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By Mark Armstrong

Group CEO, Reapit

OTHER FEATURES

Why trust is the strongest tool for agents in 2022

Trust has always been vital for building and nurturing good relations between an agent and their customer. Maintaining trust will keep your customer engaged throughout their buying or selling journey, but it’s not always an easy task.

In the digital age of easily accessible internet reviews and highly visible and sharable social media networks, negative feedback can have an immediate and longstanding impact on your bottom line, but positive feedback has an equally positive effect. Furthermore, consumers themselves have changed over the past 18 months, and put a higher premium on trust and credibility than they did previously.

So, I’m going to explore briefly why trust is so important and then offer six strategies developed around our extensive consumer research on what agents can do to build trust with their customers and how it can really benefit your agency in 2022.

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Consumers have changed, and trust is a premium value

It goes without saying that 2020-21 represented a period of considerable change both for businesses and for consumers. A recent study by Accenture of more than 25,000 consumers across 22 countries into the motivations that matter for today’s consumers found that 50% of consumers in the study had revaluated what they valued in life and their expectations when dealing with businesses. Accenture called this group “Reimagined”: consumers so firmly rooted in their expectations that they will leave brands that don’t recognise their new priorities – and they’re willing to pay more for those that do.

The study found that consumers are increasingly looking for signs that the company they engage with has integrity, and when it comes to services, trust and reputation are paramount. This is increased tenfold when it comes to the business of buying or selling a property: one of the most high-value, high-risk, and therefore deeply emotional buying decisions that any consumer will make in their lifetime.

Now trust has always been important, it’s certainly not a recent phenomenon – a survey from the public relations and marketing consultancy firm Edelman found that 81% of consumers need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them. But much of this starts with being transparent.

Transparency builds trust and trust is a critical accelerator in the consumer journey. Where transparency comes into play is in demonstrating the value your brand offers, and with so many options available to customers today, transparency could well be one of the greatest factors in determining why a customer might choose your agency. Transparency also build loyalty, so it’s not just important for engaging customers, but valuable for retaining them as well.

Which brings us to where we are today: in a world of digitally enabled and readily informed consumers who are increasingly adept at finding out whether a particular agency is the one they want to engage with.

In this regard, credibility is also a critical ‘must have’ for agencies which factors into trust. Credibility is to be reliable, believable, and plausible, and, according to Invesp, 90% of consumers use online reviews before visiting a business; in addition, 86% of consumers will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.

In the digital age, consumers are more than ever relying on online reviews and recommendations to help them determine which agency they might go with if they want to sell a home, and although it’s worth mentioning that credibility and trust are not the same thing – credibility comes from the head and trust comes from the heart – credibility helps to inform trust, and trust leads to business.

What can agencies do to build and retain trust?

Given the importance of trust both now and into 2022, there are many avenues that agencies can explore to build trust that builds and grows their business. Reapit’s recent report on the Consumer (R)evolution delved into diverse strategies for attracting, engaging, and retaining consumers, and here are six tips summarised from the report which agencies can use to support their trust-building initiatives:

Have a good website to showcase your values and credibility

Considering that 53% of all consumers do their own research before they approach you for a purchase, having a good website is essential for estate agencies. Consumers will be keen to discover why they should choose you over another agency, and a great website help to paint a clear picture about your agency and its values.

Showcase your credibility with reviews and testimonials

Building a credible profile, both on and offline, is essential for attracting consumers in 2022. According to a report from Sprout Social, 53% of consumers are more likely to consider brands that are transparent. Buying and selling a home are big decisions and potential customers will care very deeply that the agency they go with will care for them. Featuring positive reviews and testimonials on your website will help to build trust and attract consumers and will emphasise the value of your service.

Customise each journey for a unique customer experience

Whilst a positive experience may build trust, but a negative experience can break trust extremely quickly. A 2021 study from Zendesk discovered that 50% of UK consumers feel a good customer experience is more important to them now compared to a year ago, and 80% of customers from the same study claimed that they will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. Agencies should use all the tools at their disposable, including available technology, to personalise each customer experience and build a close personal connection with the customer.

Maintain trust with good service and transparency

The economist Theodore Levitt wrote: “The purpose of any business is to create and keep a customer”. Now we have data to back that up as, according to HubSpot, 93% of customers are more likely to be repeat customers at companies with excellent customer service. Honesty and transparency are the most important values here; the more value agents can offer their customers, the more likely the customer will feel the agency can be trusted. Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship, and it helps to retain customers.

Be human and empathetic above all

It might sound disingenuous coming from the head of a technology company, but don’t rely solely on technology to build and maintain trust. PwC research found that 78% of consumers in the UK want to interact with a real person more as technology improves. Smart agencies don’t focus on the technology itself, but on delivering world class customer experiences. And then they set out to find

the best technology on the market that will make it happen, empowering their agents to be more hands-on with the customer.

Train your staff and treat them well

Following on from the previous tip, it takes two to tango and a genuine and trusting human interaction that services great customer experiences are built on the back of well-trained and empathetic employees who are both equipped and keen to deliver a fantastic service for their customers. This year that took a significant prominence, as a 2021 Edelman special report found that 40% of employees surveyed believe they are the most important stakeholder in a company’s long-term success, with the customer following at 34%.

Training employees and treating them well both empowers them to deliver a better service for customers and enriches their personal workspace experience. Customers will reflect that experience and positivity and will in turn be more trusting as a result, which is a value key to winning hearts, minds, and business in 2022.

*Mark Armstrong is the Group Chief Executive Officer at Reapit

  • Trevor Cooper

    Just how many platitudes can you milk?

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