How to manage the fast-track to digital lettings
This traditional agency made the decision to jump-start the digitisation of its systems in March - but had to get the business and its customers up to speed more quickly than anticipated when lockdown hit.
“We're a fairly traditional agency in our approach, and it works. We have real continuity with landlords. They like that we're traditional because they are as well,” says Beverley Myott, one of the directors at County Lettings, a Hertfordshire-based lettings specialist.
With a wealth of experience spanning 30 years, County Lettings thrives on building and maintaining a long-term presence and relationship with landlords. “Some people don't want high tech,” says Debbie Torrance, Senior Lettings Negotiator. “They want an old-school service going back to the human touch, especially when you're negotiating.”
The sudden shift to remote working threw up a challenge to the agency’s habitual approach - something which the whole industry has had to deal with. According to Goodlord’s State of the Industry Report, automation has been accelerated in over half of businesses as a direct result of Covid-19 - and 90% of property professionals surveyed believe that technology is now a force for good in lettings.
County Lettings was already in the process of digitising some of their processes when the pandemic struck: it had started using Goodlord’s pre-tenancy software two weeks before lockdown.
A swift transition
“We had just finished training on Goodlord’s platform when lockdown started and we were quite proactive, getting going straight away,” says Beverley. “We still had support but we did pretty well being thrown in at the deep end.”
The move to working from home emphasised areas in the agency’s processes which could be improved to make sure it maintained the human touch through a high quality service. “Recent months have highlighted the gaps,” says Beverley. “For example, our telephone system needed updating as the redirection originally wasn't in place.
“We’re normally quite a paper-based agency and not everything's stored on the computer - then we weren’t able to come to the office,” she says. “We had to rush out and buy some laptops and various bits and pieces.”
As with many other agencies, County Lettings quickly discovered how new ways of doing things could help it continue to let for essential moves. “I do property visits and now I do a lot of them via video calls to walk them through,” says Debbie. With these virtual tours, County Lettings tapped into the thirty-two percent of renters in the State of the Industry Report who say they’d make an offer on a property that they had only viewed virtually.
County Lettings’ traditional customer base proved flexible as well. One landlord customer was unsure of the digitisation of processes but quickly saw the benefit as the agency continued letting their properties. “One of our landlords had three move-ins in the first months of us going into lockdown. It was a learning curve but she's picked it up,” says Beverley.
A long-term change
Now that the agency is set up with a digital process, Beverley sees this as a long term trend which will change the way that County Lettings works - as well as the industry as a whole. “We'll have less physical contact with our landlords, but that's the way it's going and lots of people won't even be maintaining offices anymore. Why would you bother to go out when you can sit and see everything agents put online from all over the world - all at your fingertips?”