The Festive Make or Break?
Tim Morris, Cymphony managing director, explains why telephone answering services are particularly in demand over the festive season.
After a tough year in the property sector, everyone deserves a break over the festive period. However, with a survey of 1,600 businesses from BT finding that a missed call loses a UK business on average a massive £1,2001, it’s clear that making sure you can enjoy the holidays without having to worry you're missing essential business calls is incredibly difficult. Tim Morris is the MD at Cymphony, where they specialise in enquiry handling with a personal touch. Here’s his advice for property agents on how to take time off over the festive period whilst still impressing clients.
The real estate industry has gone through unprecedented changes over the course of 2020 and with more than 100,000 additional house sales expected during the first three months of 2021 it’s a hectic time to be a property agent2. So, being able to step back and switch off over the festive period is crucial to be successful in the new year. Taking a break will help stop burnout, increases job satisfaction and improves productivity - all things required for property agents to pick themselves up and go full steam again in 2021. However, while you’re away from the office it’s important you don’t miss any important business enquiries, calls from tenants with urgent maintenance requests, or people looking concerned about new year moves. So, why would you risk leaving crucial customer communication in the hands of automated systems?
1. Rota staff so everyone gets a break
Ensuring you and your team get a break is crucial to recharging the batteries after a torrid 2020. Not having time off over the festive period will cause low staff morale which ultimately will lead to an unhappy workplace and decreased productivity. A rota over the festive period means everyone gets time to switch off but also means that you have people to answer important calls from a designated hotline. As an influx of enquiries are predicted over the festive period by people rushing to get in before the stamp duty holiday ends, you can share the workload between employees and management by simply forwarding your office line to one mobile. And remember, when potential clients are at first enquiry stage, they often just move to the next option on the Google results list if no one answers the phone.
2. Setting expectations with customers before Christmas Eve
Managing your customers’ expectations in the run-up to Christmas Eve is massively important to make sure customers don't expect a service you simply can't deliver when you’re enjoying your family feast. Provide a clear timeline of events from limited opening hours to on-call services. You can even provide last dates for certain activities to be completed before services resume in the new year. Communicating clearly and effectively when setting expectations with customers is vital. Trained call handling operators are a perfect way to ensure your customers know exactly what you can, and can't, deliver over the holidays.
3. Choose a day in-between Christmas and new year to touch base
The last thing you need when taking a break over the festive period is the constant fear of what may meet you when get back into the office. Arranging a day in-between Christmas and the new year to touch base with your clients and colleagues will keep that dread at bay. It doesn’t even have to be a full day. Allocate a couple of hours to run through business-critical activities and contact clients with the shortest lead times on their negotiations or completions.
Touching base is an opportunity for you to get a well-rounded picture of the events that have taken place while you have been unwinding and recharging the batteries. It's a golden opportunity to help you clear some tasks and identify important items to pick up on your first day back in the office. Most importantly, it means your attention is only diverted from spending time with your friends and loved ones for a few concentrated hours and not sporadically throughout the week.
4. Use a Live Agent web chat system that has real people behind it
It's important for property agents to have someone who is qualified as an inbound communication specialist to be answering calls and messages over the festive period. AI-operated systems are impersonal and make agencies seem faceless, which when enquiring on huge spending decisions like buying or renting a property, isn’t how you want customers to perceive your agency. Seventy-one per cent of consumers said they would be less likely to use a brand if they knew that brand didn't have human agents to talk to3. This astonishing figure shows just how important it is for agencies to maintain a human touch as part of their communication, whether over the festive period or any other time.
In a recent report, half of the consumers surveyed believed that chatbots and virtual assistants make it harder to get issues resolved3. Yet another reason why you should at least consider a hybrid of personal touch combined with automation to support your online enquiries. At Cymphony, our call handlers and chat operators receive the very best training to deliver an easy, informative and, most importantly, tailored customer experience.
5. Train your team in the basics of call handling
Having a well-trained and informed call handler at the end of the phone will make your agency more approachable. Having someone who understands the property market and the likely customer journeys your callers will go through, will make your agency shine through the competition. When customers were asked about what they thought about AI in customer service, the top response was that it was 'maddening' - also in the top five responses were 'impersonal' and 'superficial'3. Not words any property agent wants to be associated with.
A well-trained call handler navigates situations in a way a chatbot or automated system simply can't. A human operator can respond appropriately to a caller’s tone, making sure your agency comes across as welcoming, professional and caring. Moving home is stressful at the best of times but during typical holiday closures, your agency can be a shining star by following these five tips.
1BT Business Survey, 2014
2Zoopla, 2020, Housing price growth close to three-year high/2CGS, 2019 Customer Service Chatbot & Channels Survey