Today’s customers want a digital experience, but is the industry listening?

The property rental industry should take note of the results of a survey carried out by the property technology business One Dome. Although surveying homeowners as opposed to tenants, lettings agents or landlords, when asked which consumer brands offered the best digital experience, Amazon and Uber came top of the list. Furthermore, something similar to Amazon’s digital process tracking was a function that homeowners wanted to see as part of any future property purchase.

Now, One Dome is a tech business so it’s no surprise that they’re asking these questions, but when the survey was reported in Property Eye, there was a great rush of comments, and quite a lot of them were negative. Many were quick to mention that buying a house and ordering a paperback aren’t comparable. That’s a fair comment, but like other anti-Amazon opinions expressed, it somewhat misses the point. The lack of information about the progress of a sale or purchase is a major bugbear for the parties to the transaction – whether things are going smoothly or have hit a stumbling block. That lack of information, like it or not, is a customer service problem.

Estate agents may be used to the glacial speed of a conveyance, but for a stressed-out vendor or buyer, wanting to know what’s happening or why there’s a delay is entirely reasonable. Yes, Uber or Amazon type technology and processes may not be appropriate. I fully accept that, but I don’t accept that we should ignore the possibilities of using technology more. In fact, I’d advocate that we do just that, and that’s because our customers are now used to digital experiences and what’s more, they want and expect them.

The digital age has given consumers the unlimited power to chop and change suppliers. As a consequence, every transaction needs to be seamless. It’s not seamless if you take someone who’s used to engaging in online processes and exclude them from playing a part. If you keep on giving customers a 20th– century experience when they want one that’s bang up-to-date, they will walk.

Technology is convenient, efficient and adaptable, and I’m certain that its applications can bring benefits to all corners of the property market. We use technology extensively in our business and although the transactions we’re facilitating are related to rental not purchase, our customers want efficiency and to be involved in the process. They want to speed things up, ensure accuracy and receive feedback. It’s why our tenants’ login for referencing is so popular and why we work to integrate our platforms into agency software.

The One Dome survey results highlight the fact that our whole property buying and selling process is a mess. It’s slow, expensive and deals are prone to collapse. Do we accept that as the status quo?  Should homeowners have to carry on putting up with it because we’re not willing to learn from successful businesses in other sectors?

When customers say what they want, we should listen. Even, or perhaps especially, when what they say is “digital”.