Sim Sekhon: The best lettings agents don’t let reasons become excuses

The business of operating a lettings agency is already regulated in Wales and Scotland. No doubt it won’t be long before England follows suit – the fees ban, and a raft of conditions are on the way. Although many won’t welcome the changes, they will, at least, level the playing field. They’ll give every agency the same opportunity to blame any poor performance on something they cannot control, be it Brexit, the fees ban or online competition.

Forgive me for digging out an old cliché, but there’s undeniable truth in the saying. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Agencies are facing a challenging time, more restrictions and economic uncertainty, and there will be casualties. There will also be plenty of survivors and others who will actively thrive – even though it might seem that the odds are stacked against them.

Post EA Masters event, I discovered some fascinating numbers. The performance of the very best agencies was being compared with average figures for the industry. Don’t forget, these businesses are working within the same markets and under the same set of rules.

The best agents:

  • secure 136% more Rightmove leads than average
  • sell 90% of listed properties
  • sell properties 60% faster
  • have 15% fewer fall throughs.

Now obviously those statistics relate to sales transactions, not lettings, but it doesn’t take much imagination to project the impact of similar numbers on lettings. When the figures were extrapolated, it was estimated that the best agents, given the same opportunities, would generate double the income, putting them in a very strong position.

Let’s look at just one of those figures more closely: properties sold 60 per cent faster. That’s fewer viewings, less time spent managing the property’s vendor, faster turnover and higher volumes. Extend the logic to lettings, and it’s reduced voids, satisfied tenants and landlord retention.

A couple of days ago, we had a minor issue in the office. It went along these lines – X won’t work because of Y, and for a few minutes, it looked like that’s where things were going to end. But instead of using Y as our excuse, we found a solution.

That’s what the best agencies are doing, solving their problems one by one, and usually with the same answer. Each of the metrics mentioned above is heavily influenced by the efficiency and effectiveness of customer service.

When an average of 12% of phone calls go unanswered, the best agents answer every single one. When 52% of leads aren’t followed up, the best agents respond every time. They list at the right prices, their marketing is sharp and responsive, and they don’t have delays in their process. I know – to use another cliché – it’s not rocket science.

It would be a glib comment to suggest that if agencies simply upped their game on customer service, they’d be laughing. There’s a reason 52% of leads aren’t followed up, but there’s no point blaming Brexit or any other external factor for that. Even if there’s a connection, it doesn’t solve the issue, and finding a solution is the only way forward. You won’t find success if you’re always looking for excuses.