We are often asked what the best CRM to use is – and the truth is that as long as it is a modern CRM engineered to integrate with other technology, it is the wrong question to focus on. With the burst of new technologies, many of which don’t integrate with the CRM, we have observed fragmentation of data and the single source of truth is lost. Fragmented data can only lead to fragmented service.
The right question to ask is: How do I harness more opportunity from the data in my CRM?
Here are our five best fixes to solve that problem.
Dump the data-dumping
One of the biggest mistakes we see with the database is the bulk dumping of contacts into it with very little information, context or plan about how that relationship is going to progress.
Normally, we see this where there is some kind of application capturing top-of-the-funnel interest, like tenant enquiry or buyer enquiry, that requires a very low-risk opt in from the customer – sometimes just an email address.
What ends up happening is that there are piles of ‘customers’ being added to the CRM each week with just an email address and no information about who that customer is or how to help them.
Our view of the world is that the CRM should represent real relationships that exist in the real world or at least people you would like to be friends with moving forward. If you are strict about that, then you get some real clarity about who your customers are; where they live; and how you can help them.
Our recommendation is to collect this information in a centralised place (such as an office user,) whereby it can be qualified and then assigned to an agent for human-to-human relationship management.
In a situation where agents have responsibility for relationships with only qualified, potential customers, you solve a lot of the problem with call reluctance – because there is a clear reason to call and a future transaction to work towards. If the agent’s relationship contacts are diluted with a bunch of basic data – it can be hard to sort the diamonds from the rough. Rita can help with this and suggest the most valuable contacts only – but without a robot assistant, this data dumping makes life really hard for agents.
Property and Ownership Relationships are Paramount
As a real estate agent, you don’t sell houses. You sell your professional services to people who have houses or want to have houses. In order to do this, you need to understand the relationships between people and the houses they own.
There are three elements to making sure the property-ownership-relationship data is going to be valuable:
- The Ownership (Contact) data: We need to know who they are, and how to get in touch with them. In some of the data we have analysed, we see legacy issues whereby there has been a lot of council or ownership data important with address and owner name. Then what? No email. No phone number.Sure if they live there, you can mail them a letter but…then what? If you don’t know their email and phone number you probably aren’t really their friend. All is not lost – if you have time and you need to make more friends… you could go knock on their door and become friends. If you don’t need any more friends, you can either archive them OR re-assign responsibility for the relationship to the office or another user.
- The Property data: This element ought to be set up in the CRM and assigned to the Contact owner. If the property card isn’t set up, then the CRM won’t recognise it as being owned by a contact. Just having a contact address for an owner doesn’t cut it. It also doesn’t allow you to have multiple properties assigned to the one owner.For example, if A contact with 5 investment properties may not live in any of them, but that represents multiple future transactions. If they are not set up correctly, then you won’t be able to access those opportunities. Rita is smart enough to infer property ownership, so for instance, if you have a property address and some kind of ownership tag in the CRM like “Steve’s Vendors”, Rita will infer that the contact probably owns the property where they live and will suggest the opportunity. But if you are relying just on ‘Property Owner’ searching, this will fall through the cracks if they aren’t configured properly.
- Relationship data: The relationship data is the history of service provided by you to the customer. It is a documented history of all the things you have learned about the customer and this directs how you can serve them. Relationship data tells you what the next best right contact is. It gives the contact enough context to transform them from data to a ‘customer’. Where there is no history of service data – then every call is a cold call.
Engineer for Accountability
While data is the building blocks, make no mistake what you are building is relationships. Relationships with customers, via a history of service, is the strongest indication of future business.
Within the database, there will some relationships that are agent-led and some that are brand-led.
When it comes to agency or brand-led relationships, a low-intensity relationship is fine. Broadcast messaging and top-of-funnel campaigns are the right tactics when the strategy is to throw a big net out and see what comes of it. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, this is a perfectly appropriate strategy because it is inviting them to engage.
And once they have, then what?
The relationship naturally shifts from top-of-mind to friend-of-mine.
This is an important shift because once you commit to the responsibility of a relationship, it requires work. Work in terms of frequent engagement over the long term. If an agent can do that – then they are positioned for the business when a transaction is triggered.
With agents having to do so many things though, this is the non-urgent, but important, work that often falls by the wayside. It is easy to use ‘Long-Term Nurture’ as a reason NOT to call someone, because of the lack of urgency and especially because there is no immediate accountability.
When it comes to long-term relationship management, if nothing happens – nothing happens. There is no direct consequence – the relationship just lapses and the opportunity is opened up to competitors over time. With a slow-bleed out like that – you don’t know what you don’t know.
When those relationships are lost, the opportunity is lost and we see the impact of this every day as Rita monitors lost opportunities. In an Australian case study in 2018, A random sample of the first 10 competitor listings showed that 4 of them belonged to contacts within their database.
40% of listings, were not won by competitors…they were lost. How? It started with losing the relationships slowly, over time, and where there was no accountability for maintaining them.
Rita catches this opportunity for you and suggests contacts who may be at risk of becoming disengaged. These opportunities are connected to reporting that ensures it is either done by the agent, or captured and reassigned to other resources in the business, or at least seen so that accountability is visible and easy.
Don’t silo relationships
There is a real danger of service failure when information about a customer is silo-ed across the business. If the different areas of your business – marketing, sales, property management, and admin are fractured across technology walls, then the customer experience is whittled down and de-personalised.
We know how frustrating this can be as a customer. Imagine if you bought a pair of shoes and returned them – but continued to receive marketing emails about buying the shoes that you had already bought and returned. Happens all the time when the customer experience is silo-ed across an organisation – in this case where marketing and sales don’t talk to one another.
In the real estate world, you might want to think about how you manage customers through their different requests for service in an agency. An incumbent landlord might be thinking about selling but if their overall investment strategy isn’t being serviced in the day-to-day property management tasks – then the business might be missing out on lucrative transaction opportunities.
Likewise, sales agents meet a large volume of property investors in the marketplace and too often that business is blocked from acquisition by the rent roll because the internal referral is never made to a BDM. Perhaps the agent is too busy to create the referral. Perhaps the inbox of the BDM or property manager is too noisy and it isn’t seen.
Perhaps the lead never makes it into the lead management software that the BDM is using because of the double-entry burden. Perhaps it makes it in, but without the context of the previous history of service from the brand, the BDM approach is unprofessional.
Rita makes it easy to oxygenate opportunity around a business – by assigning and reassigning the right opportunity to the right person at the right time – all with a single view of the customer.
Time to Say Goodbye
The size of your database is not the sole determination of the likely yield or potential value of that data set. You need to look at the quality of the record, depth of engagement, length of relationship, and the possibility that the contact will transact. Where there is no opportunity to be had, it’s time to say goodbye.
There are probably a lot of contacts in your database who have moved on. People move on for many reasons – they either physically move on and out of the area, they meet someone else, or they simply want to end the relationship. That’s OK, you say good-bye and move on too.
If someone has moved out of the area and no longer belong to the property owner community in your marketplace – archive them in the CRM.
If someone requests that you do not call them, there is nothing to be gained from hanging onto the ghost of that relationship – archive them.
If the data is unhelpful, for example only a name and a disconnected phone number – then you have no way to contact them. The next best right thing to do is to archive them.
As strange as it sounds, we have seen agents reject Rita’s opportunity suggestions with the feedback that ‘this contact is deceased’. They no longer represent a capacity to transact, so archive them.