There can be a big difference between what an agency thinks its training needs are, and what it actually requires, a franchise group which uses mystery shopping to validate its performance has found.
Douglas Driscoll, CEO of Starr Partners, a Sydney-based franchise group of just under 30 offices, said the network takes the development of their staff “very, very seriously”. This is why it has worked with its franchisees to introduce a mystery shopping program to ensure each office is maintaining the high standards that are now expected by consumers.
“Training should stem from an office’s needs, and not necessarily their wants, as sometimes an office doesn’t highlight or identify the right areas of focus,” Mr Driscoll told Real Estate Business.
“At Starr Partners, we work very closely with our principals, and one of the services we’ve introduced and are offering at the moment is mystery shopping. I’m a huge advocate of mystery shopping, as by working with the principals what we’re able to do is highlight exactly what they need.”
“What we then do is build a training regime or structure around that,” he continued.
“It’s a very sobering experience, and not necessarily one that they enjoy, but one they really do benefit from and embrace. It takes an element of bravery to look in the mirror, and that’s exactly what mystery shopping is all about.
“It’s incredible what it highlights. Sometimes there are things that fall between the cracks that would otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes it’s not just the personnel involved, it’s actually the office structure as well.”
Mr Driscoll said mystery shopping is often better than role playing, because it really rams home the reality of a situation. “Something like role play can’t necessarily always do that because it is very artificial,” he said. “With mystery shopping, we then go to the principal with a report and closely work with them to concentrate on the areas for improvement.”
More broadly, Mr Driscoll said the industry needed to take training and education more seriously if it was to evolve into a highly-regarded profession.
“When it comes to a commitment to training, it never ceases to amaze me how many real estate professionals don’t spend enough time and effort in that area,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that there’s a minimum amount of time per week or month that you need to dedicate [to training], but you need to dedicate some time.
“Athletes spend the vast majority of their time training and very little doing, whereas, as an industry, we do the exact opposite. From my point of view professional development is absolutely everything.
“If you’re not getting better, then what are you getting? And that has to start from the office principal as well, if they’ve got a lax attitude towards training … it’s ultimately going to have a detrimental impact on their staff and the performance of the business.”