Originally published in the EA Masters 2019 conference workbook.
The Australian agent is a very different beast to his or her British counterpart - and it’s not just because we live in houses on stilts, start our day with Vegemite on toast or say “G’Day”.
In Australia, our commissions tend to be higher. Homeowners demand a very high level of service, so Aussie agents have had to develop strategies for managing great customer relationships and prospecting for new business. On the other hand, in the UK, you’ve got more balls in the air at any one time. To deal with that, you’ve developed streamlined processes and an impressive use of automation.
Over the last two years, we’ve sent a whole bunch of our team to work from our London office and meet with UK estate agents, to get a deep understanding of how they operate. With our feet now firmly planted in both markets, we’re in the privileged position to notice these differences and cross-pollinate innovation across the oceans. Here are some key learnings from the differences we’ve seen.
We’ve seen UK agencies running like well-oiled machines - the efficiency would be the envy of any Australian agent. However, clients aren’t like cereal boxes on a conveyor belt - needing to be portioned, boxed and shipped out. A client doesn’t have an expiry date; they’re likely to sell again and recommend an agency to family or friends at some point.
Many of our Aussie users receive a significant portion of their business from repeat and referral clients, and many agencies are regularly able to command a market share of up to 35-40% in their region. Much of that capacity comes down to delivering outstanding customer service – which involves a lot of regular, quality client contact.
For example, automated activity reports can help sellers appreciate what goes on behind the scenes and promptly surface applicant feedback so pricing discussions can be had. But it doesn’t stop after a sale.
Reminders can prompt you to deliver birthday cards years after the sale, making the relationship more personal. Many of our clients apply an “anniversary track” (a series of pre-built, automated reminders paired with email / SMS templates) to a seller’s record to remind them to call the seller in a year’s time, and use custom data to surface useful information, like children’s names and ages, so the call has context. The best agents will put a reminder into their system to call the seller just before their kids reach school age, to see if they’re thinking of selling to move closer to the local school.
The average Aussie invites just one to two agents to value their home before deciding which to list with. Many have already decided before an agent walks through the door. The agents who nurture long term relationships naturally reinforce the value of their service over time - making it far less likely they’ll need to negotiate commission, which can hit as high as 3-4% in premium areas.
Things here in the UK seem very different. If two (or more) agencies are competing for a listing, price competition can be fierce. Often, sellers favour the agency with lower commission - or the one that offers to sell for the highest price or has the “best” marketing inclusions.
If one of those agents had the tools and systems to understand local homeowners and build connections over time - perhaps with an automated email once every three months letting them know what the market is doing, followed by a phone call to discuss recent sales - that agent is in a far better position to win not just the listing, but that seller’s next listing and the one after.
While localising Rex for the UK market, we learned many British agents are already taking advantage of cool tech tools to streamline processes. However, we’ve also noticed those tools rarely speak to each other. A closed API benefits nobody; users are restricted and the businesses behind these products are clearly not thinking ahead.
You should be able to put property details into your database, then have that system push the listing to your website and send it to a social advertising platform too. Your system should allow you to send that listing to interested buyers in email newsletters, automated texts and more. And your system should let you build integrations with chatbots, automatic responders and the like.
Rex’s API has been open from the start, and we’ve had to help shift the Australian market to follow suit. We’ve heard a few noises in this space in the UK over the last six months, but not nearly enough to make a real difference. We’re hoping to change that.
One of the biggest things we’ve noticed is that most of the systems available to agents here are rather inflexible. One size does not fit all.
For a start, not all clients are the same - so the way you build relationships can’t be cookie cutter. A tool that forces you to bend your processes to fit is robbing you of the chance to provide a personalised (and memorable) customer experience.
In the time we’ve been here in the UK, we’ve noticed a decrease in volume, static prices and greater competition - all of which mean agents need to use more nuanced and effective prospecting strategies to foster stronger, more human, relationships with customers. For that, a flexible system is necessary.
Not every agency is the same, either. You should have the flexibility to build processes, templates and branding elements that work for you. You should be able to create your own workflows, reports... everything. And you should be able to do it all out of the office - so picking mobile tools is key.
This is just the start. We’re excited for many more learnings to come!