There’s no question that the current pandemic situation has caused one of the most difficult climates that almost every business across the globe, and certainly our industry, has suffered – but it’s paved the way for many of us to ‘rethink’ exactly how we do things.
Like many other sectors, we’ve had to completely diversify how we work, in order to operate safely during the Coronavirus outbreak. That’s meant moving operations to remote locations and conversing via online messenger apps, email, calls and video conferencing.
The housing market returned recently, and we were given only a few hours’ notice to get back up and running. The sector as a whole has learnt a lot of lessons and, for us, many of the new elements that we have embraced have stuck. We’re working on ways to create our own ‘new normal’ so that we can continue to offer the best possible customer service.
As an organisation that prides ourselves on partner relationships – by putting tenants, contractors, vendors and purchasers first – a huge concern has been how we can maintain a high-level of service when we’re not meeting people in person and showing them around homes or briefing them on their next project.
But it’s been humbling to share ideas with friends of the business and figure out exactly how we can continue delivering that all-important personal touch. Here are some of the ways in which we’ve achieved this…
Exploring ways to provide first-class customer service
Having managed to set-up remotely and answer every call, we took the difficult decision to stop carrying out viewings – even at empty properties – out of respect for our community, the NHS and key workers. Instead, we handled enquiries over the phone and via video calls and provided vital information for house-hunters on rental premises.
Solicitors were made available throughout and we specifically instructed contractors to follow government advice and only visit properties for essential works – all with a COVID-19 safety policy in place.
Technology has proved to be pivotal for the business – from holding meetings and team social events, to inviting vendors to send in their own videos, which were subsequently uploaded to our website, social media and Rightmove.
And from a workforce perspective, as well as regular remote communication, we’ve also been attempting a bit more ‘self-care’ – in particular downloading meditation and mindfulness apps to help us cope with the stresses and strains that COVID-19 has presented.
How the property sector has responded upon its return
Since the industry ‘reopened’, we’ve seen a huge 90% of sellers and buyers – who already had a sale or purchase agreed – that have indicated that they remain keen to exchange and complete as soon as possible. The remaining 10% are waiting to see if their employment remains secure before proceeding. Overall, speaking to all vendors and purchasers has been a really positive exercise.
Additionally, many individuals have approached us to arrange viewings and we’re making our safety measures very clear throughout, and sending copies of policies for them to review before arrival. These include:
- Having a maximum of two adults from the same household in attendance
- Retaining a two-metre distance from staff members
- That agents must clean all surfaces and door handles after each visit
- Viewing time is a maximum of 15 minutes
- Virtual viewings (video) will remain the preference
- Staff and viewers are not required to wear PPE, although this has been provided to our team as an option.
Incidentally, we do have a backlog of people wanting to proceed at the moment, and so the real test to the market will be in a few weeks’ time when this accumulation of work has been dealt with.
We know this is nowhere near over, and that a new normal may look completely different a few months down the line. But as an industry it’s important for us to continue to be respectful of our vital communities and key workers – and to put operations in place that help one another to stay safe and healthy.
Thank you to everyone for your support during this time, and we can’t wait to show you around even more properties – either via social distancing or virtual methods.
If you’re looking to sell, let or buy a property give one of our helpful and reliable team members a call now on 01484 682999.