Your customers are using the latest technology in their homes, jobs and private lives, so if you want to attract them, communicate with them and complete transactions in the most convenient way for them, you need to be using the latest technology (and loving it!) too. Story by Amanda Browell-Hook.
We decided many years ago that without proactively embracing technology we simply would not succeed as a leader in our marketplace. Whilst like all relationships we have had our tantrums and fallings out, we have matured in our understanding of how to “manage” our friend technology and make the relationship work for us and not against us.
Why did we decide to seek and conquer technology? We could have easily waited for technology to force our hand and therefore avoided some difficult decisions and costly mistakes. We operate from small offices spread across congested Sydney with support run remotely; our staff do not physically see each other every day and we needed to manage internal communications and support effectively. Our clients are educated, sophisticated and, within their own working environment, are expected to be at the forefront of the technological race, and they expect the same from our agents and business.
We use multiple applications in all areas of our business including for example the way ingoing condition reports are compiled, marketing communication, business accounting, electronic document filing and customer log on access and it has been confusing along the way deciding what solutions in a huge marketplace of technology to opt for.
It is vital that your business really understands what you need and what integrates with your culture and business plan. Know your requirements before you watch the slick marketing demo, don’t be persuaded into something you do not really need. Listen to your team, those on the front line will have a very clear idea of what will and won’t work for them and their clients. Remember technology knowledge ignores all traditional hierarchies and it may be your Property Management junior who will be your strongest ally in introducing PDA software reporting.
Choosing the appropriate technology is just the beginning. Have you planned the implementation of your new toys? Ensure you have a plan, adequate resourcing and do not rush. If you fail in this preparation then you will end up with “all the gear and no idea”. To avoid this you must ensure buy-in from all areas of your business, the internal sell is vital. To succeed you need your team to love their new technology.
Don’t underestimate how much resistance to change your team may give you – even if you are convinced the new technology will transform the working day. Take the time to discuss, support and train your team to ensure everyone will embrace it. Implementing change is a slow process and there will always be set backs along the way – there will inevitably be one person who refuses to scan documents or log on to the new database. As a leader in technology you need to continue to support and never give up on improving your technological choices.
Keeping technology working is just as hard as implementing, we have a dedicated Operation Manager to oversee the constant care, and tweaking and upgrading needed. It’s hard to expect frontline staff to dedicate time to writing fees and also reporting that bug in their system. In order to stay one step ahead, keep up to date with technology news – listen to your peers and build strong trusting relationships with your technology partners.
We have found that our technology growth never plateaus, as soon as we think we have all the gear and all the ideas, then we review and see areas for improvement or the market has advanced and a previously inaccessible solution is now affordable.
Like all new things, the technology is often exciting at first and everyone is eager to use it, however, over time interest fades. To ensure return on your investment, put measurements in place to monitor quantity and quality of uptake. If the team is unhappy with the technology you need to return to review your implementation process and understand the issues. If technology is directly affecting your clients (ie moving to e-mail statements, newsletters etc) then survey them and ensure that you are spending your money in the right areas.
Over the last few years we have focused our technology internally on system effectiveness within our business and the quality of customer service. This has meant a focus on hardware purchases and the applications to improve sales, Property Management and administration efficiencies.
Currently we have shifted our focus externally to maximising the opportunities of the internet; this is driven primarily by the combined result of an increase in external marketing costs and the current economic climate reducing our cost recovery rates from vendors and landlords. By applying resources and time to the internet we will focus on taking advantage of the rapid increase in popularity of social networking sites and search engine optimisation both of which can be achieved at low cost. This in turn creates its own implementation, policy and culture issues which are constantly evolving.
Don’t let technology be your enemy, but ensure that you are in control of your technological decisions and that you actively work on maintaining and improving your relationship. Real Estate has such a strong focus on customer service and our customers are not shy when it comes to embracing technology in their private lives so to connect with them and secure their loyalty, agencies need to run their business, communicate and market using the very latest technology available.
Amanda Browell-Hook is General Manager of Morton & Morton based in Sydney. Amanda is responsible for the success and growth of a Property Management department of 1000 high end managements and the efficiency of the administration and finance departments.