Time for a game-changer?

I’ve written before about the three types of change – incremental, step and “game-changer” – and I’m finding it interesting how many people in Estate Agency are reacting to the attempts by several companies to potential “game-changer” strategies.

Technologist James Dearsley, speaking at EA LIVE in December 2016, said “if owners of the traditional model businesses believe they can survive without changing then they’re deluded, but so too are the creators of the new models.” James then highlighted how often “game-changer” first movers need to adapt very quickly as their new concept is rolled out.

So how might the new models develop and is there still a place for the traditional ones?

Josh Phegan, Australia’s number one EA coach, spoke at one of our events and made the point that the internet hasn’t just been made available to estate agents. He suggested there’s a reason why the approaches of Amazon, Uber and AIR B&B haven’t been applied to our industry – they don’t work. All bar a few properties are bought, sold or let without a physical viewing and whilst this number might be rising, indeed Frank Webster of Finders Keepers told me that Skype viewings of properties in Oxford to prospect tenants in the USA are on the increase, it’s still a tiny percentage of homes that are let and bought unseen.

However, to ignore technology would be naive in the extreme, equally though to dive in blindly and use every new shiny piece of kit for the sake of it. Home movers will still want a personal service and be assisted by an expert but equally they’ll want the convenience that technology gives them in every other aspect of their lives.

The issue I see, and experienced when buying a home recently, is that the service many estate agents deliver is poor and impersonal and this is in no small part due to their reliance on dated technology that has caused them to become lazy and ineffective. However, I don’t believe that technology change is the answer on it’s own, indeed suggest it’s “part two” of the solution. What’s needed first is a return to delivering a truly personal and effective service and that requires relearning how to use the most important piece of tech of all, the telephone.

Ian Preston and James Baker told me that there is a direct correlation between the number of minutes of outbound calls and the sales and lettings league tables at Preston Baker. This comes as no surprise to me, last August I met with Australia’s number one agent, ($6million in personal commission), who has 100 conversations on the phone every day.

Technology mostly improves the service that already exists: maps worked well enough before Tom Tom and now Maze, calling Addison Lee wasn’t as convenient as their app but a cab still, most often, arrived on time. If you apply technology to a poor service it will just deliver that poor service faster and maybe cheaper. But this isn’t what people are looking for, they want expert advice, to be treated as an individual, to be looked after and cared for.

My believe is that estate agents should first get their service right and only then see how technology can assist to deliver it more effectively and efficiently. This might not sound like a “game-changer” but I’m convinced that delivering the traditional model properly is, right now, more profitable than any of the new ones.

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