence and take practical steps where you can to help and show them you care. You may not make any profits from good deeds or new money saving products right now, but customers will remember your resourcefulness and kindness.

You don’t have to be perfect – just present

No one is expecting agencies to constantly strike the right note just now. These are unprecedented times, and we’re all feeling our way through them – us included. The important thing is to keep talking to your customers, staying true to your values, and to listen.

How can we demonstrably make the world a better place for everyone – and in particular our customers, and the things they care about – right now?

The agents who have remained in contact with their customers – and even strengthened their relationship with them – will be the ones who come out on top. This is still an uncertain period. So keep talking (and listening) to your customers right now, they will reward you for it in the end.

*Jonathan Stein is founder of Vaboo

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