Group 'mystery shops' entire network

To promote a high level of standardised service, one Victorian network has made all agents undergo an ‘open for inspection (OFI) accreditation course’, which includes being scrutinised by mystery shoppers.

According to head of franchise operations at hockingstuart Natalie Allan, every sales agent is being made to undergo the OFI accreditation course.

“It’s about raising the bar across the group in terms of the customer service standards,” she told Real Estate Business. “This is an area that across the industry, we can get better at.”

According to Ms Allan, the course not only focuses on legislation around open homes, but also how to properly present yourself and the property.

“One of the major concerns we have is agents who lack in preparation and don’t dedicate suitable time to set up the open in accordance with best practice standards," she said.

“Another concern is a lack of knowledge of the immediate area, things like school zones, proposed infrastructure development, agents need to be local area experts and undertake research on the local area to be able to assist buyers in making those informed decisions.”

The course is a combination of theoretical learning as well as workshops in order to ‘deep dive into the nitty gritty’ of all aspects of the OFI process.

“We also reinforce compliance around an agent’s ability to collect personal information from customers and what they can and can’t do with that information afterwards,” said Ms Allan.

Once the course is completed, Ms Allan said all employees are to be assessed on what they’ve learnt.

“Too often, agents attend training sessions and forget what they’ve learnt as they leave. So through a formal assessment, we can make sure it’s definitely being embedded," she said.

“In addition, we also have 10 mystery shoppers out in the field assessing all the agents throughout the group. The mystery shoppers have quite a comprehensive list of items they are assessing, and they need to pass that to hold onto their accreditation.”

A key focus for the mystery shoppers is to judge how they are treated by an agent when they pose as different kinds of buyers.

“We’re training agents to service all customers, regardless of their motivation. Whether it’s a person who’s interested in that particular property, or someone who’s researching to sell their own home, or someone who might have an interest in property in general,” Ms Allan said. 

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