Grow Sales: Introducers and Referrers

Grow Sales: Introducers and Referrers

 

The benefit of referrals

Customers that are introduced to you are very valuable leads. An introduction is a form of endorsement of your service. Therefore, being recommended by someone shows that you have provided a good service on a consistent basis. Not only does this mean you can be provided with a long-term source of leads but converting them at a good fee can be easier. You will need to sell yourself less than another surveyor they speak to because you come pre-vetted. 

For the customer, receiving an introduction takes the hard work out of finding and vetting potential suppliers. But the top benefit is that it reduces the risk of the unknown and that’s important, as everyone wants to make the right decision.

Building referral partnerships with a number of companies can be a great way of generating quality, pre-qualified leads without needing to invest in an ongoing marketing spend.

How to build referral relationships

Provide a strong service

Let’s be upfront – getting referrals is going to be very difficult if what you’re offering is rubbish – both from the quality of reports and how it is delivered to what it is like to work with you as an individual or company. 

The referral process takes time to earn. To do this you need to consistently perform every time you engage with that individual. You need to have a customer-centric view and there are many elements to think about. For starters customer-centric means thinking about both your actual customer and your referrer as a customer. 

A company or individual isn’t obligated to refer clients. They may even have had bad experiences in the past. In order for them to consider choosing you to be a referral partner over any other surveyor they see coming in to their offices you need to add lots of value. What that company or person considers value depends on the referring company – we’ll go into this in more detail shortly. 

You should never underestimate the importance of your staff in the referral process. It is important to invest in their training, customer service and engagement with the business. If you do that you’ll have happier employees. Happy employees will look after your customers and go the extra mile. This is a huge factor in referral marketing.

 

Take time to build relationships

Each interaction you have with other people in the buying process is an opportunity to build a partnership. As a surveyor you are likely the last person in the buying process to be instructed. A home buyer engages with an estate agent to find a house, conveyancer to start the legal process or mortgage broker to confirm they can buy the house before they’ll get to the point of needing to check a house over. 

If you interact with each of these individuals as just a necessary evil you are missing out on opportunities. For example when you call an estate agent to arrange keys and go to collect them do you take time to chat to the receptionist or agent that meets you or just request keys and leave? When you drop the keys back do you let them know the customer will have their report in 3 days time so they can keep their vendor better informed or just drop them and go? 

If each time you go in you take time to get to know them and build up a rapport then you make your life much easier when you ask the all important question… could we discuss a referral partnership?

What Motivations Do I Need to Consider for Different Stakeholders?

 

Estate Agents

 

Many surveyors we speak to have commonly considered an estate agent recommending a survey like a turkey voting for Christmas. It is certainly true that some estate agents don’t want to recommend surveying services. However, these agents have potentially pre-vetted themselves as the types of agents you don’t want to work with. They aren’t looking to offer a balanced service all round. 

But is it fair to tar every agent with the same brush? Certainly not. Large agent chains recommend their own surveying firms – they definitely wouldn’t do this if surveys were such a bad idea for agents to make buyers aware of. 

Why? Many agents acknowledge the survey as a valuable tool in ensuring a transaction goes ahead. A survey can build the confidence of the buyer. If the buyer is worried about committing to a sale, the survey can provide the knowledge and peace of mind that it is ok to go ahead (either at full price or a negotiated one). Does an estate agent care hugely about a renegotiation? A bit, yes. But the bigger picture is that the sale goes ahead and they get their commission versus no sale. With some perspective, on a £400k house and 1.5% fee if £10k is knocked off the value then they lose £150 from a £6k fee. Definitely worth the survey to secure the sale. 

 

What value can you add to an estate agent? 

An agent is looking for more than a surveyor who rushes in and out and doesn’t engage in conversation. An agent works in a people business. If you can’t get on with them then will you be good with their customers? What is also important to an estate agent is information. From a simple gauge of when the report is expected so they can follow up with their buyer and vendor to well written reports that provide guidance on the issues.

Issues being highlighted on a report is not an issue for an agent. An issue is where a report condemns a perfectly good property because it fails to provide guidance, solutions and perspective. If the customer is left in fear because of what has been listed potentially collapsing a sale when all that is needed is some detail to outline that the issues can be dealt with over time, would cost approximately £x and are in line with similar properties then you aren’t going to be winning referrals. 

You may not be able to provide information on the survey to an agent without your customers consent but you can ensure your customer is left with tangible information and in a fair position, feeling they can comfortably make a decision to continue, renegotiate or walk away. 

You could call agents once the buyer has a report to let them know that the process has been completed. This enables the agent to update their vendor and engage with the buyer at the appropriate moment. 

Communication is key for agents. 

 

Conveyancers

 

Conveyancers care about the legal details. They have to process large amounts of paperwork for properties they have never seen. If your customer is happy to share the legal aspects of the report to the conveyancer, does your report have a clear legal section so they don’t have to keep looking for points throughout the report? Could you provide a separate one page legal document that can be sent to the conveyancer to make life really easy?

Taking this further, you are the conveyancers eyes on the ground. 

  • When you notice building works that need planning or building control checks, adding details about the extent of the works and approximate age helps them determine how important it is to ensure the check is done.
  • Did you check the title deed to check the boundary marks looked reasonable compared to the plan. 
  • Can you point out any access rights issues that may need to be checked that might not be obvious without visiting?

Could you offer to pass this on yourself and quickly summarise your points over the phone or by email? If you can consistently make their lives easier, they’ll want to work with you more. 

 

Mortgage Lenders / Mortgage Brokers

 

Like an agent, their motivation is that the sale goes ahead. They get paid if the mortgage is taken. If you can show a mortgage broker that your reports and service help customers and leave them feeling confident in their next steps they will also want to use you.

Again, their issue is not a sale falling through due to big problems found. Their issue is where reports come back leaving the customer unsure of the severity of problems or what they can do about it. Most customers want to find a way of getting into their dream home so issues cropping up in reports is only a problem if the customer is left not knowing what to do. 

 

 

Past Customers

 

Never be afraid to ask past customers for referrals. While some will naturally just happen, you will secure far more if you prompt customers. You’ll be surprised how many customers are willing to share your services with others if you just ask. 

Of course, to do this, you need to be completely confident that you have exceeded their expectations. Even the busiest customer won’t shy away from recommending you, if you’ve made a great impression. Have you gone the extra mile? Have you really stood out? If so, your customers will want to do the same for you. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative in your message to them. Taking a fun or humorous approach can work wonders. Just keep it short, simple and unobtrusive.

 

 

Online referral

 

There are usually local online groups, platforms or directories that would be happy to list your services. These can be very powerful if combined with past customers sharing your details on them. 

What must you consider in a referral partnership?

  • You must respond to every referral. There is nothing worse than referring a client to a company to find out they were ignored. It brings into question how good the companies are that the referrer is working with. 

 

  • Provide a great service to justify the recommendation. When you’ve been recommended, a customer will be expecting a good service. Why else would you be recommended otherwise? You must consistently provide a good service to every lead sent your way to keep the referrer confidently sending the leads through.
  • Update the referrer on every lead. It is nice for the referrer to know how each referral got on. Did they go ahead, have they received a report? That way they know if they can help customers engage with your service better and understand how well it is being received. 

 

Referral Fees or No Referral Fees.  

A big question with differing opinions. Some will say it is fair to pay a referral fee – it is a marketing cost for acquiring the lead. Others would suggest that they should not be paid. Each party should be happy that they are focusing on quality of service. A company that is focused heavily on earning additional revenue through referral fees may not be offering a good enough service themselves to justify charging a higher fee. Do you want to be associated with a company needing to stay afloat this way.

If you do pay a referral fee – how much? Pay out too much and you’re devaluing your own service. Do you add the fee on or take it out your normal fee? If the customer finds out they have paid extra just because of an introduction this could lead to the relationship going sour. We recommend that you disclose all referral fees paid (it is also now a requirement). 

An alternative to referral fees are gifts during the year. You could instead choose at different points in the year to provide bottles of wine, a hamper, an ipad – you name it. There are ways to thank and reward the referrer, not just through incentives but by making sure they know how much you really value them and that they took the time to recommend you. Send them a card or some other surprise. This will again set you apart from the rest and certainly help keep you front of mind when there is another opportunity to recommend you.

 

Can you refer their services?

If you are working with a mortgage broker, can you offer to put a conveyancer you want to work with in touch with the broker and vice versa? Whilst you may come later in the buying process and therefore not be able to pass leads on to others, you may be able to facilitate introductions between others in the process too. 

Do you have a system for managing your leads?

Another important point to mention here is that you should already have some sort of system in place so you can monitor where your leads are coming from. Otherwise, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not, what you should be doing more of and what may need reviewing and improving. 

Whether direct, from referrals or lead generation sites it’s good to know which sources provide the most leads, and which provide the best quality leads.

If referrals are converting badly, why? These should perform well as they come pre-qualified and you come recommended. 

  1. Are you being too slow to respond?
  2. Are you following up with leads as they get older or just making one initial contact?
  3. Have you nurtured the relationship with your referrer so they provide good context about your service?

Summary

Referrals are positive for you, a referrer and the customer if setup correctly. To encourage referral marketing you need to put a successful referral marketing strategy in place ensuring you provide the benefits that suit the referrers motives. 

The key elements you need are:

  • Provide a great customer experience 
  • Have an outstanding product or service
  • Keep in regular contact with customers
  • Nurture brand ambassadors and influencers
  • Ask for referrals and spell out how they can be given
  • Make the whole referral process super easy
  • Enable referrers to track each referral
  • Show you appreciate anyone who recommends you
  • Ensure you live up to expectations and are deserving of the recommendation
  • Regularly analyse, review and improve the process to improve on it

 

Survey Booker offers the ability to create introducer accounts for different people that provide you referrals. You can see which leads have come from which referrer and your introducers can keep up to date on which leads have converted. Customers are immediately provided an account when they are referred where they can retrieve your quote, make payment and track updates. 

You can set referral fees to add to your regular quote should you wish. All referred leads follow the same system and can be sent lead nurture emails so you can keep leads warm for when they are ready to go ahead. 


Grow Sales: Lead Generation Sites

Grow Sales: Lead Generation Sites

We have previously mentioned that there are two ways to grow your sales:

  1. Add more leads to your sales funnel
  2. Improve your conversion rate so you convert more of your existing leads

In this article we are going to look at how you can use lead generation to do both of these. Naturally it will focus more on adding more leads to your sales funnel but fear not. We will look at the tips you can use to convert more of the leads you receive from lead generation sites. 

 

What is a lead generation site?

For those newer to the process, a lead generation site is designed to help do exactly as it says – generate leads. Typically when you create an account you are able to select a number of postcode areas / districts that you want to cover and which surveys you offer. Whenever a customer makes a search for a survey type and area you cover you appear alongside a number of other surveyors. The customer sees each surveyor’s details and each surveyor receives the customers information. You’ll pay a small fee for each lead you receive. It is then your job to convert these leads into sales.

Open Accounts

The first way to grow sales is to open accounts with different lead generation websites. There are a number of sites you can use such as Local Surveyors Direct, Really Moving, Local Building Surveyors, Compare My Move and more. 

There are things to consider here. The more sites you are on, the more opportunities you have to capture new leads. This is more opportunities to win business. 

The only potential catch to being on multiple sites is that you may receive the same lead more than once. If you receive the same lead from the same site you are normally not charged for the duplicate. However, you may receive the same leads from different sites. If so, you may end up paying for it twice. But you may also be able to discuss certain duplicates if it happens a lot. These sites are there to help you and want to work with you in the long-term.

 

 

Open the Tap

The more postcodes and survey types you choose to cover on each site, the greater number of searches you will be able to appear for. If you need more business you can opt to cover more areas and see how many additional leads this generates. You’ll need to remember that the bill at the end of the month will be going up too so keep an eye on how much extra money you need to budget at the end of the month.

Equally, if you suddenly find you’re getting very busy then you can turn some postcodes off. Perhaps keep open the postcodes closest to home so any work that comes in is easy to get to.

The Power of Data

We’re passionate about decisions based on data. It might take time manually to collate the data but you can look at all the leads you get each month from each lead generation site and how many of those leads converted to sales.

Before you immediately hit pause on the lower converting sites, consider some other variables than just conversion rate. Calculate the average fee you receive for each survey type from each lead generation site. It could end up being that the lowest converting site actually provides you better value leads – ones that earn you a higher fee. Is the revenue per lead high enough to justify the extra cost per conversion? Do you have a higher conversion rate in some postcodes on one site and higher conversion rates in other postcodes on another site? Do you get better conversion rates for one survey type on one site but a better conversion rate for another survey type on the other?

 

Some statistics you could cover:

  • Total leads
  • Total unique leads (minus duplicates from both sites)
  • Cost per lead
  • Cost per customer
  • Conversion rate (total customers / total leads)
  • Conversion rate by survey type
  • Conversion rate by postcode area or district
  • Avg fee earned per survey type (total revenue / number of surveys)
  • Average fee per customer (total revenue / total number of surveys – all survey types)

 

Beyond these statistics, there are other factors that might mean you aren’t converting as well on some sites. Again, before you just chuck the towel in let’s look at why this might be the case. With some simple tweaks these could become your best performers. 

Update profile content

You may compete against some of the same surveyors on each site. You may find that you are competing against different surveyors in some areas. It could be that a surveyor on one site is charging a very low fee to win business. But it could be that your profile just doesn’t stack up against what the others have written. 

Customers are willing to pay more where the value on offer is clear. If a surveyor is listed with a low fee and a clear proposition about what they will provide the customer then it’s a no brainer. Unless the alternatives options are clearly explaining what extra value they will be providing by using their higher fee service. 

Consider 4 surveyors separately writing a profile:

  • We offer Home Surveys 
  • We are Chartered Surveyors
  • We are regulated 
  • Here is a video about different surveys made by RICS.

None of that differentiates you. Neither does it add value to the customer – what does it mean to them? The customer cares about one thing – is the property they are looking to buy what they think it is? What will you do to make sure that they know everything they need to know (from a full list of every issue to outlining the required fixes). How can you be more sure about your advice than the next surveyor? What ongoing help will you provide them if they have questions or need help with resistance when they speak to their agent / vendor?

How good are the reviews left for you. Even if they are good, they need to be relevant. And by that we mean recent. Customers generally only consider reviews within the last 2 – 3 weeks as useful. Teams change, people’s service levels fluctuate. As well as recent reviews, the more the merrier. Lots of customers all agreeing your service is good shows that you really do go above and beyond. That provides confidence in your value. 

Finally, ask the lead-generation site if they are happy to advise on their lead sources. Are customers searching at the point of needing to buy? Or are searches coming from sites where customers are learning about prices and services early in the process? The sales pitch requires a different approach in each case and you could tailor your response based on the urgency of the enquiry. 

Responding to New Leads

A lead is sent to you when a customer makes a search. When should you respond? 

78% of customers buy from the first responder (Lead Connect). The customer is ready to learn more about surveys when they make the search. They are searching for quotes because they want to sort out this part of the process now. Therefore, the best time to call is straight away. 

Not only do you catch the customer at the point they are actively making time for this but you get to be first to offer information. The more relevant information you can offer the customer now, the more value you can add to their search process. Once you are second, third, fourth… there is less and less new information you can provide and therefore less value. It also acts as a signal to your general responsiveness. If you take 2-3 days to respond to me when I’m looking to give you money, how long will you take to get back to me with survey updates? 

Let’s say the search came in at 8pm. Obviously this is too late to be calling customers up and discussing what they should get. Both for them making searches in front of the TV and for you – work-life balance is hugely important. But that doesn’t mean you can’t respond to a quote enquiry with useful information straight away, be in your potential customers mind and follow-up with them first thing in the morning. 

We’ve just mentioned work-life balance. So we aren’t suggesting you look out for enquiries and respond to them manually. When a customer makes a quote enquiry you have the option to submit an instant quote, an estimate that you can confirm later or submit a completely bespoke quote later. In any case you can submit an automated email in response to the enquiry that provides information about your service. This could include details on how the next stages of the booking process would work, what the customer can expect from your report, your post-report support, the type of detail provided from your inspection and so on. It should focus on where you add value in the process, not just provide the same information as other surveyors. 

Automation doesn’t replace the value of your phone call. But it shows immediately that you care about being responsive, and about providing information when the customer wants it. This value builds interest in your brand or company and helps buy you time to respond later. This email could ask the customer to let you know what time is best to call them as well as letting them know your available times in the day for them to call you. 

Structure is important to remaining productive. Jumping from task to task is unproductive and will mean you could get caught answering the phone when you can’t best deal with an enquiry. Equally it is frustrating for customers calling you at points where you are unable to speak and feeling like they have to play the phone call lottery. But if they know you’re likely to be available between 1-2pm or 3:30 – 5pm then they’ll be happy to wait to make that call. 

Automation is what you make of it. Structure it in the right way and it adds value to the process. Set it up incorrectly and it won’t provide the value it should. 

For more information on getting the most value out of your initial call, see our article on the first call and the customer experience

Making the Most of Older Leads

How many times do you follow up with a lead? Do you send out one initial email or make one call and leave a voicemail?

It takes an average of 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect (The Brevet Group). Partly because most people don’t respond to voicemails. 

Just because a customer doesn’t respond the first time does not mean they are a bad lead. They may have been busy when you called or read your email whilst doing something and forgot to respond. They may be early in the buying process and just getting an initial idea of costs. 

What are you doing to stay in touch with enquiries that have not yet purchased? Contacting every single one each week takes time. Have you considered adding customers to an email list. If they have made a search and not purchased you could be sending out useful information to them about your service at regular points. This keeps you at the front of their mind so when they are looking to go ahead you are the first person they think about. If they aren’t interested in your services they can unsubscribe from your emails. 

Lead nurturing can be set up for a fairly low cost. Once set up, no further work is required from you but your leads are still hearing from you. You increase your chance of generating more sales. If you’ve paid to generate leads from a lead generation site it makes sense to be investing in the conversion of these leads and not wasting your marketing investment. Particularly if your competitors are doing just that…

For every $92 spent on generating traffic and getting customers, only $1 is spent on converting these customers (Hosting facts.com). 

If you buck the trend, you have the opportunity to make more from your marketing spend. 

Summary

What will work for your business will be different to someone else’s. These are all ideas to consider that could help you bring in more leads or convert the leads you are receiving more successfully. 

The Survey Booker platform allows you to generate insights from your lead sources as well as respond to and nurture leads. If you’d like to discuss how this could work for your business please feel free to speak to the team


Optimising the Survey Sales Process: Grow Sales. Save Time. Generate Insights.

Optimising the Survey Sales Process: Grow Sales. Save Time. Generate Insights.

There are three key areas we specialise in so that we can help you optimise your business processes. We do that so you can focus on speaking with customers and carrying out surveys.

Over this series of articles we are going to explore how you can Grow Sales, Save Time and Generate Insights whether using our platform or not. We’ll be looking at all the options available to you and the tricks you can implement to optimise your business.

 

Grow Sales

There are two ways to grow your sales. Firstly you can feed more leads into the sales funnel. 

Add more leads to your pipeline and eventually some will convert at whatever rate you normally convert your leads. Generating more leads can be expensive though. So, we’ll also be looking at how to improve your conversion rates (i.e. how to generate more sales from the same number of leads). 

 

Below are the areas of growing sales we’ll be taking a look at:

  1. Lead generation sites
  2. Working with introducers
  3. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation for your Website
  4. Quality and Speed of Response
  5. Using data to boost sales
  6. Reviews
  7. Tracking and following up with older leads
  8. Removing delays in the process

 

The sales funnel is more complex than incoming leads > conversion rate > some sales. There are factors that affect both the number of leads that even enter your sales funnel (e.g. customers that decide not to click on your listing in Google results) to those affecting those that convert (e.g. too slow to respond to them). We will cover all of these factors in this series of articles. 

 

Save Time

There are lots of administration processes in the sales survey process from following up with leads to sorting payments to providing updates. We will look at how you can better manage processes to save time. What you do with this time is up to you. You can use it to respond to more sales enquiries or to play a round of golf. Work-life balance is important – that’s why we want to help you save time whilst keeping you service standards high. 

 

We’re going to take a look at how you can save time:

  1. Providing quotes
  2. Processing payments
  3. Sorting Terms of Engagement
  4. Managing and Updating Leads / Customers
  5. Managing Teams
  6. Collecting Reviews
  7. Reviewing metrics

Time saved for you also means quicker responses for your customers. Quicker responses feed back into growing sales. For example if you can provide your quote faster and respond to their questions quickly you’ll more likely convert the lead to a sale. Equally, if you provide updates in a timely manner and a seamless service you’ll more likely get higher reviews that encourage other leads to purchase. 

 

Generate Insights

How effectively you grow your sales and manage your internal processes depends on how well you know your business. Unfortunately anecdotal evidence can often lead to incorrect decision making. How well you feel something is working can deviate quite significantly from what the reality is. Our perception does not always match reality. We our emotional beings. Our view is skewed by what we want to believe and see. The most successful businesses make all their decisions based on data not what they feel. 

 

80% of CEOs believe their companies offer a great customer experience. Only 8% of their customers agree (Forbes, Customer Experience is the New Brand). 

 

We will look at the types of metrics you can capture and how these can be used to get an early heads up about where changes in success are occurring as well as to look at how proactive changes you’ve implemented are taking effect. How often you review this data to make decisions will be based on how easily you can collate the information and review it. Doing this manually not only takes time but increases the risk of human error. We will review how you can automate the capture of this data so that you can analyse your business quickly and easily. 


The Residential Survey Customer Journey - The Summary

We’ve taken a look at every touchpoint the customer has with your surveying company. There are a surprising number of touch points a customer has with you through the survey process, each one affecting their opinion of how good your service was. 

We explore what each interaction looks like, how it affects you and your customer and what options are available to you to improve the experience you offer. We also look at how changes can impact your workload for the better giving you time to invest back into your business (or to take as time off…). 

Here is a list of all the customer touch points throughout the survey process and our thoughts for each one. Click on the links below for ideas on how you can improve your customer journey.

 

Customer Journey Part 1: Learning You Exist 

Customer Journey Part 2: Navigating Your Website 

Customer Journey Part 3: Getting a Quote / Making an Enquiry 

Customer Journey Part 4: The Sales Call 

Customer Journey Part 5: Instructing You and Making Payment

Customer Journey Part 6: Terms of Engagement and Compliance 

Customer Journey Part 7: Providing Survey Updates

Customer Journey Part 8: The Report 

Customer Journey Part 9: Post Report Customer Care 

Customer Journey Part 10: Collect Feedback

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts about what has worked for you, what hasn’t and why. Our team is always on hand to discuss the options available to you in improving your customer experience and the different ways they can be integrated into your processes. 

If you’d like to speak to the team about the different technology available to you please feel free to get in touch.

 


The Residential Survey Customer Journey Part 10: Collect Feedback

Feedback is crucial in understanding if what you are setting out to do is working for your customer. Your customers opinions are the best resource for improving customer experience and adjusting your actions to their needs. 

It is no surprise that top performing companies understand the role customer feedback plays in business. It is important to consistently listen to what your customers think. Whether this is on social media, through review sites (unprompted) or through feedback surveys you send to your clients (prompted). If you want to stay ahead of competition you should never stop listening to customer feedback whether it is positive or negative, prompted or unprompted.

What insights can I get?

Customer feedback is an insight into what is working well about your product or service and what should be done to make the experience better. You might have the best expertise in the industry in which your company operates, but your professional knowledge will never be more valuable to business performance than customer insights. Their opinions help you ensure that the end service will actually meet their expectations, solve their problems and fulfill their needs.

Your own perception of how strong your customer journey or experience is may not be correct. 

 

80% of CEOs think their companies deliver a great customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree (Forbes, Customer Experience is the New Brand). 

If you believe you offer a great customer experience you shouldn’t be scared to ask for feedback to back that up. If you want to know you offer a great customer experience then feedback is the only way to do this.

Feedback can help you understand where the process went well such as the report being very clear and informative as well as where it wasn’t quite as good – maybe it was hard to get hold of you for information. There may be one off issues but if a certain point is raised a few times then it is clear that this is something that requires attention. Your overall rating will also help you to gauge if your level of service is where you think it is. Sure there might be some great reviews and there might be a bad one. But on average are we nearer 5 stars or nearer 3 stars? The average score will show you where you are sitting. 

What impact does it have on my bottom line?

If you don’t collect customer feedback or try and justify every negative comment that comes through your business won’t progress. In fact, it will likely start moving backwards as others make advances. 

Customer satisfaction is a crucial factor that determines a company’s financial performance. It is directly linked to many benefits, from increased market share, lower costs, or higher revenue. Customers that loved your service will happily recommend you to others. A recommendation from a friend offers a lot of weight when someone is making a decision about whether to use you or not. 

In the era of social media, customers look to others to see if a company is as good as it says it is. Do the reviews match the glamour of the website and sales pitch? When you book a hotel you look for reviews on TripAdvisor. When you buy a product on Amazon you check out the product reviews to find out if it is as good as it looks.

88% of consumers are influenced by online customer service reviews when making a buying decision (Zendesk). 

Therefore if your service is as good as you know it to be, it is important you show potential customers that is the case. If a customer is asked to make a decision between your company with no reviews available and another company that has a long list of positive responses, many consumers would follow the safety of the trodden path. We are risk-averse creatures. 

Summary

Collecting feedback provides two key benefits. One you can understand if what you are doing is having the desired outcome for customers and where you can make small changes to offer a better experience. 

Making these changes and receiving better reviews then helps to influence more customers that you are the right firm to choose. There is a reason large firms put a huge emphasis on getting customers to take the time to write a review. Good reviews are good for business.


Sava Technical Bulletin 35 - Customer Experience v Customer Service

Survey Booker in the Sava Technical Bulletin - Edition 35

Survey Booker Director, Matt Nally, talks about the difference between customer experience and customer service in Sava’s latest technical bulletin. It is their largest edition to date and follows a previous article by Matt in Technical Bulletin 32. Create an account or login at Sava Edge for the full bulletin covering topics from Cannabis grows to Modern Slavery.


The Residential Survey Customer Journey Part 9: Post Report Customer Care

What’s the goal here?

Here we have reached the perfect outcome. Someone has learned we even exist, been impressed at each touch point, committed to instruct you and has made it through to the moment they’ve been waiting for – your report. They’ve read it through – but do they understand what it means in reality? 

 

Reading through a report can be like the moment someone tells you the clocks are going back. You think you understand what that means and then you find yourself asking if that’s the good one or the bad one. Do I get an hour of extra sleep or the opportunity to get out of bed an hour earlier?

 

That follow up call to talk the customer through their report and answer any concerns is invaluable. Making sure they have correctly understood where you are referring to in the property for each issue and how severe the issues really are is hugely important to their next steps. Either they could commit to purchase having downplayed issues in their mind or walk away thinking everything needed fixing immediately. Either outcome is not desirable. 

Why did they get a survey in the first place?

To add the most possible value at this stage you need to consider the specific motivations for why your customer wanted their survey in the first place. Were they worried about if the property was in a good condition? Did they want to extend the property and wanted to know if it was possible? Was their main concern damp in the living room? Did they want to know if major works were needed in the first few years?

 

Focusing on their core reason for getting a survey means you can focus your conversation on putting them at ease with this topic. Leaving this question with a question mark means the process hasn’t added the full value it should have. 

 

After addressing their core motivations it is important to run through the key ‘problems’ found to make sure they are clear on the severity. What is actually quite a standard issue and not too difficult to sort out? What doesn’t seem like much but actually should be really thought through? For your to get the full benefit of your report, it is paramount that you make sure they truly understand it. 

 

Ultimately, this stage is about making the customer feel calmer about their initial concerns and any that have arisen since reading your report. Following the report and a call with you, the customer should feel confident about proceeding with their purchase, renegotiating the price based on justifications in the report or walking away knowing they’ve dodged a bullet. 

How to add value on the call

First things first, ask the customer if they have any immediate questions. If these aren’t addressed first, the customer may be distracted until they are. Methodically run through each point ensuring they understand the condition, the realities to put something right and how soon they’d need to do it. 

 

Run through any other severe or important points you have and answer any other points that were raised in your initial call before the survey. 

 

Then ask them about their next steps. You can really add value for your customer if you ask them how they are feeling about their report and their next steps. This can really uncover if a customer has understood your report. Your customer also may not be aware of their options. They may feel pressured into buying the property no matter what because they have got this far in the process. They may falsely feel they need to walk away. They may not realise they are within their rights to renegotiate on price or on having works carried out as part of the sale terms. Helping to support your customer in their next steps is as important as the information in the report. Information is only valuable if you know how to act next. 

 

If your customer is really concerned about what they should do next, let them know they can contact you again if they need to clarify any further points as they mull things over. Most customers won’t need to but knowing that support is there is important at a big decision making point in the buying process. 

Schedule that follow up call

It’s important to follow up with every customer post-report. Some will call you, others may feel like their questions are silly and shy away from asking those important questions. Others will be happy. But all will appreciate the follow-up. But you don’t want to take calls to run through reports when you’re driving or inspecting another property. Distractions like this are not only unproductive but don’t allow you to have the customers report ready in front of you before the conversation has started. If the customer calls you 3 weeks after their report, you don’t want to spend the first 5 minutes of the call trying to remember all the details. 

 

Routine… is the best way to ensure you follow up with every customer, you’re prepared before the call and you don’t lose time jumping between tasks. It also prevents customers becoming frustrated when they keep trying to call you about their report and you can’t answer because you’re busy with other tasks. 

 

Whilst you may want to take all sales calls as they come in to prevent missing out on new jobs (remember we said how much response time affects conversion rates), you can let customers know when you’ll be available each day to run through reports. Most people will be happy to fit in with that and schedule a time. They don’t have to feel like they are playing potluck and you can plan your day. 

 

 

Finding the time in your routine

There are lots of admin processes when running a business. Dealing quickly with sales enquiries, sorting payments, chasing payments, sorting terms, chasing terms, updating customers on bookings, writing reports and following up after sending them (to name a few). 

 

Automating processes that don’t actually need you to do them can give you back hours. Hours that you can spend focusing on adding value (or down the pub!). Pre-sales calls, doing surveys and following up afterwards add value. Anything admin based is a distraction and a cost to your business. You and your team are a finite resource. You can only do so many tasks per day. Removing and automating these unnecessary ones allow you and your team to focus on the areas that actually add value, that actually make a difference to the customer experience. 

Building a Long-Term Pipeline

The post-survey call doesn’t need to be the end of the process and the end of adding value. Here are some ideas that can help you add even more value for your customers, increase the chance of them recommending you to others and even remembering to call you in 10 years when they next move – most moves aren’t that far (the median distance was 9 miles in 2018).

 

  1. Make a note of customers that still seemed worried during their post-survey call. Follow up with them a week or so later to see how they are getting on and if you can provide any further support. This won’t be many customers but will mean the world to those more extreme cases. 
  2. Who wanted to ask advice once they had moved in? Make a note to speak to them in a few months time.
  3. Provide a ‘making the most of your purchase guide’. This can provide notes about when to carry out general maintenance such as clearing gutters and other general maintenance to keep the house in order. It could provide pitfalls to avoid when doing renovations such as building the height of drives and paths above the DPC. It could even have a personalised page listing estimated timelines for maintenance highlighted in their report to aid with budget planning. If it adds value, it is something a customer will store to refer to keeping your company name available to them. It might even be something they share with others. 

Summary

The whole point of the process has been reached now. If the customer leaves with all the answers and information they need to feel confident in their next steps and they had an easy process along the way then this has been a great customer experience.

 

When submitting your report, let the customer know they can book a follow-up call with you between fixed times by dropping you an email to prevent you being caught off guard and your customer guessing when is best to get hold of you.

 

Surveys are typically a one off purchase and so it is hard to build customer loyalty. But offering value beyond the survey through free guides or other follow-ups can create opportunities to get those recommendations for further sales. 


The Residential Survey Customer Journey Part 8: The Report

The moment we’ve all been waiting for… your report, your findings, should we still go ahead? A well thought out document with clear diagrams, annotated photographs or even embedded videos can be a beautiful thing. A great document layout takes planning. Of course, if you are offering the RICS Homebuyer Report you have to use the RICS template. This doesn’t stop you using software to overlay interactive content. But for your own Building Survey, it is worth investing time in creating or buying a quality template to use. It really makes a big difference to whether your customer finds it easy to follow your report or gets frustrated and ends up taking up your time to get you to take them through it. 

 

A picture says a thousand words. A video says even more! Avoid sending out documents that are 20 pages long of solid text. This is the easiest way to make your report look daunting as well as hard to navigate – pictures help act as markers to find a point when you’re flicking back through. Add lots of technical jargon to your solid text and you’ve got the perfect mix for a report most people would run a mile from. Of course, jargon is needed at times – it has to be clear which parts of the property you’re referring to. But simple explanations can be used instead of endless technical terms. Photos with annotations within the relevant section of the report help remove ambiguity as to which part of the property you are talking about. It’s easy for someone without technical knowledge to get the wrong end of the stick with text alone and start feeling confused about where or what you are talking about. The last thing you want to be feeling when you read a report is stress. It becomes harder to read it objectively and makes this important part of the process a real negative. 

Finally, have you ever considered those who may struggle to read reports? We assume because we can read them that everyone else can. A scenario often overlooked is customers that have dyslexia. Many fonts can make it difficult for them to read a report. But several fonts have been developed (such as the Dyslexie font) that make it much easier for dyslexic customers to read your report. A simple adjustment to make and a thoughtful one that shows you are really trying to help every customer. 

 

Which content you add and the tone you use is for you to decide. The key factor to remember is that a report with ‘bad’ findings doesn’t have to be as daunting to read if it’s easy to follow. Equally, a comprehensive report isn’t useful if it’s too much to take in.


The Residential Survey Customer Journey Part 7: Providing Survey Updates

The home buying process is a stressful one. And until you get the survey result through (hopefully with the answer you want), the survey process can be unsettling for some. It’s like waiting for those school test results. We live in a fast-paced world where information is available whenever we want it. We have become so used to instant-gratification in everyday life from delivery updates to likes on social media etc. 

 

The flip side of this is that when we can’t get what we feel are simple updates at ease, we get frustrated. Receiving updates to any process leaves us feeling much better. And the more proactive they are, the less we feel the need to chase for responses because we know the minute an update is available we will get it. 

Delays to Survey Updates

Survey updates are easy to send. You book in a survey, you update the customer with the inspection date. You turn up and do the inspection, you drop the customer a quick email to confirm you’ve been to the property and let them know the date you expect to have their report to them. Of course, all of this is easily said. But when you are experiencing high volumes of work, you are rushing to appointments and calls keep coming in, writing that email just doesn’t get done. But your customer is still wondering in the back of their mind if you’ve definitely booked the survey in or that you made it to the inspection.

Two options:

One is to work a bit longer that day to make sure you get all your updates out. That isn’t a long-term solution and this leaves you firefighting every time you are busy. It also means something inevitably gets delayed that day. 

The second is to automate some of your systems so you can just click a button to update a survey status and let the email go out automatically. Those admin tasks can be made a bit quicker and your customer can still get their updates. 

Does it have a big impact on the customer experience? 

90% of consumers expect an online portal for customer service and 68% of consumers say it increases their perception of a brand when companies send them proactive customer service notifications (Microsoft).

It might seem like a small detail during busy times. But it can make a huge difference to how your customer is feeling as they go through the survey process. It’s those little updates that keeps their mind at rest and make it that much easier to secure 5* star feedback every time.

The final factor – consistency. Automating processes and providing an account to follow progress allows you to provide a consistent service to every customer, every time. Fewer customers falling through the gaps on those busy days or where you’re engrossed in a survey report and forget to make that update. 

Does it make my life easier?

Yes – it benefits both sides. Where your customer can log into an account at any time, they can answer their own questions. When was the inspection booked for? Did you definitely make it? When am I meant to be getting my report? All of these questions can be answered without the need to drop you a chase email or call. Fewer chasing customers to deal with means you can keep focused on what you need to be doing. 

 

Isn’t automation impersonal?

Not at all. It’s proactive. It’s providing the information to your customer in a timely manner and with ease. A customer needs to speak to you when they want to learn more about your service or when they’ve received your report. Sending an automated email then would be impersonal and poor service. But customer’s don’t need you to personally write an email or call them to tell them when you’ve booked the inspection for. They just want to know when it is. All they care about is the information, not the method of delivery. 

If you send out information at each stage by personalising a template, you’re half way to automation anyway. The only difference is that you are taking time out of your day to send something instead of leaving a system to do the same job for you. 


The Residential Survey Customer Journey Part 6: Terms of Engagement and Compliance

An element of admin for both parties, a requirement if you’re a RICS surveyor and something that is sensible to have in place even if you aren’t required to have them. It provides value to both sides – a clear understanding of what service you will deliver and what the customer can expect to get. There is nothing better than a clear and simple contract that puts both parties on the same page. Setting expectations from the start reduces the chance of disappointment, confusion and disputes later on in the process. Neither party wants to end up in the position and both parties want to be confident in what is happening. 

 

The question then becomes, how do we best confirm that the customer has read them and understands what is being provided? A tick box on a website means they could read them and confirm straight away.. But as well all know, a box gets ticked on a website with the T&Cs rarely ever opened. An easy way to just ignore them and get moved on quicker to whatever comes next. Even if that was fine from a compliance perspective, you lose out on the value that terms bring. 

 

Getting them signed makes sense then (considering how important they are). The customer has to open the terms up and make their way to the end to sign on that dotted line! If they then get a report that doesn’t include what they thought they were getting it’s really their fault (assuming your terms are clear, not all small print and you sold the service correctly over the phone).

 

Practically, providing terms mean this:

  • You investing time personalising them for each customer
  • Composing an email (and remembering to attach the terms!)
  • The customer downloading them (we’ll assume we avoided the spam filter) 
  • Printing them out, reading and signing
  • Scanning them back in to send back (avoiding your spam filter)

 

In other words… a lot of effort for both parties.

Signing documents electronically

I’m not suggesting you can make this something you and your customer enjoy, but you can take a lot of the aggravation out of the process. E-signing documents makes life much easier. The statistics prove it… E-signing documents can offer an 85% productivity improvement and 80% average error reduction (Forrester, eSignlive). Why? If integrated with your CRM, data can be automatically filled in your terms document removing unnecessary data entry and with that the chance of errors. 

Your customer can sign your terms from their phone on a commute instead of having to get their printer working (a job that inevitably gets put off – we know ours is used so infrequently the cartridges have normally dried up). And importantly, like printed terms, they are legally binding. E-terms can be automatically emailed out to your customer after payment is made and signed copies can be emailed directly to both parties as soon as the sign button is pressed. 

A smoother and quicker process, increased compliance and less time spent filling in forms and chasing them up. What are you waiting for? Hopefully not signed terms!