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By Joanne Tattum

Head of Estate Agent Sector, Moneypenny


OTHER FEATURES

Managing high enquiry volumes and making hay while the sun shines

The property sector is in the middle of a boom and demand is high. Last week’s announcement that the stamp duty holiday will be extended is very good news for everyone.

For those mid-way through buying or selling, for agents that were worried lucrative transactions would stall at the last minute and for those at the start of the process.

With the extension set to keep the market very buoyant in the run up to summer – agents can expect to be busy – but keeping on top of all new enquiries, particularly when they come in around the clock and seven days a week, can be a challenge.

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Here are my six tips to help agents stay on top of incoming leads, even when demand is at its highest:

1.Know your busy times and increase availability

It may sound obvious, but make sure your telephone answering or live chat resource, whether in-house or outsourced, is available at the right times.

If calls and live chats are busiest at lunchtime or outside traditional office hours, make sure you have the real-time capacity to handle them.

Don’t rely on voicemail as 69% of people will hang up rather than leave a voicemail message. Call queuing systems are a turn off, too. A degree of ‘fastest finger first’ is important for agents to really capitalise on the current market boom and to give home-searchers what they want.

2.Offer immediacy

Consumers are inherently impatient and in particular, house buyers and sellers. One of the reasons live chat continues to prove so popular is because of its instant nature – giving people the opportunity to ask quick questions, right there and then, whilst browsing online at all times of day and night.

It can be a live, interactive FAQ tool, even when your office is closed. You can also use well-timed pop ups to pre-empt where a visitor might need help.

It’s also useful to note that people typically feel much freer to divulge more detail about their circumstances and to answer questions that may seem ‘too silly’ to vocalise over live chat. This can be especially valuable in building rapport with your customers.

3.Make your website work harder

Live chat technology generates six times more website engagement and encourages browsers who wouldn’t otherwise take the time to email or call, to engage with you. A well-timed ‘would you like to book a viewing?’ or ‘do you have a property to sell’ pop-up can stimulate a conversation that leads to an enquiry.

Since the start of lockdown last year, we’ve all been spending much more time online – it was four hours, 2 minutes per day in April 2020, a 30-minute increase on seven months earlier.

The figure is almost certainly higher now after a year in tiered lockdowns so it’s imperative that agent websites offer a customer-friendly and interactive experience to meet increasingly digital consumer behaviour.

4.Understand consumer pet peeves

Earlier this year, we found that 85% of people think UK businesses are using Covid as an excuse for long call and live chat wait times – rather than putting adequate customer service support in place.

While property agents were among the best performing business in the UK, they must not rest on their laurels.

Any agents still missing calls, or with long call and live chat waiting times, are essentially saying to potential home buyers and tenants they are not important, which will lead to lost deals and tarnished reputations.

If there are shortcomings in your enquiry management processes – it’s important to take remedial action quickly. Consumer dislike of voicemail shouldn’t be forgotten here either.

5.Make sure follow up is slick

As well as handling every call and live chat quickly and professionally, you must ensure that follow up activities and call backs are actioned just as professionally.

Revisit your sales team processes and ensure that everyone understands the need for timely responses.

Perhaps you need to put some new best practice guidance in place so that team members know what’s expected? If that’s not possible or you’re hampered by lack of resource, consider using outbound call support to help ensure that customer care isn’t compromised and all enquiries are given the right focus.

6.Actively listen to clients

If you have outsourced call handling or live chat support, you’ll be able to see transcripts of your calls and chats. These can offer precious insights into customer wants and frustrations which could help you to innovate your service offering.

This might not be priority during a busy period – but periods of high enquiry volumes mean lots of available insights.

For example, you might see that a high percentage of calls are from renters asking how to pay their security deposit – or notice a particular question comes up time and time again from first-time buyers on live chat.

You could act on these insights by setting up an easy payment portal to help renters pay deposits or write additional blogs to answer buyers’ most common questions  – both would improve the client experience and keep unnecessary volumes away from the phones and live chat in the future.

After such a turbulent year, a period of high demand is very, very welcome. People’s frustrations of a year in limbo and stuck largely at home has made moving to a new house a very attractive proposition. The stamp duty holiday extension is the icing on the cake.

As a result, agents need to be more accessible than ever and able to offer impeccable customer care.

Capitalising on every enquiry during a period of high demand is no easy feat – but with the right tools, outsourced support and focus on the customer experience – it’s possible to really make hay while the sun shines.

*Joanne Tattum is Head of Estate Agent Sector at Moneypenny

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