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Fine tune the art of anticipation in a challenging market

2023 is well underway and whilst the property market can’t ignore the challenges of the last year, there are sure signs of optimism for the months ahead.

Undoubtedly, the market has changed but crucially, there’s still a market and regardless of changing conditions, estate agents and housebuilders must focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t.

By doing this, replacing trepidation with tenacity and fine tuning the art of anticipation, there’s an opportunity to navigate the coming months successfully and impress customers in the process.

Anticipating customer wants and needs is about being proactive with customer service: you sense a customer might need your services or support and reach out to them proactively, rather than waiting for them to contact you. According to a survey by Microsoft[1], around 70% of consumers prefer brands that offer proactive customer service and over recent years, this approach is something consumers have come to expect.

Regarding customer experience, good is no longer good enough. In the world of property, the notion of prioritising proactivity isn’t a new one – thanks to Property Academy founder, Peter Knight and his CX 4.0 theory.

CX 4.0 stands for the fourth generation of customer experience (CX) and represents the changes in customer expectations over the past decades. It’s split into three pillars: the first is that people want things to be both functional and uplifting; the second is that they want things to be consistent and individual; and the third is that rather than coming to you as a supplier, customers expect you to go to them – they expect proactivity and anticipation.

In a buyer’s market, it’s timely to act on this and roll out the red carpet for customers and prospects, but how do you put this into practice?

Embrace technology – but not as a replacement for real people

There’s a wealth of brilliant industry technology that plays a vital role in making agents’ and sales people’s lives easier. Whether it’s virtual reality, automation tools or tapping into Big Data to offer buyers and sellers a more tailored service, the vast majority of agents and housebuilders are becoming increasingly digitally savvy.

This should be celebrated, of course, but what’s vital is that investment in digital doesn’t come at the cost of delivering a personal, people-centric service. Technology can’t replace the human aspect of service and communication. As people, we have an innate capability to understand how another person is feeling and what they need in that moment – be that more information, reassurance or support. Tools such as live chat strike the balance  – offering the functionality and flexibility afforded by technology with the personal touch that only a real person can deliver.

Manage expectations and offer signposts to information upfront

One of the main sources of customer frustration is chasing updates on the progress of their sale or purchase. When this is managed proactively with regular notifications, call and email volumes often reduce, and customer satisfaction improves.

Demonstrate accountability by letting clients know exactly what they can expect during the onboarding process – and then live up to your promises. This might include details of your call handling pledge (we return all calls within 24 hours), signposting people to information online such as a jargon-busting glossary, short videos that walk people through the buying and selling process, or downloadable forms. As the relationship is ongoing, you can proactively point them in the direction of content at each stage of the process, as and when they’ll need it.  If clients are informed and know what to expect, they feel empowered and valued.

Maximise expertise and improve the customer journey

When you anticipate customer needs and issues before they spiral out of control, it reduces workload for agents or sales staff and boosts efficiency. It also allows them to focus on delivering quality support, instead of rushing from one enquiry to the next.

One of the biggest obstacles to efficiency is not maximising people’s expertise. A prime example is having premium skilled staff chipping in to answer phones. In light of increasing call durations – 45% of people spend longer on the phone than they did three years ago – this can be even more disruptive and damaging to productivity, not to mention staff morale.

If customer needs are proactively identified and handled, employees are given the space to focus on their primary work and improve overall service delivery. This can be achieved by putting appropriate levels of resource in place for inbound call handling and outbound follow-up communication.

Time to act

The old adage the customer is king has never been more true. Understanding, anticipating and meeting customer needs is what the next generation of customer experience is all about. In a difficult market, property businesses have nothing to lose by putting themselves on the front foot; It’s anticipation that will deliver even greater revenue, reputation and referrals.


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