Technological advancement continues to shake up and disrupt service industries, but one ‘old school’ factor is more important than ever - customer experience – and those who innovate with this critical factor at the heart of their strategy are coming out on top.
The property industry has been particularly exposed to aggressive competition from online challengers over the past decade, tempting many to think about alternative business models. But PropTech is changing everything. Increasingly, technologies are bridging the gap between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ propositions, helping high-street agents to enhance (that all so important) customer experience without impacting on business efficiency.
Let’s look at why customer experience is so important within the home move process, and how agents can leverage PropTech to maintain a competitive advantage.
Background: The rise of the challengers
In the 20-year timeline of PropTech, the past half-decade has been arguably the most challenging for established agencies. While the early years saw tech innovators striving to make things easier for high-street agents via marketing platforms and automation software, things quickly got competitive. Digital platforms started to aggressively target the end consumer, as low-cost online agencies started springing up.
More recently, however, we’ve started to see a shift. According to Forbes, we’re moving towards an era of PropTech that will look more like the symbiotic early days. Tech companies and estate agents will increasingly work in synergy, as opposed to in competition, to improve efficiency and enrich the customer experience.
Why is customer experience so important?
Recent years have seen the demise of the old guard of high-street retail giants, with customers shifting their spending habits to the online marketplace. Tech giants like Amazon, Uber, Netflix and Airbnb offer consumers nearly instant access to a vast array of products and services, often at much lower prices.
But companies like Airbnb and Netflix didn’t succeed just because of price or ease of access. They succeeded because they put customer experience at the centre of their strategy. They studied consumer behaviour, adapted, evolved and used technology to serve unmet needs. Technology alone can’t change the face of an industry. But when you put customer experience at the centre of your business strategy, and capitalise on new technologies to meet consumer needs, you can.
Price will always be a factor in decision making for vendors. But in a time-poor economy, a personalised experience holds substantial weight. We’re seeing a shift in customer expectations, away from the multi-channel experience and towards the omni-channel experience.
It’s already a given that a multi-channel approach to customer service is critical in today’s always-on culture. We need to reach – and be accessible to – our customers via telephone, email, websites, search engines, social media and in person. But the more channels service providers use, the harder it can be to provide a seamless and integrated experience for the customer.
That’s where the omni-channel approach comes in. Customers want personalised, seamless experiences that translate across their face-to-face experiences, digital platforms and their devices. So, when they start their journey online, they want to be able to pick up from where they left off over the phone, get updates on their wearables and be able to visit their agent’s offices too.
So how can agents integrate proptech within their strategies to meet these customer needs?
Firstly, in order to support a joined-up, omni-channel experience, we need good data; whether that’s big data, mapping high-level consumer trends and behaviour, or granular data about your own customers.
While ‘Big data’ is attainable via public sources or by integrating analytics platforms, agents shouldn’t underestimate the power of the data and insight they already hold. After all, moving home is one of the highest engagement activities most consumers will ever experience, and with that comes a wealth of data and insight unique to each customer, whilst contributing to a broader understanding of your market and its segments.
Proptech – A future emerging
The future possibilities are already in their infancy. Think the internet of things revolutionising how you connect with buyers, location data enabling agents to ping property details to potential buyers in a given area, or interactive window displays that transfer property details to a potential buyer’s phone instantly.
Then there are home move tools such as Tili, our own digital home move assistant.
Tili, the digital home move assistant powered by Spark.
For the past decade, Spark has been the leading utilities partner to the property industry, providing energy management services. As a result, we know the needs of agents and home movers inside out. And so we built Tili with these needs in mind.
Tili is a free online service that lets home movers set up their council tax, water, energy, broadband and TV in a few taps. It takes around four minutes to complete. We partner with agents to provide the service to their customers – and when the customer uses it, the agent earns revenue.
Since its launch in 2018, Tili has helped around 75,000 people move. And over the same period, agents have earned over £4m in revenue by partnering with Tili and Spark.
Technologies like Tili can help agencies meet ever-increasing demands by extending the home mover-agent relationship beyond its current confines with a co-branded service.
With the likes of Tili, agent can become concierge, without any additional work and all the while opening up new revenue streams.
Making the investment
Some platforms, like Tili, are free, whereas some take time and money to implement. Agencies will need to be prepared to take risks, invest, and embed innovation deeply within their business strategy. Aside from immediate improvements to customer experience, agents can also benefit from the time-saving potential of these technologies. Get the customer experience right, and you can spend more time on what you’re already great at - customer service.
First published on the Future Proptech website