Defining Premium.

Rightly, the best agents (and those who aspire to be) are assessing the future for their own businesses rather than wasting time and energy on matters outside their control.

In simple terms the options appear to be to either go cheap or premium. Cheap is easy to define, measure and act on. Identify the cheapest agent operating in your area and then match their fee or undercut it. This is a strategy that I can’t relate to personally so whilst I recognise the option exists I won’t promote it to anyone.

Premium is much harder to describe, principally because it means different things to different people. One person’s idea of luxury is another’s basic essential. But in order to deliver a service that the consumer is prepared to pay a premium fee for, then I believe that first this service must be clearly defined and tangible. Unfortunately, I see little evidence that many agents do this. I do see a lot making claims such as “highly personal service” or “high quality service,” but nothing to substantiate what these statements mean. So here’s what I suggest “Premium” might look like:

It starts with the customer, it always does (or should). What do they want? There are three key things:

1. Their property sold or let
2. On a time table that suits them
3. For the best possible price

So the first thing a premium service needs to demonstrate is that these three key desired results are achieved. So action number one, measure the % of properties that you sell/let, the average days on market, the average time to checkin/completion and the average price achieved compared to asking price and other measurements (e.g. £/m2, street average, property type average, etc.) and make sure that these are better than the average in your area, ideally significantly better. If they’re not then you aren’t delivering a premium service and you need to go back to the drawing board.

Next, those customers who pay a premium tend to want to be treated as an individual. So define your premium service by things such as frequency of contact and the ways you’ll report progress, etc. (Alex Phillips, the world’s number one agent, calls every single client on the market every single day). You should also consider each property as well as each owner individually. Sure, many properties will end up having a similar marketing plan, but surely it’s not right that every one gets the same? I suggest you create an individual marketing plan for every property and discuss and agree it with the owner including what they need to do to help themselves and you to achieve the best outcome. This marketing plan should include things such as whether to have an open house or not, whether a modern method of auction as offered by IAMSold or SDL Auctions is appropriate, how viewings will be conducted and managed and what the owner should do prior to each one. It should highlight the investment necessary for professional photography, floor plans and copy. You should discuss home staging and presenting the property in the best possible light and above all demonstrate how your marketing online, on social and in “traditional” mediums generates a demonstrably better response, attracting more enquiries on average and thus more viewings, more offers and more deals.

It’s also really important to make sure you have goals for handling enquiries. As our mystery shops for the Best Estate Agent Guide revealed, 52% of Rightmove leads went unanswered as did 12% of phone enquiries which is appalling. The best agents will have measurements in place and targets –  typically less than 5 minutes response to a web lead or email and 100% of calls answered within 5 rings – (with a service like Moneypenny the last one is easy to achieve).

I suggest that every aspect of your service is defined with a target timescale. And then it’s constantly measured and reviewed to identify opportunities for improvement. I’ve worked with several agents to help them achieve this – firms such as Romans, Greene & Co, Ashtons, Keatons and Karl Tatler will all confirm that defining the way in which you deliver your service will result in significant business improvement, increased profitability and managed growth as well as client satisfaction and retention. We have a number of programmes for 2019 for agents of every size/stage that I suggest you consider:

Now a word of warning. Before you’re tempted to emulate several banks and publish a charter or similar I’d first and foremost focus on delivering and measuring these and other minimum service levels and only when you’re consistently achieving them to then start a communications programme.

And finally some good news. When you are delivering a demonstrably better service than the cheaper options, that gets a tangibly better result then you could and should charge a higher fee. And in my experience, that higher fee can be disproportionately higher as people will pay a premium for a premium.

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