The right moves: Study your clients' "journey"
One of the most useful things your business can do is to seek an outside view of your service.
It's amazing how often organisations can't see what is going on in their own operations-they lose sight of how things look from the customers or clients perspective.
Just as the owners of most hotels would be shocked to realise that their barmen's standard greeting to customers is "Y'okay?," what weaknesses could firms in the property business be overlooking?
A great way to uncover any problems is to follow "the clients' journey," that is to put yourself in the clients' shoes and examine every stage of their interaction with you, as they move through the buying or selling process. At each of these stages ask yourself "Does this live up to the standards we believe our brand is projecting? Mark yourself out of ten at each stage and then consider how you could improve your performance.
It's often the case that something simple would make a big difference. But I stress, you have to get an outside view to uncover these things. You can't see them- because if you could, you would have fixed them by now.
Start with the very first contact your buyer or seller has with your firm. That's probably your website. Most people are using your website to find your phone number. If they want to buy or sell, you certainly want to make it as easy as possible to call you. I've just looked at six agents' websites and only one has their telephone number on the front page (albeit in microscopic typeface.) The others lead you on a frustrating dance through e-mail contact forms and maps of the world, when all you want to do is call them. Website designers love this stuff, but people hate it.
Automated telephone answering machines are the number one hate of customers in every survey by "Which" magazine. There are relatively few of these in the business here, but when is the last time you listened to the quality of the recording that callers hear when your phones are busy, or out of hours? Some in the industry are below standard. Because everyone has a direct line these days, we rarely call our own main number and we may have little idea of the quality of what our receptionists are saying.
When your client visits your office, what do they see? Have someone stand outside your office and give you their view. When we enter the office, how are we greeted? Your receptionist is doing one of the most important jobs in the firm, winning and losing you business.
Recently, I was impressed by how good a receptionist was when I visited a major agent's office, enquiring about a property. But that great impression was undone by three or four staff who were sitting behind her, eating sandwiches at their desks. A classic case of the management not being able to see what's going on under their own noses.
Follow your clients' and buyers' journey, all the way through, from reports and brochures they receive, to final fee accounts. . How do our staff dress and act when meeting buyers and sellers? How does the standard of our writing measure up? Our stationery? Beware of the robotic style wording that becomes embedded in firms for decades-"We acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your cheque in the sum of "x", in full payment of our invoice of "y" date.
All of these interactions are an opportunity to improve our clients' impression of us, and usually at little cost. It's worth finding out what your opportunities are. But you'll need an "outsider" to see them.
As a boy I was fascinated by the story of Douglas Bader, the legendary double amputee World War Two fighter pilot. Coincidentally, I ended up with the same injuries as Bader and it was a great honour to be appointed recently as an ambassador for the Douglas Bader Foundation.
The Foundation was established by Bader's family, to keep alive his message of inspiring others to overcome disabilities.
I was on the Ryan Tubridy Show this week sharing the good news that the foundation has granted a substantial funding package to Triathlon Ireland's Paratriathlon programme.
The programme coaches people with disabilities to compete in triathlons, from beginners to "high performance" athletes at Paralympics level. Anyone interested in applying for funding, or to donate, should visit the foundation's website: DouglasBaderFoundation.com.