Elite AgentEPMEPM: BD & GrowthEPM: Feature Interview

Michelle Williams: At Home with Property Management

It has been an incredibly busy few years for @home Property Management Solutions. They have built an outstanding reputation for service excellence and have won many awards. Co-owner Michelle Williams recounts how their successful and respected brand was built during challenging economic times.

The Beginning
We realised there was potentially a niche in the local real estate market to offer a specialist property management service, without the distraction of a sales department. Sceptics suggested this would never work; that property management would never provide the financial resources to sustain the costs associated in a real estate business. This only made us more determined to succeed.

By no means has it ever been an easy process. I remember all very well the hurdles that we faced along the way. In the beginning, we had a timeframe of three months before we would simply run out of money to pay the bills. There was so much to do in such a short space of time. Looking back, it is really is incredible what you can achieve when you fight against your fears, believe in yourself, and take a risk.

The Launch
In March 2009, we opened the doors to @home with zero customers and a team of two. The networking began with everyone and anyone who could help us with our vision. It all started with phone calls, meetings, networking groups and many late nights. I still remember the very first sign that went up and the very first property let. It was a fabulous feeling.

Our understanding of the power of referral business became evident very early when the phones started ringing with customers saying that we had been recommended to us and that we were great to deal with. The high demand for great customer service grew from there.

People would ask how we were going in the early stages, and I remember answering, ‘Fantastic! We’re overwhelmed with the response!’ despite having only three managements at the time. I believe passion and a positive attitude is what drives us to succeed. And by telling as many people as possible how fantastically we were doing, the pressure to succeed kept us motivated to get results.

The Brand
While I worked on building the referral base, my business partner and co-owner Matthew Brammall set out to create and build confidence in our brand. Our image was very carefully thought out. We understood that we needed to appear like a well-established franchise rather than a small ‘boutique’ business. Consumers are often scared of something that hasn’t been tried and tested.

Our brand needed to appeal to both sides of our core business: property owners and property renters. The word ‘home’ provides a feeling of safety and security; it also reinforces our expectation that by providing quality homes we will attract people who will care for the property as a home. The @ symbol relates to the digital technology we use. Together it reflects our ‘high touch, high tech’ approach.

We are very proud of our brand, and our marketing campaigns which were created by Matthew who is actually a sign writer/ graphic artist by trade; this has been a great asset for the business. Our marketing provides consistency in the brand and message, which is ‘our sole focus on property management’. Some of our regular tag lines include…

  • ‘Take the Risk out of Renting’
  • ‘Property management is all we do and we do it exceptionally well’
  • ‘Managing houses, Providing Homes’
  • ‘Focus on one thing and you get really good at it’

It’s one thing to say something about your brand in the media, however; I believe it’s the culture behind the brand that truly makes you different. I have seen many businesses with great branding who have failed to follow through with the message.

The Vision
Having a vision will get you started and provide a direction; however, as the business grows the most important focus should be to maintain consistency. The only way this can be achieved is to have the entire team believe in the vision, and culture reflecting the vision in every action. Everyone in or directly associated with the business should be on the same page singing the same song.

@home’s greatest success has been to have continuously achieved outstanding growth without sacrificing the consistency and high standards of our delivery. This has been realised through careful planning, attention to detail and dedication to maintaining high service standards.

We have always understood business to be an organic process, one in which we must continuously examine, consider and adapt to the changing needs of our customers and the economy.

The Focus
Great customer service is an integral part of our business and a key to our success and growth. That’s why we commit 80 per cent of our marketing budget back to our clients and customers rather than throwing away hard-earned dollars to mass media. How do we do this? By developing touch points with our clients and customers that consistently surprise and delight. Those touch points create raving fans who tell their friends and family how great the experience is with @home.

While we can’t give away all our service secrets, what we can say is that we never follow suit when it comes to our service delivery. When our competitors Zig, we Zag. We think outside of what has already been done and find unique ways to ‘wow’ our customers.

Customer Service Core Values

  • Our customers should feel not only that we appreciate their business, but that we know a little bit about them.
  • Great customer service is setting the expectation for what you are going to do and then doing it every single time.
  • Great customer service is about making it easy to do business with us. Our processes, procedures and policies must make it easy for our customers not only to interact with us but also to give us their assets to manage, report an issue or even make a complaint.

The Reward
With hard work comes reward! Our business has been recognised with multiple local and national awards for business and customer service excellence. This acknowledgement continues to build confidence in our brand and product, which in turn leads to further growth.

Michelle Williams is Director and co-owner of @home Property Management Solutions. She has over 15 years of experience in property management, holds a diploma in property services, and is a well-regarded industry expert. Michelle and the team at @home have been recognised with multiple local and national awards for business excellence.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.