When was the time you actively learned something new from your clients or competitors?
If it’s a difficult question to answer quickly, you’re not alone.
A lot of our industry, as with many others before and with us, operates as if the clients and their expectations never change. Most of us are good at producing our internal business processes but are unprepared when those tried and trusted sales or operational processes no longer work (I am writing from deeply personal experience).
This is a culture that can sleepwalk itself into irrelevance. Think about a company like Kodak, who invented digital photography but then couldn’t change its own business model to use it and couldn’t learn from those competitors who did. Kodak was frozen in time, thinking they knew who its customers were and what their customers wanted. It was a brand that lost its market almost overnight.
Contrast a less progressive and tech-savvy culture within some estate agencies to the culture of fast-growing technology companies, those with values and services based on ‘question, answer and repeat’ to current and future clients’ needs.
As a PropTech business, we understand we don’t have all the answers, but we constantly experiment, test, refine and most importantly - learn. We are constantly asking ourselves and our clients, what do you want from us in 12 months, 5 years, and 10 years. Everything is on the table. That’s how you innovate. It’s not just all about harnessing big data which tech firms are famed for. Listening and learning from honest client feedback or behaviour is often the simplest way to evolve and thrive commercially in continually changing market conditions.
Over the last three years we have worked closely with our estate agent clients by evolving our service based on their needs and seeing how the wider industry then responds. This has allowed us to build an incredibly robust and relevant product that is solving today’s problems for agents and will, with a bit of continued learning and feedback, solve tomorrow’s problems too.
So how can you apply that mentality in your estate agency?
First, question if you are a business that is good at delivering a service or product but relies on the same analogue business processes or methods of winning instructions that you did five, ten or even 20 years ago.
Regardless of the answer, speak to 20 past clients, 20 people thinking about working with you and 20 buyers or tenants (your long-term future clients). Ask for genuine feedback on what they valued most, and what caused them the most (if any) stress or anxiety. They’re your points of learning and that’s where you can evolve your own business to meet the ever-changing needs of today's client.
In our rapidly changing world, our property industry needs to think more like a tech company and ask ourselves how we can iterate our products and services with clients, sensing and responding to their needs.
That way both our clients and our businesses end up with exactly what we need.
*Sam Hunter is Co-Founder and COO of Homesearch