How can we meet customers’ new expectations in the real estate market? Whether they’re buyers, sellers, landlords or tenants, everyone now expects interactions as fluid as those they are accustomed to in the digital world. In response, the industry’s stakeholders must adapt: from the purchasing journey to related services, the time has come for them to take a customer-centric approach. Read on to find out why.
Estate agents can no longer make do with an enticing window display on a popular thoroughfare. However useful and attractive it may be, it misses the considerable number of potential clients that do their research online, using a computer or mobile phone.
The rules of the game have changed, and not only in terms of business development: even before contacting an agency, customers will check their reputation on social media and read the reviews left by others. Once all the business has been completed, they will be sure to leave their own reviews and comments on their experience, whether good or bad, which will also influence other potential clients. Knowing your customer and engaging in a high-quality relationship thus gives a significant competitive edge.
Don’t underestimate the importance of customer experience
The impact of this new mindset is not limited to comments on social media. There is, in fact, a striking cleavage between what customers think and what the industry’s decision makers understand on the matter. According to a study by Oracle¹, 49% of decision makers believe there is a risk that consumers will switch to another brand if they have a bad customer experience. Actually, 89% claim to have already done exactly that!
What should businesses take away from this dichotomy? They must learn that they cannot simply continue to acquire new customers, deploy marketing campaigns and handle complaints. Instead, they must start taking control of all their customer touchpoints to guarantee satisfaction and perhaps even build loyalty.
Companies like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb have mastered this. Their strength comes not only from offering a new product or service. Most important, they also create new user experiences that first engage the consumer before converting them into loyal customers. They are constantly striving to build brand preference through a variety of means, including creating services, streamlining app ergonomics and improving communication.
Establishing a relationship in the property market
How does that apply to real estate? Despite not often being discussed as such, customer experience has always been a key component of the industry, as much for buyers and tenants as owners and social landlords. Traditionally, it has focused on physical channels: the building’s concierge who helps tenants and manages repairs, or the estate agent who holds meetings at their office, sorts applications and carries out viewings.
However, in this model, the only touchpoints are during the move-in, move-out and in the event of any problems. Such a minimal customer relationship cannot create the recognition needed for brand loyalty or positive recommendations. Yet, digital technology gives the industry all the tools and channels necessary for constructing experiences valued by customers.
Using digital technology to create new experiences
A quick look at the market shows that each step of the customer relationship is capable of being enhanced and optimised. In the pre-sale stage, 3D modelling can provide online virtual viewings of apartments being sold off-plan. Technology is nowadays capable of presenting a flattering view of the property and its surroundings, to which we can also add photos, maps and contextual information for the local town or neighbourhood. In addition to being available on mobile and desktop, they can also be viewed with a virtual reality headset for an even more immersive experience. Overall, such a feature saves time for both parties, since only those with genuine interest will book a physical viewing.
The application of digital technology is not only confined to marketing and conversion rate purposes. An estate agent or social landlord can also benefit greatly from using a platform to manage their rental properties, centralising rent payments, due dates, rental applications and all the other property management services. This also makes life easier for the tenant, who only has one platform for all their admin. And last, but not least, the landlord has complete metrics, allowing them to keep a close eye on their portfolio.
Each of these examples show how we can transform a customer’s experience and ensure it results in a durable relationship. In both cases, we address the needs of consumers who want full and immediate access to chosen information. The added bonus? Using such technology also makes it easy to quickly comply with any new regulations.
Measuring customer relations
Leveraging these new levers brings with it another significant advantage in the long term: customer intelligence. The use of metrics at each step of the digital customer relationship gives you insights into their needs and desires, which can inform decision making on a wide range of topics from strategy to ergonomics. For example, perhaps one of the website’s features isn’t used; so maybe the button should be moved. This first level of intelligence subsequently opens the gates to more in-depth analyses and processes, enriched by big data and marketing automation technology. To do so, the stakeholders must learn to exploit these new opportunities. Adopting this culture most often requires an overhaul of the organisational structure and IT systems.
Becoming more than just a property
The property market is already naturally taking on a new service-orientated dimension: buildings are incorporating more and more smart capabilities, allowing them to automatically adjust to maximise the comfort and safety of their occupants. It’s therefore only logical that, going forward, developers, landlords and all the industry’s professionals will start thinking in terms of real applications, and not simply seeing an apartment as the sum of four walls and a roof. By doing so, they will play an active role at every key moment of the occupancy. In other words, they will be able to adapt the customer experience to of these stages, and thus fully capitalise on any new opportunities for growth.