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Speakers’ Corner - Charlie Wright of

publication date: Aug 1, 2010
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Fish and ChipsEstate agents sell service, not houses. Lettings agents also sell service, they don’t let properties. Vendors sell houses, Landlords let properties. Agents provide the service that facilitates this goal for their clients.

It’s amazing how many agents don’t realise this. The ones who do, and who focus on being the best at giving this service are the ones who have the most success. The highest profits for the least amount of work.

There are literally dozens of distractions to the modern day Estate or Lettings Agency owner. How much advertising should I buy? Which publication? Which portals should I be on? What about Facebook and Twitter? What about my SEO? Should I redesign my website? Should I have an SMS alert service? Should I buy software, if so which? All of these are valid questions, but only once the basics are attended to. Spending time on any of these topics without getting the basics right first is wasted time and will result in having to work much harder for less reward.

Worrying about these things before you’ve got your service right, is like a Fish & Chip shop owner worrying about which salt, vinegar and ketchup to buy, or what newspaper he should use to wrap his wares in for his customers. They’re all things he needs to do, but not unless the fish and chips themselves are good. No amount of ketchup, salt and vinegar will cover up the taste of bad fish and chips. Similarly, no amount of technology or marketing gimmicks will cover up your poor customer service if you haven’t got it right.

As an agent, you have a number of different services on your menu, and most of your customers will choose the meal deal which includes them all. If you’re good, you will be selling an Advisory Service, about the best time and price to market your client’s property. You will be selling a Marketing Service, presenting your client’s properties in the best light to attract the most prospective buyers or tenants (and if you’re not using floor plans yet, you really are making a meal of things). You will be selling a Viewing Service, benefiting both your clients and your viewers. You will be selling a Negotiation Service, acting in your client’s best interests to secure them the best deal. Finally, you will be selling a Deal Progression Service, hand-holding all parties concerned until the agreed deal completes.

So what exactly is ‘service’?

Charlie WrightIn a nutshell, it is doing a job on someone else’s behalf either because they don’t know how to do it, or they don’t have time, usually both. The dilemma facing most of your prospective clients is that they don’t know who to choose to provide them with the service they need, unless they hear someone they trust saying, “There’s only one agent to use, I used them and they were fantastic”. So how can you get a reputation like that? Simple – give outstandingly great service, all the time.

Easier said than done, you say. Yes of course it is, but start by doing yourself a favour and focusing on getting all aspects of your service right before you worry about salt, vinegar and ketchup.

What are the basics? You need to become (if you’re not already) a team of relationship experts. A team of expert ‘expectation setters’. There are a number of truly great agencies I know and they all have the same thing in common, regardless of their size. They are sticklers for service. They are ruthlessly disciplined at making sure that all their clients always get great service; the reputation they have for doing so literally brings inbound new business through their door, or via the phone.

Some of the most common rules these agents follow include:

• Never taking on an instruction they know they can’t sell or let
• Talking to their clients as often as possible, even if there’s no news
• Providing feedback on every single viewing without fail
• Return all calls the same day

It really is that simple. Hard work, but simple. Lazy agents who rely on gimmicks to sell themselves and can’t be bothered to return calls, give viewing feedback and treat their clients how they’d like to be treated may scrape a living, but they’ll never be really successful.

So, go out and make sure that your fish and chips are the best in town. Then worry about getting Maldon Sea Salt flakes, novelty wooden ‘sporks’ and oak-aged vinegar to accompany the food. You’ll soon be the only chip shop in town.

Charlie Wright is MD and founder of agency software specialists