As a result of the explosion in digital lead generation, the traditionally separate departments of marketing, service, and technology now need to work together. When leads are ‘generated’ they should be nurtured, according to the individual’s needs, both online and in person. As a group, Ray White are continually on the cutting edge of innovation through investing in people and development. Two of their key leaders, Jason Alford and Kelly Tatlow explain how they provide value to the network by promoting their agents in the best light, while putting them face to face with more people.
As CEO of Concierge, a Ray White and Loan Market service providing before, during and after sales care for clients across Australia and New Zealand, Kelly Tatlow manages a team of about 75 professional communicators. Jason Alford is the National Technology Manager in a team of 60 IT professionals. At a franchisor level, both Kelly and Jason strive to achieve the ambitious goal of ensuring every single customer who contacts a Ray White agent around the country has not just a good experience but an ‘unbelievable’ experience. In this country right now that’s around 1.6 million people per year.
DELIVER, SURPRISE, DELIGHT
While there is a vast array of technology tools to choose from today, Jason says the simplest way to make technology decisions is to imagine the customer testimonial that you want to receive and then reverse-engineer the technology and the service needed to achieve it.
“What I want to have any client say to me is I have communicated well, kept them up to date, did what I said I was going to, was an expert in my suburb and sold their house at the highest price. To achieve that testimonial you have to deliver exceptional service and exceed expectations in each of those areas.”
What customers are demanding right now, says Jason, is speed of response.
Digital enquiry is outstripping organic inquiry or natural sales by a factor of 10, so the response needs to be immediate.
“We are continuing to improve transparency and communication with real-time responses embedded in MyDesktop, so that no inquiry goes unserviced and that person is surprised and delighted right at the start.
“Then, as you get into the meat of the relationship and [the agent] is appraising the property, many of those tools [which] are now in mobile apps, a CMA or pre-listing presentation can be sent straight out.
“Then when it gets to the contract management bit, making it a seamless process through digital signature software that is connected into our secure database.
“We are completely changing the pace at which a contract can be signed, which we measure as ‘velocity of signature’. This is now, on average, under two hours.
“So, if you can deliver service like that, you’re more likely to receive the testimonial we just spoke about. Exceeding expectations to such an extent that these people will then recommend another 20 clients (likely to be friends and family) – that’s the goal.”
BUILDING ROCK-SOLID RELATIONSHIPS
Jason is adamant that digital tools are there to enhance an agent’s ability to build relationships with more people than is possible face to face, which he estimates to be around four to five hundred.
To nurture these early relationships online, the group rolled out a series of ‘digital life cycles’ using ActivePipe, which has had a significant uptake from the network and is producing stellar results.
“ActivePipe wraps around MyDesktop and is deeply integrated into our One System. And when a contact is added (via an open, a portal or a doorknock), ActivePipe goes to work. It immediately sends that new contact a welcome email and offers the client the potential to profile themselves via a communication saying, ‘Hey, I know I just met you. Just wanted to say we are committed to excellent service. Can we find out a bit more about you?’ And we effectively profile them and ask them a few questions about where they live, and their current property interests.”
Technology also enables critical parts of the after-sales program, which is embedded into the Ray White DNA and is by all standards world-class.
“It’s not just a set of keys and a basket of fruit any more. For example, we send out a gift certificate after three months to say ‘Hey, if you’ve been in the household a little while and you may have something that needs fixing or some gardening, we’ll give you a $150 voucher.’ Not to renovate the place, but just to fix up one or two things and to show that we care.
“And if you’ve been there six months in a rising market your home may have appreciated. That’s something all homeowners want to know,” says Jason.
THE ABILITY TO SCALE
The digital aspect of the client relationship is also tightly woven into Ray White and Loan Market’s Concierge, where additional capacity for personal service can be created by Kelly’s professional team during any stage of the client lifecycle.
Says Kelly, “Digitally, our group is generating more and more leads, along with more and more opportunities. Unless the agent can respond quickly and develop a relationship with them, the opportunities are wasted.”
Kelly says Concierge started out as a service to clean up the data in different databases and systems. “We would speak to people, and we offered market reviews, kept in touch, completed the data picture where we could.
“Once [our network offices] had their databases reasonably clean, they needed resources to ensure that agents could keep in contact regularly and deliver services in a wide range of areas that are not always expected of a real estate group.
“Last month, we made about 67,000 calls to people for our agents all over Australia and New Zealand.”
With the MyDesktop system tightly integrated into the call centre, if the agent doesn’t get a chance to follow up their open homes (for example), Kelly’s professional team can step in and assist.
“We’re there behind the scenes, so if our agents don’t get a chance to follow up their open homes, we can do it; we log straight into MyDesktop, we fill out the vendor reporting. Where they’ve got an open property that they’ve listed, we can call around the suburb if they don’t have a chance. Neighbours love hearing about what’s happening with the property in their area and they love getting a special invitation to view the property.”
Most of the Concierge staff (mostly students at local universities) work three or four short shifts per week so they remain energised. Kelly says, “It’s a wonderful professional role where they learn amazing communication skills. Most of them come out of Concierge saying they have some great skills and learnings to take with them into their new careers.”
An area of even greater opportunity Kelly has found is keeping good contact with past purchasers to show that they continue to be important clients.
“Our agents really understand the opportunity cost of not keeping in contact as we work with our technology team looking at data – for example, past purchasers who have resold – and compare that to how many re-sales we’ve completed. And then we can multiply that out by the average commission and work out the dollar value they may have missed out on.
“Really, we’re like a specialised PA, but we also offer the thinking and that’s my big thing. We’re not just people making calls; we work with our principals to find out what is the highest value for them and where is the greatest opportunity. Then we come up with a plan that is consistent with everything else we do.”
STRIVING FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Both Jason and Kelly say they are lucky to have the opportunities to innovate across the Ray White Group, with the business growing year on year and the family continuing to invest in people and technology to stay ahead of the curve.
“Once you’ve got enough good people and you’ve done your thinking, and you believe you’ve got the right strategy, it’s about consistently reviewing and refining. And because technology evolves so quickly, tweaking, discussing and challenging that strategy is probably one of the most important things we continue to do.”