How letting agents can educate and inform to earn their landlords’ trust
Agents who clearly communicate their expertise to landlords and help keep them up to date on what they need to know will find managing relationships between parties, and therefore retaining customers, much easier, as estate and lettings agency Wills & Smerdon has learned.
“We have been in business since 1933 and like to think of ourselves as the local property experts,” says Sara Grey, Lettings Manager at the Ripley and Horsley-based Wills & Smerdon.
The agency had to adapt how it communicated with its customers during lockdown, to maintain its reputation for expert advice and a willingness to listen to the needs of both tenants and landlords. “We miss our door being open,” says Sara. “Clients were always popping into the office for a chat and we quickly had to find new ways to advise our landlords on the latest developments and news during this extraordinary time in our lives”.
Facebook, videos and blogs
“We set up a private Facebook group for our landlords, where we created and added short videos,” says Sara. “Legislation has been changing rapidly, particularly in relation to notice periods and possessions, so we would post regularly. Landlords started to look forward to our updates during lockdown and would ask when we were next planning a video.”
Wills & Smerdon also keeps its landlords informed in writing, with frequent updates on its website. “We have a lot of blogs on our site, on landlord related topics,” says Sara. “There's a Bill currently going through Parliament about pets at the moment, so we blogged about this as it’s a concern for landlords after the Tenant Fee Act banned extra pet deposits.”
The agency is now sending more regular newsletters via MailChimp, to make sure all the relevant information it produces is reaching its customers. “With so much going on at the moment, landlords may not be up to date and so have to rely on us to be fully informed,” says Sara.
Communication builds trust
Sharing this type of expertise and reassuring landlords has always been a key part of an agent’s role, but has now become more of a necessity. “We found that, during lockdown, we were working closely with our landlords and tenants, at a very challenging time for them both ,” says Sara. “We were always at the end of the phone for all of our customers, and we played a proactive role in navigating any problems and issues as they arose."
This consultative approach, combined with a strong communications plan, can help landlords trust their agent’s suggestions on managing tenant relations - especially in the current situation. “We were dealing with people at such a vulnerable time of their lives, with some tenants not knowing if they could pay their rent next month, and with landlords also worried about their livelihood, as the rent is often a large part of their income,” says Sara.
Agents that show their understanding of this situation, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the industry, will ensure that their customers know they can talk to them and ask for professional advice. “We made many proposals around payment plans during the first lockdown, for example, and I believe having the trust of both our tenants and landlords proved invaluable, to achieve acceptable outcomes for all,” says Sara. “It’s even more rewarding when they listen and say: ‘You're the expert’.”