The real estate industry: how it’s changing and why we need to adapt
The real estate industry has seen many highs and lows over the past decade. Not only have we seen fluctuation in property prices, we have also seen some large changes in the way we operate and conduct business, namely in the customer experience provided.
Customer service is a vital element of any real estate transaction and great customer service is what separates a quality agent from the rest. The way we interact with customers is changing, with technology greatly enhancing the way we conduct business. In the past, agents would meet face-to-face with clients to discuss their needs and build a more personal relationship.
Today it is all about receiving information as quickly as possible, responding to emails as quickly as possible and connecting with customers over other mediums, such as WhatsApp, Plezzel and Facebook to save them time.
Because of technology, customer expectations are changing.
To understand this change we really need to look at what other industries are doing. Brands are increasingly focusing on personalisation, with companies such as Spotify and YouTube learning what their customers want and tailoring songs and recommendations so that similar options appear. It is also about quick response times and appropriate resolutions, with social media allowing customers to broadcast their dissatisfaction for all to see.
Brands need to respond now, they need to respond well and they need to provide an additional layer of service to ensure they are remembered and a step above their competitors. Clothing retailer Mango is trialling digital fitting rooms whereby shoppers can request different sizes and colours of items on the mirror’s “screen”. These added touches are making all the difference in today’s market.
These may be completely different industries, however, for real estate operators to really excel at customer service, I believe they need to observe and learn from other industries to succeed. Agents need to think about how they can make the customer experience as quick, easy and stress free as possible – is it a complimentary coffee in a display home, a tablet used during a property inspection or a virtual reality walk through of their future home?
These changes are only going to increase, but it is important that we don’t forget the value of good old-fashioned face-to-face meetings. Technology should enrich our business, but it shouldn’t take over. Smart agents need to use it to their benefit to make their clients experience a seamless and memorable one, but as buying or selling a property is a large financial and emotional decision, I believe face-to-face encounters will remain key.
Home buyers want to be able to trust their real estate agent. It is such a large decision meaning there is still power in forming a relationship, in learning what your customer needs and in taking care to find what they are after and relieve any worries, ideas or queries they may have.
In a time where the market can be a little uncertain, vendors will appreciate a dedicated customer-driven operator who they feel they can rely on. If property agents are smart about technology and learn from what other industries are doing to create unique and memorable customer experiences, whilst still ensuring they remain personal, they can reap the benefits while building a good, happy client database.
Tony Morrison is the CEO of Harcourts Victoria and Tasmania.