Some amazing changes have occurred over the last 20 years in the letting agency world. The computer, the mobile phone, the internet, email and now with social media that is appearing to take over from the phone, the letter, the email and the website, this means that our business is a completely different animal to what it was 20 years ago.
When I first started trading in 1990, we had a computer which had no hard drive, so it was basically just a type writer, which you could save basic documents on a floppy disk, so not much use really.
All our records were on record cards, with notes on the back, everything was manual but very customer and 1-2-1 focused as all communication was face to face, letter or landline phone. I used to leave the office to go on viewings or valuations, before mobile phones and not know if people had cancelled, then came the mobile phone and we were all saved, and kids now wonder what these red boxes in the street are for and why we would ever have needed them!
Then the internet and email, I’m sure many in their 3rd or 4th decade of life can remember their first email, and how this has replaced, both the phone, the letter and the face to face, in many circumstances. Soon to follow was MSN, I can vividly remember my first MSN conversation, I was absolutely amazed, at how it worked and for free, 5 years later my now husband proposed to me via it! ( I said yes).
The problem with email was that we were starting to lose “real” contact with our customers, the conversations are generally short and to the point, if you are not having a phone conversation with them or meeting your customers, then there is no time for “chat” how’s the kids, how was the holiday. In our industry this is vitally important, that we understand our clients, and they understand us too, what makes us all tick and work better together.
Now there is social media, the kids were the early adopters, but then the adults and now businesses have started to get involved in the act, and some are swearing by it, we here at Concentric Lettings are one of them.
Social Media has such a huge range of possibilities to really “keep in touch” and share with your clients. We have actively encouraged all of our key staff members, in recruitment, property management and lettings to get actively involved in social media and each department is feeling the benefit of really getting to know the customer and the customer getting to know us.
For example when we meet a prospective landlord at a networking event, we can connect with him online, and he can see what we are up and we can see him, then when we meet at the next event, there is more to discuss, “Well done on that Marathon time last week”, rather than “Hi we spoke last month do you remember me?” You are also available to answer questions when they need them answering, I find myself answering questions for landlords at early hours of the morning when I can’t sleep, I enjoy the interaction. This means that to the landlords current and prospective, you seem more human, they know more about you, they can see you helping people and they are more likely to respect you or want to deal with you.
The property management department in particular has made huge developments in the social media arena. They are connecting to all landlords and tenants that are online. Imagine knowing that your tenant has just “moved” to Ibiza, got married (when supposed to be living on their own) or expecting a baby. It really puts you in touch with your tenant base, and you can pre-empt issues or problems, or be ready to help if needed. Many tenants now contact our management team, via facebook, it’s easier for them, as less and less people use email, daily because they just “inbox” you instead on social media.
The property managers, at our letting agency have also found it a great way, to source contractors in various areas. Contractors have adopted social media rather quickly and are always keen to connect and also keep in touch, also because the younger generation seem to be on social media permanently, with messages linked to their phone instantly (emails generally are not) then we can get hold of the tenant, and the contractors immediately and get the dates/times sorted, much easier, we have even used it to chase arrears!
In the last 6 months, we have recruited staff from being approached on facebook, we have taken on landlords from all over the world, who liked what we do, and have solved many maintenance issues, arrears, as well as some mysteries of “missing” tenants (and landlords) too.
We love social media, we believe that it is here to stay, and join us. https://www.facebook.com/lettingscoach
Sally Lawson is a Leading authority on Residential Lettings and Management in th UK, Sally has ran Lettings Branches since 1990, and let over 5000 properties during that time. She has also worked as a consultant and trainer to Letting agents nationwide. Sally is actively involved with ARLA (the association of residential letting agents) as a regional representative and Media Spokesperson for the group, and runs the rapidly expanding nationwide Concentric Lettings operation and Franchised network. www.SallyLawson.co.uk and www.concentriclettings.co.uk