Letting agents often get a bad rap for their customer service. Media reports over the last few months have portrayed letting agents in a negative light. Stories have abounded on letting agent’s poor customer service, lack of compliance with their legal obligations and even criminal activity! These reports, coupled with recent criticism by MPs over their “arbitrary and exploitative fees”, have left the reputation of letting agents somewhat shaky. To top this, a recent survey by Ipsos MORI revealed that estate and letting agents are viewed by the public as one of the least trusted professions in the UK. Unfair? Perhaps, but what can letting agents do to challenge this negative public perception? According to property experts, get back to basics, and focus on providing great customer service to landlords and tenants.
Customer service – getting it wrong
A study by the Property Academy has revealed that 70% of landlords have left a letting agent in the past year, 75% of which has been over poor customer service. For many landlords, letting agents are seen as charging a lot for very little. Yet, for the time pressed landlord, new to the game, or one with a large property portfolio, a good letting agent can be a godsend. A letting agent can be the trusted advisor to guide a landlord through the quagmire of legislative and legal complexity that comes with renting. They can ensure that the property is rented to reputable tenants and take the hassle out of managing the tenancy.
Customer service – getting it right
The forecast for the rental market is positive as are the opportunities for letting agents to grow. However, many property pundits predict this growth will bring increased competition for letting agents, be it from new entrants to the market or from online offerings. To differentiate from the pack, letting agents must now focus on the quality of their customer service, to capitalise on this growth. There are many ways letting agents can improve customer service and we suggest the following principles to guide you.
1) Be transparent
Fees are a major bone of contention for landlords and tenants. Be upfront about your fees. Explain what your fees are for and how they will be charged. Have fees prominently listed on your website and freely available in your office. Make sure they are current and up to date.
2) Be compliant
Make sure you are compliant with standards and regulations, including advertisement of fees, property redress schemes, tenancy deposit schemes and professional body standards. Letting landlords and tenants know that you are compliant demonstrations you are a credible and reputable agency.
3) Be responsive
Bad repair management is the main reason landlords leave their letting agent. Make sure you respond to repairs requests promptly and efficiently. Get feedback on your service by both tenants and landlords and act on it.
4) Be accessible
Provide a personalised service. Have published service standards publically available and stick to them. Get back to landlords and tenants when you say you will. Offer an out of hour’s service. Check in with tenants regularly and keep in contact with landlords to let them know how their property is being managed.
5) Be a role model
Be the change you want to see and challenge the stereotype of letting agents. Raise the profile of letting agents in your community by sponsoring local events and charities. Be active in trade and professional associations and be at the forefront of driving up service standards in the lettings industry.
Letting agents – a quality product delivered through great customer service
At LegalforLandlords, we work with letting agents who provide a quality product through great customer service throughout the UK. Unfortunately, in an unregulated market it is often the bad few that grab all the headlines. However, by getting back to basics, and promoting the quality of their service these letting agents can grab some headlines of their own. With a renewed focus on the customer, we hope more landlords will forgo going it alone, and turn to the trusted advice, and quality service of a letting agent.
At LegalforLandlords we offer expert professional and legal services to letting agents. We like to practice what we preach so get in touch and let us know how we can help you. Give us a call on 0333 577 9050, or our try us on our free advice line 0800 840 7133.