PROPERTY NEWS - In his annual open letter to shareholders this year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos emphasised the "divine discontent" of consumers as the driving force behind today's seemingly unending quest for better service. His claim that yesterday's "wow" quickly becomes today's "ordinary" rings true for any number of industries.
However, Schalk van der Merwe, franchisee for the Rawson Properties Helderberg Group, says this concept is particularly significant for real estate agencies striving to remain relevant in today's world.
"We're all going through a phase of disruption and transformation and are having to reassess our systems and processes in light of constantly evolving consumer expectations."
According to Van der Merwe, service-driven real estate is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. To achieve the kind of next-level service that he believes to be the future of real estate, Van der Merwe says there are five steps that form an essential foundation.
Transition from sales to service
Traditionally, real estate agents have been incentivised (both financially and through typical workflows) to maximise transaction volumes over service quality. This, Van der Merwe says, a situation has long needed reassessment.
"The transactional side of real estate is not where the true value of a professional agent lies," he says. "Our strength is the knowledge, experience and analytical advice that we bring to the table. To truly maximise the customer experience we deliver, we need to transition our focus from property transactions to the value we add in this service capacity. That means restructuring our approach to put consumer needs above all other incentives and using those insights to drive ongoing innovation and best practices."
Strictly enforce ethical standards
Trustworthiness is an essential part of service quality, particularly when it comes to industries managing major financial decisions like property purchases and sales. As such, Van der Merwe says, establishing strictly enforced ethical standards should be a priority for every real estate company, together with ongoing management and agent training.
"We need to take responsibility for keeping our teams at the top of their game by creating an industry culture of excellence, not only in terms of performance improvement, but also social and ethical standards," he says.
Provide consistently impressive customer service
One or two outstanding real estate agencies aren't going to save an entire industry. Van der Merwe says it's up to each and every property professional to help rebuild consumer confidence in the services they provide. "We need to take ownership of the experience we provide to consumers," he says.
"Unpredictable quality from agents of dramatically varied competence is doing nobody any favours. If we can band together as an industry to learn from each other, support new agents entering our profession, and uphold meaningful standards in our licencing and accreditation, we'll all stand to benefit at the end of the day."
Embrace innovators and remove barriers to entry
The property industry has often been criticised for introducing artificial and overly restrictive barriers to data access and utilisation. This, Van der Merwe says, only limits property professionals' ability to embrace new ideas and improve the real estate experience.
"We need to remove those barriers that are preventing innovators from bringing fresh perspectives, new inventions and alternative business models to our industry," he says. "It's these innovations that keep us moving forward, and to deny them is to deny our own growth and evolution."
The importance of service goes beyond the one-on-one relationship between agent and client. Van der Merwe says every real estate professional should also be making an effort to serve their community as a whole.
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