Undoubtedly, one of the most highly anticipated sessions at this year’s Negotiator Conference was the keynote from Alison Platt, CEO of Countrywide.
Using Countrywide’s extensive bank of data to tell a human story, she brought PropTech trends and personal experiences together to give Countrywide’s view of the UK housing market in 2017 and beyond.
Although her topic was ambitious, the fundamental message was of individualism: that an empathetic approach has never been more relevant to the property industry.
The UK housing market’s state of play
While the challenges of today’s housing market may seem many and varied, the underlying story of the industry is "one of growth," she said. The Office for National Statistics predicts that the UK population is set to grow by two million in the next five years. This represents 1.2 million households (or ‘two Birminghams’), leading to a bigger market with bigger opportunities.
Luckily, we’re already following a healthy trajectory of growth, she said, as the median time from instruction to sale is currently 30 days. That’s five days faster than in 2015; albeit a day slower than 2016. Encouragingly, we’re achieving a national average of 98% of the asking price.
Britishness as an influencing factor
This all reflects the activity of a populace that cares about property. “Property porn is a national pastime, and we’re a nation of amateur property tycoons,” she said.
That being said, we find comfort in the idea that success is best achieved through expertise, which is why she believes a fully online estate agency wouldn’t necessarily meet human needs. In fact, Countrywide made a conscious decision not to buy an online agent because of the importance of the personal touch.
Fundamentally, negotiators with true local expertise are at the heart of delivering exceptional customer service, according to Countrywide.
The story behind the sale
Throughout her presentation, Alison recalled various anecdotes from Countrywide negotiators; all of which detailed the emotional charge attached to the sale of a property.
Take her buyer persona, Janet. She’s lived in her home for many years, and although she’s attached to it, she’s now ready to move in with her partner. The sale of the house will allow her to look after her elderly mother, which magnifies Janet’s emotional involvement. She’s decided to sell to a First Time Buyer couple with a baby on the way.
It's only by taking into account the full emotional weight of the situation that negotiators can develop the strongest relationship with their vendors. As property professionals, we deal in rites of passage, not transactions. This was a sentiment echoed throughout the day, with panels discussing the ways online and traditional agents can differentiate themselves.
— The Negotiator (@TheNeg) 31 October 2017
While her keynote also focused heavily on Countrywide’s ‘Every Customer Counts’ digital strategy, which you can read more about here, it had an overriding narrative of improved, empathetic customer service.
With the advent of customer service as a differentiator, led by companies like Amazon and Zappos, it was positioned as a familiar way to enter the future.
“We have begun a profound transformation at Countrywide; to become an estate agent who’s ready for the future," Alison concluded.
“We want to lead the transformation in the industry; I invite you all to join us on the journey.”