Are Estate and Letting Agents Missing a Trick?

Propcall office

Are Estate and Letting Agents Missing a Trick?

 

With the property market currently running at full speed, many estate and letting agents are enjoying a golden period of success, with some of our clients and contacts saying they haven’t seen anything like it in 15 years. Houses with firm purchase offers on them within 2 weeks is now the norm, not the exception. Properties to let have multiple interested prospective tenants and the UK housing market is booming, with demand seemingly outstripping supply.

Estate and Letting Agents could easily be forgiven for celebrating their current successes and feeling like there’s more than enough business to go round, but no doubt once the property market returns to some normality those marginal gains versus local competition will most certainly come back to the forefront of their minds. In the below, I talk about my own recent experience as a prospective buyer in the current market and where I see the biggest opportunities being missed.

Poor Out-Of-Hours Customer Experience in Sales and Lettings

 

My wife and I have recently decided to look at moving to a bigger house. With us both working full-time hours (and the rest!), it’s difficult for either of us to spend time enquiring about properties through the working day.

With the number of available properties on the market really high at the moment, keeping track of emails sent through Rightmove/Zoopla (as well as viewings we already have in the diary), has become increasingly more difficult. For me, the simplest way of managing this is to call an agent directly as soon as I spot a desirable house, arrange a viewing and then whack it straight in the shared calendar on my iPhone, so my wife and I both know where and when it’s happening. All this should take 5 minutes and, if I can get it boxed off there and then, it’s normally a fairly positive experience all round.

However, in my recent experience I’ve found a staggering number of estate agents have ZERO out-of-hours provision in place. More often than not, the phone rings for up to 10 seconds before diverting to a voicemail option. Forbes reports that 80% of callers will hang up when greeted with a voicemail. I personally find voicemails a little old fashioned, but more importantly, I don’t believe they are actioned as a priority in most businesses, so it feels like a wasted effort.

The key issue here is how many of these callers go on to call a competitor? With no contact details left, can agents guarantee they will make any form of contact with the person enquiring, without knowing if they’ve filled in an enquiry on one of the aforementioned property search websites?

Even when leaving my own details on Rightmove/Zoopla, I’ve seen time and time again that it takes agents 2-3 working days to come back to me. It’s highly likely in those days I will have other viewings with other estate agents, meaning my business could potentially be lost to a local rival.

To me, this feels like a missed opportunity to at least capture the enquiry details, while also offering a level of availability unrivalled in the market – 24/7 availability is a huge advantage, particularly in the lettings market.

What can Estate/Letting agents do differently?

 

Let’s imagine you had somebody in your office 24 hours a day.

How would you handle these calls?

Would it be useful to schedule a specific call back time with the correct sales/letting representative, to avoid the old conundrum of “telephone tennis”?

After all, the reason they called out-of-hours in the first place is that they are probably busy most working days…

Rather than just capturing caller contact information, my team will use whatever calendar software the client has in place (Calendly or Microsoft Bookings as recent examples) to arrange calls on the agents’ behalf. This reduces failed contact rates at call-back drastically, greatly improving your odds of success.

This weekend alone, for a single letting client we captured 9 enquiries from Friday evening to Monday morning. A recent case study (below) for the same client showed they converted just shy of 1/3 of these out-of-hours enquiries where PropCall had managed to not only capture the enquiry details, but also schedule a convenient time for both parties to speak in detail. If we assume an average management fee of £800 per booking, then it’s highly likely we just won £2400 worth of new business for the client which they may have otherwise missed out on to a competitor…

Another advantage to having us handle your calls out-of-hours is that Saturday staff can focus on managing their viewings, knowing calls will still be answered and any cancellations reported will be picked up and reported to them at the time.

Given how busy the property market is at the moment, the more physical viewings you can do on a weekend, the better. Having us look after your office calls while you focus on viewings is another competitive advantage you can gain by having us as your out-of-hours property management partner.

Potential Return on Investment From Improving Enquiry Capture Process

 

The average estate agent fee is 1.42% of the final selling price (inc VAT), according to a July 2018 survey by house-selling website TheAdvisory. Assuming we can help secure 1 more property sale a month that otherwise would have gone elsewhere, that’s an easy return of roughly £18-36,000 per year. What if we were really pessimistic and halved those figures for your business? How do those numbers look as a possible ROI?

For letting agents – if we helped you capture one successful enquiry a month you would otherwise have lost, how much money do you generate for your business over 12 months? Again, let’s make that 1 in every 2 months. How do the potential ROI figures stack up on that basis?

The below are just some of the advantages gained from having us deal with enquiry capture. The PropCall team can also offer full out-of-hours property management, which covers additional requirements such as maintenance calls and contractor management. Please contact us for more details on these.

 

Summary of improvements and offered benefits

Process improvements offered:

  • Caller details captured any time of day or night outside 9-5 Mon to Fri
  • Any required information (budget/position/requirements etc.) captured during the call
  • Specific call backs/online viewings booked in with the caller to improve contact success rates
  • Any calls arranged added to the sales team’s calendar via Calendly/Microsoft Bookings where available

Benefits:

  • Increase in caller satisfaction
  • Dramatic increase in contact success rates
  • Improved conversion from enquiries gathered outside of normal business hours
  • No requirements for staff to be in office on weekends to capture calls

 

Student Letting Case Study Snapshot

Our client is a student letting company with sites across the UK. In February 2021, PropCall captured 31 enquiries for them out-of-hours (typically most came late evenings and throughout the weekend).

Using the Microsoft Bookings platform, we scheduled online viewings with the relevant site team and/or call backs with the lettings team where appropriate, while also asking the caller for as much information as possible.

The client reported that 90% of calls arranged on their behalf were answered. Of the 31 OOH enquiries captured, the client managed to secure 10 successful bookings as a result.

Management fees for each client across the course of their tenancy averaged £800 per student, meaning in a single month PropCall helped to secure approximately £8000 in business in a single month.

The client’s feedback has been consistently positive, with the quality of enquiry captured helping their team to drive revenues and consistently increase turnover.

Summary

 

It’s clear from my own recent personal experience that estate agents and letting agents are missing a trick with their out-of-hours. Whether their main interest is just offering a better customer experience, or if the key thing for them is a genuine return on investment, simply having an OOH offering in place represents a golden opportunity to deliver measurable improvements in all areas of their business.

If you’ve experienced a particularly bad (or good!) service from an estate agent recently let me know in the comments below. It would be great to get other people’s thoughts on the current market and how estate and letting agents’ service levels have changed during the current UK housing boom.

To discuss how we could improve your sales and lettings enquiry capture, call us on 0161 510 9000 or email [email protected]