How to Provide Convenience: An Agent’s Checklist for 2021
COVID-19 did not re-define what constitutes ‘good’ service but it has amplified the importance for agents to fully engage with customers in real-time, anytime, anywhere. In 2021, failure to provide this choice means customers will simply disappear, says Laing+Simmons Head of Network Growth Travis Wentriro.
“The concepts of good service and convenience are now synonymous. You can’t have one without the other. If you’re not providing your customers convenient, easy and flexible ways to work with you, through channels they wish to engage in, at times suitable to them, then you can’t claim to be offering a good service,” Mr Wentriro says.
“Convenience means providing customers the choice to engage with you at a time and in a location of their choice. They want to peruse, tour, shortlist, conduct due-diligence, request information, view a contract and have their questions answered in real-time, even if you’re fast asleep or on holidays with the family.
“Customers want straightforward information and answers but they don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want the agent haggle. They don’t care if the service is provided by a human or a virtual agent. More than anything, they just want convenience.
“The pressure on everyone’s time is building. The nature of the 9-5, Monday to Friday week is being challenged by new and different ways in which people work, live and play.
“It’s 3am. Someone in Perth is spending their down-time investigating two-bedroom apartments in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. They want to see floorplans, they want prices, they want to know what’s available there and then.
“If you can’t provide this information, you’ve lost a potential buyer. You’ll probably lose your vendor as a customer too. It sounds harsh but it’s the new reality.
“If agents and businesses are not focusing on convenience, adapting to the changing lifestyles and schedules of their customers, they are not only missing a trick. They are missing the point,” Mr Wentriro says.
An agent’s 2021 convenience checklist
Offering customers a truly convenient service necessitates a 24/7 approach to doing business. But for the best agents, who are invariably busy, it does not mean sacrificing work-life balance.
Unsurprisingly, convenience in 2021 is driven by technology. Some progressive agents and businesses are already going beyond the initiatives listed below but for many, this bare minimum list may be the wake-up call they need.
- A functional, simple, engaging website: customers want the ability to request a property report in real-time for any suburb or region they’re interested in without having to talk to an agent.
- Virtual agents: not the pre-historic ones that only answer a handful of questions or want customers to leave their number. Research shows customers, especially younger people, want to engage with virtual agents driven by machine learning that are able to interpret a broader, and ever-expanding, set of questions in real-time.
- DocuSign: it might be convenient for an agent but it’s inconvenient for customers to visit an office to sign legal documents.
- Online inspection and auction platforms: lockdown brought these to the fore. Agents must provide customers the choice to view properties they’re interested in online without having to inspect in person, and also enable them to bid at auction via online platforms when they might be on the other side of the country.
- Landlord and tenant portals: landlords want to be able to log into a portal at any time of the day or night to check items like statements, basic tenant information and most importantly, changes to compliance. Tenants want the ability to view their rental payment history, outstanding invoices and record maintenance issues 24/7 without waiting for a property manager to be available.
- Projects: customers demand real-time information related to completion timeframes, floorplan configurations, developer and project partner information, price guides, sold and available stock, and more.