Estate agencies and agents are losing millions in revenue due to old fashioned and out of date customer journeys. Most stakeholders and clients slip completely through the net and the digitized customer journey rarely exists.
Why is that? According to Petter Vasholmen, a specialist in marketing and sales technology at L&F CG, the main reason is that new technology is rarely put into use. Which is quite ironic, because every stakeholder who at some point touches base with the agency, can be engaged in a digitized customer journey. A simple chatbot on the agency’s homepage can clarify the visitor’s needs and collect the necessary contact information and communication consent. Afterwards a simple automated email campaign can follow up and guide the stakeholder to the agency’s desired call to action. At this point the agency can choose to keep the customer journey simple and use emails as their preferred tool for communication. Or the agency can go all in and do a complete omnichannel customer journey. Either way the Estate agency can engage every stakeholder into a customer journey.
So, what’s missing? I have spoken to several agents and agencies and although their answers differ somewhat. The consensus is a fear of losing the personal bond between agents and their clients. A personal phone call is seen as preferable to a digitized journey. There is also a genuine fear of getting into an endless circle of investments into new tech and systems. Finally, there is a fear that digitizing customer journeys will get in the way of and interfere with the agency’s existing marketing and sales planes, strategies and activities.
Why is that a problem? According to Jo Alund, former sales executive at a large telemarketing company, a great telemarketer manages 120 calls in a day. Resulting in somewhere between 12 and 24 qualified conversations. For an estate agent who had 50-60 visitors to their open house viewing. The agent will spend half their working week getting in touch with prospects from that list alone. If the agent were to do a personal outreach to every seller or buyer, they have worked with throughout their career. There would be no time to sell any property.
How about the financial aspect? Research suggests that customer retention has a direct impact on profitability. A customer who returns for a new sale, is twice as valuable as a customer who disappears. And a customer who returns four times has quadrupled their value for the estate agent and the agency. Besides that, a returning customer will usually take on a role as an ambassador for the agency and help generate future leads.
With so much revenue on the line what is common practice to stop customer leakage? The agencies I spoke to had different strategies. Some are working on new types of GDPR consent. Different types of consent will allow for customized and digitized customer journeys. Some are working on developing loyalty programs. Loyalty programs have turned out to be a great success in other industries.
What should the agencies do? There is a great deal an agency can do to great effect without it costing millions. Most important is making sure every stakeholder gets a proper follow up and enters the agency’s customer journey. The agency needs three different journeys. One for buyers, one for sellers and one for stakeholders. These three journeys must be automated. A basic set up like this including the necessary technology, design and automation is available for less than 10 000. That said an agency can go all in and do the omnichannel experience. An experience using artificial intelligence, machine learning, dynamic marketing and intelligent mirror profiling costing millions and still be massively profitable.
What to expect in the near future? There is no doubt that there is a lot to be made financially on digitizing the customer journey. Returning clients buys bigger and more. Clients who return costs less and clients who return will recommend “their ” estate agency, to anyone who’ll listen. So, in general customers who return are more profitable and way more valuable. Today customer retention is held back by a general fear of implementing new technology and the subsequent fear of having the personal relationship disappear inside the technology. And given the time it takes to do a personal follow up on the telephone, the majority of the agency’s clients will disappear long before their next sale. The customer journey is in conflict with short term sales and loses.
Which reminds me of an old saying; the easiest money you will ever earn is the money you already have in the bank. And roughly translated to this context; the easiest sales you will ever do is to customers who have already bought your product. It is a shame that most estate agents lose out in these sales.