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We're constantly adapting to new rules and regulations but we're also
breaking every system down to see where we can improve," says Thomas Izod,
Branch Manager at Kallars in our free guide, How to maximise your agency's potential. "Now’s the time to start preparing for the changes that are coming in. You're not maximising your returns if you're still doing the same thing you were doing ten years ago.”
Businesses around the world had to quickly assess their processes at the start
of lockdown to analyse what systems are working, where there are bottlenecks, and where improvements could be made, to work from home as efficiently as possible. Taking fast decisions on ways to improve based on analysing performance should be a continuous part of your business process, rather than a reaction to a crisis.
Your agency should start by asking what data you have available to you. Many outlets release regular industry level information for you to source, to recognise how you're performing against your peers within your region or nationally. Are you following, or ahead of, your competitors?
"We're always looking for new, innovative ways to stay ahead of the market, looking for new opportunities all the time," says Dawn Clarke, Lettings Director at Nock Deighton. "The main reason for our success is never standing still."
At company level, make use of your suppliers and the information that they may be able to share on the effectiveness of your systems. For example, the number of tenancies passing through Goodlord's lettings software means it can offer customers tailored insights into how they compare with competitors in the same region, and how individual branches are performing. Once you have this information, you can more easily recognise areas for improvement and dedicate the right resources to those areas.
Mistakes that have been made are also learning opportunities to help you direct your efforts in the future. "We've constantly looked at upgrading our systems and processes and learning from mistakes as well - because sometimes you don't know that something is not working until something goes wrong," says Clarke.
Agencies should examine their supply chains to ensure each provider's solution offers the right value to your agency and its processes. "The move to remote working forced us to analyse where our money was actually going, what suppliers were bringing the most value," says Matthew Wilkinson, Partner at the maidenhead-based property management and lettings agency, Wilkinson Estates.
Simon Tillyer at referencing provider Vouch says that "when agents started
to see delays in referencing [during lockdown], we saw them turn to us for a digital-first solution. Agents who weren't interested in changing providers before realised that the ease of a digital approach made sense, especially to support the other steps in the lettings journey that they'd digitised to work from home."
The industry as a whole is evolving and moving towards professionalisation through the Regulation of Property Agents, which will mandate qualifications to help agents improve their performance and deliver better customer service as a whole. Many agents are proactively training staff to ensure they are at the right level when the regulations are enacted. Encouraging this learning mindset will help your agency position itself as credible, build employee engagement as your team develops relevant skills, and ensure you can most effectively respond to your customers' needs.
“A lot of our staff members are ARLA Propertymark qualified and, if not, they're in the process of taking the qualifications," says Tim Leffler, Head of Lettings at Ezytrac Property Group. "We put heavy emphasis on people having a sound knowledge base and we share our experiences with each other.”
Although businesses shouldn't wait for crises to occur to adapt, that's not to say they shouldn't plan for worst case scenarios. If you're prepared, you'll be able to adapt more effectively and continue to be productive, rather than floundering.
“Contingency planning is having the ability to not focus too inwardly on the immediate all the time and making sure you're aware of what's going on outside your agency,” says Leffler. “My colleagues thought I was like some biblical prophet at one stage when they saw me doing contingency planning in the meeting room with Post-its on the wall. You could see different colours for accounts and lettings and the maintenance team, what each needed to do if we were to go to the unthinkable - which we did: full lockdown.”
Agencies that learn to embrace the challenges of the fast-paced and evolving lettings industry are the ones that will survive. Learning from the past while looking to the future will help you stay ahead of the game.
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Oh Goodlord Limited is an Appointed Representative of Goodlord Protect Limited for general insurance products and credit broking. Goodlord Protect Limited is directly authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, registration number 836727. You can check this information on the Financial Services Register by visiting www.fca.org.uk/register or by telephoning 0800 111 6768 (Freephone) or 0300 500 8082 from the UK. The FCA is the independent watchdog that regulates financial services.