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Aspasia Cloud Informational Series – No.3

publication date: Jul 1, 2010
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In last month’s edition we discussed the impact of rapidly changing customer expectations on estate and lettings agencies. But this is not the only pressure implying that we need to do things differently in the future. There are many other forces at play suggesting agencies need to reinvent themselves to ensure long term viability and deliver an early competitive advantage in our new digital world.

What are they?

The recent report from the Office of Fair Trading served to add to pressure for change within the industry not least by suggesting the quick removal of legal restrictions which, they said, tend to restrict progress. Add to this the spectre of the likes of Tesco and Google looking for lucrative new income streams. Then there is the lack in the public’s understanding of the skills and added value estate agents offer and the charging mechanisms the public regard as outdated and unfair. And of course there is the massive and unstoppable migration towards online alternatives to traditional and often inefficient practices across all industries.

We plan to address all of these issues in more detail in future editions of this series and to explain what we have done, and are still doing, to help protect the role of agencies in the face of these growing pressures and as such to protect our livelihoods. Most of us believe that a fully automated, impersonal, online alternative to agency services is unlikely ever to gain traction largely due to the size and significance of property sales and lettings transactions. It’s clear that the way we do things now is going to change, and soon, and those who fail to appreciate this face an uncertain future.

The good news

On a positive note there are those who have been considering these changing trends and have been gradually developing alternatives that will help to ensure long term viability for agents in the face of these threats. Examples within Aspasia Cloud, for instance, include the move towards total hardware independence, the ability for agency customers to conduct their business electronically whenever and wherever they like, the ability to use open and transparent charging mechanisms and variable fees, the complete freedom from almost any IT infrastructure demands, the ability to conduct all business on the move on any mobile device and the opportunity at last to address the poor public image by offering a better and more transparent service.

Sceptics will argue that there have already been a number of different agency models which have been tried and with very limited success. However, with the escalating pressures for change now coming from all quarters, it can only be a matter of time before an alternative model is developed that will attract widespread acceptance and adoption throughout the industry. Ideally, this ‘perfect’ solution should revolve around the concept of an agency being able to offer their services in a highly focused and professional manner with wide acceptance from the public who recognise the indispensable role that the agent plays in the process.

To achieve this objective we must focus on several aspects of the process, all of which we are addressing within Aspasia Cloud. First we need to appreciate the distinction between agency services that are essentially administration and those that rely on the provision of professional expertise. Administrative services are particularly threatened because many can be automated or customers can take them on personally to save money. Moreover administrative services generally rely on staff competence and consistency; anyway it is a cost which needs to be passed on to the customer. It is also fair to say that customers often fail to understand or appreciate the level of complexity involved in the process which, when coupled with a lack of transparency, can often result in a feeling of resentment. So the first objective should be to either fully automate administration or offer services at varying levels and cost according to an individual customer’s wishes. The traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach can adapt into a ‘menu’ approach offering customers the choice of option that suits their purse whilst reflecting the expertise of the agent.

Having addressed the subject of administrative services we need to focus on what we can do to enhance the agent’s ability to demonstrate their skills and professionalism in delivering those services the public are most willing to pay for. To a great extent solving the issue with the provision of administrative services will enhance the agent’s ability to focus on their professional services by freeing up manpower to focus on these core aspects of the job. We can also focus on communication and self service where appropriate in relation to our customer’s changing expectations as we discussed in the last article in this series.

Solutions

All this perhaps sounds a trifle academic. Nevertheless, considering these issues is crucially important to ensure the long term viability of agency services when confronted with today’s and tomorrow’s challenges and is something we needed to examine closely when we had the opportunity to create a new product, Aspasia Cloud, from the ground up. Our conclusions resulted in a product based on true cloud technology, integrating services from other providers such as Google, and which offers agency customers the ability to engage in a relationship with the agency more appropriate to today’s digital age and in a variable form according to an individual customer’s preferences. We will look in more specific detail at what we have done in subsequent editions of this series.

For further information go to www.aspasia.net. Previous articles in the series can be found at www.propertydrum.com/articles/aspasiacloud