Technology, with its quick and constant progress, has had an immeasurable effect on the way consumers interact with service providers and sales teams. Armed with more information, more connectivity, and more autonomy than ever before, today’s customer neither needs nor wants a traditional sales experience.
In real estate, this trend has become starkly apparent in the emergence of creative alternatives to the traditional estate agent model. According to Schalk van der Merwe, franchisee for the Rawson Properties Helderberg Group, these are far from the only changes we’re likely to see. In fact, he believes real estate professionals who refuse to adapt to evolving expectations will soon find zero demand for their services.
Things are likely to get exciting for buyers and sellers as well, as future-focussed agencies raise the bar of customer service. Here are a few of the skills Van der Merwe believes are already becoming essential for real estate professionals looking to meet the needs of today’s customers under challenging market conditions.
“A lot of people are starting to realise that knowledge and information are not the same thing,” says Van der Merwe. “Information is freely available – go online and you can find advice and opinions on any property-related subject you might need. But being informed doesn’t always translate into being equipped to make sound property decisions.
“For that, you need the ability to interpret information within the context of a specific opportunity, which takes the kind of in-depth knowledge that only comes from experience.”
Because of this, Van der Merwe says customers are placing far greater value on the advice and consulting aspect of real estate agent services. This offers great opportunities for those agents willing to go the extra mile to stay on top of their game as property specialists and neighbourhood experts.
“This is something we’ve always focussed on at Rawson Helderberg,” he says, “and we’ve already seen the positive effect it’s had on our business and we’ve maintained excellent sales figures in recent months. That has a lot to do with the expert guidance that we’re able to give our buyers and sellers to help them make the most of the current market.”
Modern life is nothing if not fast-paced, and customers have come to expect a level of responsiveness that old-school agencies are just not equipped to provide. In this, Van der Merwe says technology will play an increasingly important role as the industry transitions into the future.
“Technology can never replace the knowledge and experience of an estate agent,” he says, “but it can certainly enable us to do our jobs faster and more effectively. By embracing the right tools, we can cost-effectively deliver almost instant value at every step of the customer’s journey, and respond to their needs on a moment-by-moment basis.”
Proactive and predictive service
Simply responding to immediate needs isn’t enough for future-focussed agencies, however. Van der Merwe says the best real estate professionals are already working towards proactive – and even predictive – customer service.
“The goal is to be able to pre-empt our customers’ needs, so that when they arrive at the next step of their property journey, our agents have already paved the way,” he says. “It’s part and parcel of the long-term relationships that we strive to build with our customers at Rawson Helderberg. We’re not just looking towards the next sale, we want to help people plan the best possible route from where they are now to where they want to be.”
It’s this kind of big-picture service – going beyond the basics to deliver deeper and more long-lasting value – that Van der Merwe expects to become the new face of real estate moving forward.
“Future consumers won’t waste a minute of their time engaging with a salesperson who’s not a specialist and adds no unique value when addressing their needs,” he says. “It’s going to be very interesting to see how different real estate businesses respond to this changing landscape. As for our team at Rawson Properties Helderberg, let’s just say future-level service is already here to stay!”