Not all CRMs are created equal. But how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? As with any kind of business software, there are platforms that better enable estate agents to stay ahead of the competition, improve relationships with customers, and ultimately benefit the bottom line – and there are those that fall short. One way of assessing the quality of an estate agency CRM is to focus on key features, because a lack of features is often one of the top reasons why businesses become dissatisfied with their current CRM. In this blog we will walk you through the 10 criteria most important to consider when choosing a quality CRM.
As many readers will attest, the biggest challenge with CRM deployments is often user adoption. In many cases, those staff who stand to benefit the most from your CRM often cannot or will not use it. This is backed up in a recent study which reported that 65% of CRM users consider ease of use to be the single most important requirement when selecting a CRM solution.
If your agents are not using it, in all likelihood there is probably something wrong with the software. Is it missing important functionality? Is it too rigid for your business processes? Is it unintuitive?
This last point is an important one. CRMs fulfil complicated functions in estate agencies, and the CRM itself should be able to adapt to your business needs and processes. It should be easy to create virtual desktops by roles, assign tasks by function, and create workflows to ensure compliance so that all actions are followed through and all data is captured with the right details.
Useful should not equal complicated. An effective CRM prioritises a streamlined interface that facilitates straightforward interactions for both experienced users and those just starting out. It is about giving your agents the right quantity of information, in the right place, at the right moment.
Analysis from the McKinsey Global Institute found that 40% of all estate agency activity can potentially be automated. This is important because automation improves productivity, reduces costs, and enables your agents to commit more of their time to revenue-generation activities instead of administrative ones.
A fit-for-purpose CRM platform must excel at workflow management, automating processes wherever possible and removing reliance on manual processes. Automation that reduces the steps required to complete everyday tasks leads to increased instruction opportunities that can be quickly flagged to agents both in the office and on mobile CRMs.
In a true estate agency CRM, automated functions can be found in marketing, enquiry handling, data compliance, diary handling, reporting, and more. These functions are complimentary, not redundant, and will help to streamline efficiencies across departments to manage customers and leads. Automation advanced under lockdown during 2020, with smart CRM automation helping to create workflows, alerts, and reminders to connect work-from-home employees.
Estate agents will sometimes view their CRM as a tool to merely contain or record important information. This is a red flag and means that your current CRM system is not performing the broader function that it should.
According to the Pareto principle: 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers. Companies which make data-driven decisions are more are more productive and up to 6% more profitable than those not relying on their data. A true estate agent CRM should be able to give agents valuable insights into their entire business model and should make a direct and tangible impact on the bottom line of business.
To achieve this a CRM should combine powerful reporting tools and business-critical property management dashboards that will help you to make effective insight-driven decisions, improve conversion rates, and drive revenue growth with intelligent decision-making. Leveraging your data in this fashion using robust CRM analytics will help guide your business intelligence to consistently operate at peak performance and efficiency.
A CRM’s effectiveness depends on its ability to serve as a centralised tool for bringing business functions and customers together. Gains come from increased efficiency and productivity across admin teams and through improving communication channels across teams.
A CRM should break down silos and facilitate communication, information flow, and the sharing of best practices. It should be central to managing and data gathering every aspect of customer contact, contract management, order management, claims, property marketing, referrals, sales, and tenancy progression in one centralised place. It should touch all aspects of your business, not just front-office sales, and should be able to support the entire customer journey, from acquisition to advocacy. Ultimately, the most effective CRM software is the one that is able to combine all your agency data on a single platform, giving you full accessibility to all your data at the touch of a button, and revealing the ‘big opportunity picture’ in your data that will otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Accessibility is one of the core requirements of any CRM. You have a busy team and a busy diary to match. Your negotiators and valuers do a high proportion of their work away from the office – they are out meeting customers and needing access to their contact database, plus their deals and their appointments. Running several diaries, duplicate contacts lists and printing out schedules just does not work. This is more pertinent than ever in the ‘new normal’ post-COVID working environment that now see more agencies adopting a ‘work-from home’ strategy.
To that end, an effective CRM should provide access from mobile devices, with any work carried out available to the whole user base. Browser-based mobile access is the preferable choice rather than app-based as it would not restrict you to certain smartphone operating systems and ensure a device-agnostic approach to meet your business needs.
This aspect of a CRM is essential for your team out in the field, providing access to day-to-day functions for both sales and lettings users. From registering an applicant or adding a market appraisal property, to processing appointment follow-ups, setting call reminders and tasks, and even running reports – an effective CRM should be able to handle important tasks remotely.
The rise of mobile CRMs has been exponential in recent years with a proven track record to back up its benefits. A survey from Forrester Research reveals that a mobile-enabled CRM resulted in a 74% increase in customer satisfaction due to a faster response to requests and inquiries, an 87% improvement of sales and employee productivity, and a 73% improvement of business process efficiency.
Still not convinced? A report from Nucleus Research found that 65% of companies using a mobile CRM achieved their sales quotas, as opposed to 22% using non-mobile CRMs having reached the same targets.
Stand-alone CRMs still used by many agencies are highly inefficient at transferring disparate data between the different tools that businesses use frequently. The best solution for a modern agency is a fully integrated cloud-based CRM, which can connect individual tools far more efficiently, because the more systems you connect, the more streamlined your activities will be.
An integrated CRM offers potentially limitless opportunities for agencies to adopt and deploy individual solutions that best meet their strategic business requirements. Having more tools at your disposal not only lends itself towards the advancement and fulfilment of internal processes but also helps to improve and enrich the end-to-end customer journey, with the core benefit that these solutions integrate seamless into your CRM.
Perhaps most importantly, integrated solutions and applications must operate on a single, centralised CRM rather than on departmental, siloed CRMs. This is particularly important for larger agencies with multiple departments and branches as a decentralised CRM creates operational inefficiencies and does not represent the best possible return on investment.
With limited integration and a lack of features frequently cited as two of the leading issues that businesses find with their existing CRM, a fully integrated cloud-based CRM extends core functionality and makes it easy for you to bring in tools to fit any requirement.
If the adage that ‘customer is king’ holds true then hyper-personalisation is the key to matching it, with an integrated CRM enabling you to enrich the customer experience to help you deliver a faster and more personal customer service at every stage of the journey with targeted marketing campaigns and frequent, valuable communication.
It also helps you to work both faster and smarter with automated workflows seamlessly connecting all departments; this further empowers more productive teams as it mitigates the risk of work and data duplication and helps customer service teams to more efficiently manage customer queries.
Ultimately, this leads you to make smarter and better-informed decisions using real-time data from your centralised CRM and its software integrations to drive profitability.
7) Continuous improvement
Buying a CRM is not just about the system. It is a partnership with the provider. A CRM provider, which focuses on customer success, should not stop there, and should continue to develop and evolve its system and services to meet your changing business needs and challenges. For example, a potential area of growth could be New Homes or Commercial.
Adding in the integration benefits mentioned above, the potential for an open CRM to improve is multiplied exponentially with the easy integration of third-party apps and extensions that can be implemented individual on demand to enhance your CRM solution.
Protecting your customer data is both a customer expectation and a legal requirement with GDPR compliance on data protection and privacy. Your CRM is a vital tool for maintaining compliance along every step of the privacy data lifecycle.
Compliance features built into a quality CRM will help you to secure and manage consents to protect your data across all communication. Data breaches open the risk of substantial fines and a compliance-directed CRM not only protects your data but also helps promote trust and transparency.
Having a quality CRM is a great first step towards long-term revenue growth and success, but it needs to be backed up with robust and informative learning experiences to ensure that your agents can hit the ground running from day one. As such, quality CRMs should also come with quality training. So before making your purchase decision, find out what sort of training is offered with your preferred CRM – good CRM suppliers are not just interested in selling you a product and moving on, they want you to keep using it, and will offer training at no extra cost to ensure both a smooth adoption and ongoing training support to facilitate the growth and expertise of your agents even as new features and improvements are implemented into the solution.
But what works for one agency may not work for another, and indeed, what works for some individuals may not work for others; we all learn in different ways and CRM users will all be at very different stages of learning. New starters will need to be brought up to speed on their first day (especially during onboarding), and experienced users will want to be able to access content which can enhance their knowledge. Ultimately, providing different options and levels of learning – whether that is delivered as e-learning, in-person training, or webinars – is what is going to be most effective.
Just as important as training is a robust and efficient support structure from your chosen supplier to ensure that any issues are dealt with a swiftly as possible, because as we all know, lost time is lost revenue. Your CRM is a business-critical system, so it should be backed up with a 24/7 dedicated support functionality to quickly address any issues which may impact on your business.
Are you currently using the UK’s most popular estate agency software? Release your full business potential when you use a single platform across sales, lettings, property management and client accounts. Get in touch today for a free demo of our award-winning property software.