Guest Blog: How Property Agencies can Achieve Long-Term Value from Digital Transformation
By David Ford, Product Development Lead at Aiimi
The estate and property sector is fertile ground for digital transformation strategies. Operating remotely or under a hybrid model is par for the course in this industry, so agencies that adopt a digital approach and an intuitive and accessible user experience are better equipped to support their agents. Onboarding a digital model to replace the pervasive legacy systems still in place at many property agencies is also fundamental to streamlining the customer experience.
Property agencies that successfully combine both approaches – consolidating their user and customer journeys alike – will achieve enduring digital-driven business value. But what are the challenges and how do property agencies go about integrating these transformation strategies?
Legacy Systems: The Challenges
Over time, property agencies have collated and stored vast amounts of legacy or historical data on their workforce, shareholders, clients, and customers. Estate agents are familiar with this highly valuable resource and are skilful at accessing it to complete sales. But it’s becomingly increasingly difficult to maintain, improve, and expand on our historic data and legacy systems. There’s a whole host of challenges, including:
- Surfacing and recording structured and unstructured data on legacy systems is time-consuming, costly, and prone to error.
- Under a legacy model, employees access the same centralised system but then rework the information they need for storage within their own siloed system. For example, conveyancing and finance departments may well need the same customer data, but will consume and formalise that data differently, with newly created assets such as reports or documents being duplicated and stored in siloed systems.
- Knowledgeable engineers and IT staff leaving the company are often replaced with a new workforce who aren’t as accustomed to the existing legacy systems, complicating software maintenance and updates further down the line.
- Outdated technology hinders the integration of new and innovative systems.
- Added to these challenges, legacy systems are often less secure and compliant, potentially compromising private and sensitive customer and client data.
The end result is a limitation on how readily and easily estate agents can find and use compliant data and up-to-date information as and when needed, hindering the end-to-end customer journey and constraining potential new leads and sales. Meanwhile, the property agency must absorb the financial costs incurred from siloed and duplicated data, incompatible software, and increased risk.
Customised Systems: Enhanced Customer Experience
To overcome these legacy challenges, progressive property agencies can adopt “out-of-the-box” CRM systems, such as Salesforce, to manage sales processes and deliver faster data surfacing and storage solutions. Unfortunately, one significant drawback is the loss of unique sales processes that act as a key differentiator for property brands and their customers. So how can this be resolved?
One solution is to embed your exclusive customer offering and brand into a customised CRM system. By empowering your agents to surface, consume, and record data that is relevant, updated in real-time, and immediately usable, you will reduce the amount of rework and increase efficiency.
Any system used by multiple users across a property agency must also meet the requirements of each business domain. So, right from the start, your information architecture should be designed with a focus on three core data principles – improve data usage, data accessibility, and data quality – to accelerate operational efficiency.
Building, maintaining, and managing such a bespoke platform does require investment in data science, data architecture, and user experience design, but in view of the challenges detailed earlier and the solutions on offer, it’s money well spent. By leveraging the full potential of your client and customer data, your property agents will operate more effectively, smoothing out any pain points across the customer journey, paying dividends for your business.
Digital Transformation: Staying Connected
Today, widespread fast internet connectivity empowers property agents to conduct business while on the move. Using smart devices and laptops that securely access company networks has enabled property agencies to adopt and evolve remote and hybrid working models well in advance of current trends.
However, to be most effective, estate agents must also be able to fully access, share, and record up-to-date data and information on demand from any location at any time. And although the processes and technology are available, it’s still common practice for estate agents to manually print viewing documents and transfer paper-based processes, such as valuations and anti-money laundering checks, to a centralised system. The approach is not only time-consuming but is open to inaccuracies and time-lags. Plus, customer and property records can easily be misplaced, and nuance of customer sentiment can be lost if not captured immediately after a viewing.
Removing these manual administrative barriers with robust remote digital and data capabilities undoubtedly reduces the workload and improves the user experience, seamlessly automating mundane tasks within the working day and empowering a more streamlined approach. Putting in place remote access to live buyer, vendor, and property data in real-time will more effectively inform customer and client conversations, promote attention, and secure confidence in driving more sales with accuracy and speed.
If property agencies aim to achieve long-term value from their data and information, it’s crucial that they can adopt a digital transformation strategy which replaces their existing legacy system with a purpose-built platform that fully connects their agents with their customer needs.