It seems like half a lifetime ago when the first real estate websites were popping up.
Some of you will probably recall that agents were being charged a fee by their web developer every time something needed changing on the site, including everyday things like price changes. You will probably also recall that agents knew they had to be in the space but generally had no idea what the true benefits of a website were.
In many cases, the customer relationship management system, or CRM, is not far from that today. Real estate agents work in the ultimate personal contact industry and for as long as properties have been bought and sold, they have been keeping track of people wanting to sell or buy a home. Agents have moved from the card file system and the hardbound diary to technologically sophisticated systems using substantially more efficient communication mediums.
But not everyone knows how to drive the Ferrari.
Using this thing called a CRM system doesn’t necessarily mean you are automatically managing client relationships effectively.
Like a Ferrari, a CRM system needs to be driven with attention and care to get the most out of it.
Would a client engage the agent that sends them multiple copies of the same communication or information on properties that are totally unsuited to their needs or budget? What about the one that sends property information months after the client has finished their property search?
Efficiency and personal service are the stock in trade of a successful agent and a quality CRM worked well can add enormous value. Any CRM worked poorly will not. If I could stress two key points upfront, it is that biggest is not necessarily best and not all contacts are the same.
Clients are more than just names on a list. They may have spouses and children in their family; they may have jobs or run their own business; and they definitely have preferences. And above all, you need to know these things and they would like to believe you care. Duplicate entries and incomplete or stale data are the killers of a good CRM system.
As with any business, consumers vote with their feet. Agents succeeding and prospering with their CRM strategies are:
- Keeping their databases to a manageable size with current and relevant information, plus a complete contact history per client
- Valuing different forms of contact differently. A personal contact (face-to-face meeting or phone call) with a client generally has a far greater impact and value than an automated or bulk email alone. Keeping score and establishing ‘high-value’ clients is equivalent to playing the percentages
- Culling regularly. Culling is good. If a client is seemingly unresponsive to regular forms of communication, time is most likely better spent elsewhere. Move them to an area of the database that doesn’t occupy day-to-day focus
- Keeping accurate contact records and knowing exactly what the contact history has been with a client – and following through actions or outcomes recorded
- Minimising data input – your CRM should automate the process where appropriate, value-add to any data entered, use data for multiple purposes and check for duplicate entries.
From the perspective of where to from here for CRM systems, a well-managed database is an asset of real value and, in fact, creates the ability for an agency to have more worth than the value of the rent roll. More agencies are now creating database manager roles within their business and, in time, this may become the role that has the most impact on the growth of the net worth of an agency.