Gen-Y, Generation Me and Echo Boomers – the fresh-faced, tech-savvy members of our society born between the mid 1980’s and the early 2000’s. They didn’t quite come out of the womb holding a mobile phone, but they came pretty darn close. Millennials are the first members of our society to grow up completely immersed in tech.

This is the generation that will buy a pair of $250 sneakers – after thoroughly researching product reviews and trying on 28 different pairs in search of the right fit. The generation that expects exceptional customer service – because companies like Apple promise an almost immediate response rate. And the generation that is used to having all the answers at their fingertips, thanks to Google.

We mention the generation-everyone-sometimes-loves-to-hate because they’re about to hit your business with a bang. Let’s take a look at when, how and what this means for you and your agency, shall we?

The rise of the millennial

According to people who are way better at maths than me, Millennials will make up 43% of all home buyers by 2018.

That’s right. The generation that the world has written off as lazy and self-absorbed – stereotyped for schmoozing off Mum and Dad and living at home until their late 20s – is actually taking the property world by storm (HA HA, Tim Gurner. Looks like we can have our smashed avo on toast, and eat it too).

What’s more is that according to fancy science studies, millennials only hold on to property for 6 years – 4 years less than older generations. Great! They’ll be needing your services more often, then.

So, exactly how do you get (and keep) their business?

Testimonials are key

Millennials love peer reviews. Trust me – I’m one of them. I research the bejeezus out of everything I buy, watch or eat. Why? Because there are so. many. options. Because I don’t want to make the wrong choice. And because I can.

In a world of endless options, trustworthy and unbiased testimonials are gold. In fact, studies show that user-generated content (such as reviews and discussion forum posts) influences 90% of people’s decisions to purchase – outranking every other form of marketing.

If millennials treat their sneaker purchases so seriously, chances are they’re going to treat the selection of a real estate agent the same way. This is why a glowing vendor testimonials are invaluable. Think about it: it’s authentic marketing – and even better, it’s free.

Every time you help a client purchase their dream home, flick them an email requesting a testimonial. You can then post it on your website, Facebook, Instagram – every channel you’ve got. And hey presto! You’re immediately more attractive to millennial home buyers.

But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in the land of the ‘net. Testimonials are a double-edged sword, and keyboard warriors lurk in every corner – waiting to pop out and ruin your day with a negative review. After all, a client who has a bad experience will tell twice as many people as a client who had a good experience.

So, how do you deal with a disgruntled buyer, seller or tenant (yes, tenants are people too)? You can check out this handy guide for dealing with negative reviews in more detail. For those of you with an attention span similar to mine – the TL;DR is:

  1. Don’t get defensive. This might be difficult – but whether you agree with the reviewer or not, acknowledge that they had a bad experience.
  2. Try to resolve the problem. Sometimes, all that’s required is a brief apology. But it won’t always work – there’s just no pleasing some people.
  3. Protect your image. But don’t go overboard. Simply make it clear that your clients are your priority, and that you take their concerns seriously. Think of it as a chance to show clients you’re a real human being, and that you care about more than just the final sale.
  4. Take it offline. Tell the reviewer you’d like to discuss their concerns, and encourage them to call or email you personally.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore or delete a bad review. All this will do is erode people’s trust in you – the trust you’ve worked so hard to gain! And the reviewer will probably just go air their grievance somewhere else.

The reality is, you can do everything right and still receive a negative review. When it happens – be prepared and take all necessary steps. The key is not to underestimate the importance of an effective response.

A word of warning: If you think that you’re safe, because no one has emailed you to complain yet – think again. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ll only hear from about 4% of unhappy clients. The other 96% will either internalise their dissatisfaction – or find another way to complain. That’s why it’s really important you actively monitor Google+, Yelp, Twitter, Facebook… In fact, just go and Google “your name” and agent and review.

For our mates in Australia, we suggest you also check openagent.com.au and ratemyagent.com.au. Our friends in NZ should keep an eye on howsmyagent.co.nz and rankedbyreview.co.nz.

You can thank us later.

Round-the-clock service

So, they’ve read your reviews online and you’ve passed – breathe a sigh of relief.

… But that was the easy part.

Millennials do their homework. They’ve been all over realestate.com for years now – the Internet is their native homeground. They know what what they’re looking for in a property, and they know the suburbs they like – including where to get the best coffee. But they need you to provide the know-how, and they need you to provide it now. And I mean right now.

Millennials are impatient. We can’t help it – we were born into the fast-paced world of the Internet, where it’s business as usual 24/7. So when we send an email enquiring about your services, we don’t sit around twiddling our thumbs until we get a response. We make another enquiry.

If you’ve been keeping up-to-date with our feature releases, you’ll know that following up online leads in 5 minutes or less makes you 9 times more likely to convert. 300 seconds. That’s not much time to craft a well-worded, grammatically-correct response – especially if it’s 11pm and you’re knackered.

If you struggle to hit send within 5 minutes, perhaps you should consider setting up an enquiry response email template. A brief introduction, thank-you and a promise to call them first thing the next morning should suffice. Then, when an enquiry comes in, you just need to make few minor adjustments and flick it off. Job done. You’ve just made a great first impression – as an efficient, responsive agent.

But if you take your sweet time to reply – or worse, don’t reply at all? At best, you’ve lost the commission from one sale. At worst, you’ve lost the potential to sell a person’s property over the course of their lifetime, plus the referral business they would have brought in… and they’ll probably tell their friends you ignored them. Remember what we just said about the power of client reviews? Well, word-of-mouth is just as important. Don’t be that guy.

We know that’s a tough pill to swallow – but you’re probably not the only one letting leads slip through the cracks. In fact, the average company’s response rate for online leads is a whopping 42 hours. You know what that means? There are probably hundreds and hundreds of keen sellers in your area waiting on a response from an agent right now. Time to establish a point of difference.

But efficiency doesn’t just go out the window after you’ve got a signature on the dotted line. You need to be consistent throughout the entire process – that’s the only way you’re going to get a glowing testimonial at the end. Try using a reminder system, like Rex’s tracks – grouped, time-released tasks that define best practice.

Pssst… don’t forget about the ‘rents

Hold up. Just because a new generation of home buyers is on the rise, it doesn’t mean you can forget about the rest.

Agents need to keep in mind that millennials often get Mum and Dad involved – both for financial backing and for that invaluable, sage wisdom only a parent can provide. In fact, 27% of Aussie millennials get a guardian to help with their deposit – and 72% of millennials rely on them for property advice.

And it works both ways. Mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas are asking their millennial offspring to scope out agents on the interwebs, and picking the best of the bunch. How do they decide who gets to sell their house? Testimonials, of course!

There are two key takeaways from this:

  1. Your job just got a little bit harder – you’ve got two sets of people to convince.
  2. Old school ways of thinking are still very much influencing purchasing decisions.

Nabbing a millennial’s business

They’ll make up almost half of all home buyers by next year – but working with a real estate agent is a new experience for most (if not all) millennials.

If you bag a millennial’s business, and serve them well, you could go on to represent them in another five or six transactions. Not to mention the extra business you’ll get from those stellar testimonials! But, if you don’t cater for Gen-Y vendors, you’re missing out on a lot of business.

One thing is for certain: making a good first impression and working to maintain loyalty over time is the best way for agents to drive their businesses forward. To win the hearts and minds of your millennial clients (and their parents), you need to maintain an updated website with a smattering of testimonials, keep response times as short as humanly possible and provide good, old-fashioned customer service… ramped up to 11. And if you don’t – you’ll hear about it.

Get ready to ride the (millennial) wave, friends. It’s gonna be big!