We recently released our benchmark report based on a heated debate that’s raging in the estate agent industry, Traditional vs. Online Estate Agents: The Truth about Their Digital Service. The report has been designed to begin to answer a question that has, so far, gone unanswered – whether traditional estate agents and online estate agents provide the same level of service to the customer.
This blog post exams one area of data in particular, differences in estate agent opening hours and how digital channels are influencing the normal standards; for the full analysis of estate agent accessibility and digital service, you’ll need to download the report here.
While you may be thinking that estate agent opening hours are quite a rudimentary statistic to collect, they are a strong indicator of an estate agent’s commitment to customer service and are the basis of some of the further analysis in our report. Opening hours are a strong indicator of commitment because if you aren’t available when the majority of your customers need you, you’re not offering a quality service.
The rise of digital in all of our lives means that consumers in a general context, and of course home owners and buyers, are browsing the internet and looking to connect with various brands, through various channels at almost every time of day imaginable. We go to bed with our smartphones in hand, checking Facebook and current property listings. Because of this, we naturally expect the businesses which we interact with to provide some form of customer service in these situations. In most cases we unsurprisingly expect the same standard of customer service we’d receive on say…a weekday morning.
Whilst an estate agent aiming to offer 24/7 customer support 365 days a year across numerous channels is making an outstanding commitment to service, they might not see all of those extra customer service hours get much usage. Many home owners and buyers want to be able to contact their estate agents outside of the usual 9-5 office day but won’t be making many house buying decisions at 4 or 5 in the morning.
Estate agents of course usually operate in a small geographical area and their website and support channels are often for one time zone i.e. Surrey estate agents mainly serve home buyers based in the UK. Because of this, 24/7 customer service isn’t needed and extended opening hours are much more suitable. It’s perfectly normal to see home buyers browsing properties at 10pm and looking for a few questions to be answered. Is your property business ready to answer those questions?
Although digital has caused this rise in demand for estate agent customer service into the late hours, it also provides the solution. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Live Chat and many other developing channels give estate agents an opportunity to providing outstanding customer service to home owners and buyers right when they need it. There’s no waiting around to call or visit a branch the next day, the answer can be a few clicks away.
For those inexperienced in digital, providing a new customer service channel can be daunting; the right skills and resources may be in too short supply to develop the channels on their own.
Whilst many traditional estate agents are making a commitment to digital customer service, online estate agents’ experience shows in the number of opening hours that they are able to commit to through these channels. Traditional estate agents’ average office hours per week are 67.2, whereas as online estate agents’ are 86.9 hours (for the sample which we examined).
So online agents are able to make a large customer service commitment to their customers in terms of opening hours but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they offer a better digital service overall. It’s also important to consider response times when examining digital channels, and how easy it is to communicate with and complete a task with customer service staff. Traditional vs. Online Estate Agents: The Truth about Their Digital Service looks in further detail at estate agents’ overall accessibility and service levels. Many traditional agents say that cheaper online agents don’t offer the same standard of service; our report provides data which begins to resolve the debate.