Have all agents cracked customer service? Not on this evidence!

With so much emphasis on customer service, you would think that it would be a given.

Not so.

A friend was out and about at the weekend and spotted an interesting property in an estate agency window.

He went in to the empty shop, where two women were working.

He asked for details, which one of them printed off. He asked about rental values, and she did not know.

Her colleague guessed a figure and said she could ask the letting department.

He thanked them and left.

Neither had asked for my friend’s name, telephone number or email address.

Neither had asked about his financial position or requirements.

How much business could be walking out of that door every day – just as he did?

And the name above said door?

Surprisingly, perhaps, one that is well known – and is certainly not synonymous with ‘cheap’ or ‘bad’.


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  1. ArthurHouse02

    Perhaps they did miss an opportunity, perhaps they treat everyone this way, and it is a poorly run office. Or…perhaps they clocked your friend as a waste of time shopper who isnt really that interested in buying a property.

    1. julianodell

      Are you seriously suggesting that agents should guess at the quality of a prospective buyer rather than qualify them before deciding on the appropriate level of service to give them?

      1. Ric

        Completely agree Julian.

        Come on ArthurHouse02 every time that door opens or phone rings, our staff should be treating the person as if it is our next vendor! That waste of time will one day sell and the more we have an industry of “can’t be *****” frontline staff, the more the next generation of vendor is quite right to think, I would be better doing it myself! i.e. Online Only.

        Imagine, though you do go to that persons house one day as a valuer, and promote how your staff will vet everyone and not let a potential viewer escape….. that person has first hand knowledge you are a Billy Bllshttr (you fill the missing letters) and they know your staff will simply be a leaflet distributor at best.

        No office is perfect but every agent should be asking the basics.



      2. M24

        Are we talking about “customer service” here, or are we talking about “how to make money”?

        Scenario 1: idly curious lady walks into the office to ask for details of a house showing in the window. Is pumped for information, under the spotlight, name, rank, serial number and all the rest, and is subsequently bombarded with “you need to talk to our financial adviser” phone calls, details through the post of other properties that are wildly different to the one she asked about, “can we value your home for you” emails… Customer service to her: low. Service to employers and vendor: high.

        Scenario 2: idly curious lady walks into the office to ask for details of a house showing in the window. Is given the details in a no-pressure environment. Still is only idly curious but asks about rental values to be given the honest reply: “we don’t know but we know someone who does; can we ask them to ring you?”. Then, either decides that she is less than idly curious so doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time, walks out and tells her friend the property journalist … or decides that it would be really useful to talk someone in lettings, as her curiosity is becoming less idle, so “yes, please, here’s my number…” Customer service to her: high. Service to employers: potentially high as she may have been (evidently was) a time waster. Ditto service to vendor.

    2. Andrew Overman

      Are you really suggesting that these employees play Russian Roulette with their bottom line? I do hope that your comment was a pun and not serious Arthur, otherwise I respectfully say to you, that you are everything that is wrong with modern day estate agency.

      1. ArthurHouse02

        What i am saying is that we are being told a certain story, that whilst may be completely as it happened, but also may be missing a few crucial details. But what we do know is that the “friend” in question wasn’t out doing the rounds of estate agents, seriously looking for a property, they were shopping. Now you are completely right, everyone visiting our offices must be qualified, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility, that they established the friends lack of commitment to buying in a way that is not being reported.

    3. cyberduck46

      I remember some of the comments similar to this in the article about 40% of emails being unanswered. There was one guy who commented that he didn’t reply to the enquiries because they were little more than “I’m interested in such and such property”.


      My thought was that these enquiries are probably coming directly from a web enquiry on a portal. Sure the “leads” will be of lower quality than somebody who walks in to the office with cash in their hand but had any proper analysis of the quality been done? Did they not even merit a phone call?


      You really didn’t get the feeling that the person making the comments even knew how they had been generated and that they simply didn’t like the idea of enquiries by email.



  2. Andrew Overman

    “In the absence of perceived value our customers will buy on price” – it’s agencies like this and lowered service standards that are creating the race to the bottom and inviting the ‘call centre agents in’.

    The internet has been a marvellous thing but it comes at a price. Too many agents (I use that term loosely) have become order takers and not service providers.

    Sad. Very sad.

  3. Peter Ambrose (The Partnership)

    Little bit of a misleading headline.

    People do seem to confuse service with sales as in this case.

    Yes – they missed an opportunity to track a suspect but … I don’t think that they did not deliver on service.

    The person was helped and given information – believe me – that was far far better than our mystery shopping experience yesterday at a couple of our competitors.  One was just plain aggressive and rude, the other just fobbed us off with just a mobile number.

    Now THAT’S bad service!


  4. julianodell

    My fear is that if “traditional” agents fail to provide a high level of service, they are playing into the hands of the “online/DIY” competitors. If a consumer gets no more than basic property info when interacting with a high street agent (whether over the phone or in person as in this case), they can be forgiven for limiting their search to the internet. How basic is it for agents to furnish sales staff with knowledge of rental yields – after all it is an inevitable question from many investment buyers and if you don’t know the answer, you look like a bit of a muppet.

    Sadly, the standard of applicant qualification has fallen in recent years according to our research. As a training company, we have recently reviewed incoming calls for a number of firms as well as conducting mystery shopper exercises, all measured against a 22 point checklist, which includes the essential ingredients to ensuring that initial call from a new customer impresses, builds trust and identifies the good prospects from the not so good. The scores obviously vary but are more often than not in single figures, with a worrying amount of negotiator comments like “Keep an eye on our website”, “All our properties are on Rightmove” and “I’ll ping you an email with our available properties – if there’s anything you like the look of, give us a call”. In challenging times, with extra competition, there is an essential need for agents to step up and be salespeople rather than polite dispensers of information if they are to achieve success. Some, like the one in Ros’ story, are clearly a long way from making that transition.

    1. P-Daddy

      I agree…everyone is becoming complacent and showing no entrepreneurial competence….despite training! Look at all the corporates who do have an induction protocol and it has all become a tick box which at best says someone sat in a room on a certain day. Every town has an agent or two who is used to living on low income, they do it as no one else will employ them and they are happy in their little world. How often have we seen those who are restless leave the corporate world and then become market leader.

      We are a people business and those who are driven to talk and qualify everyone properly will shine out, as they will pick up the pieces dropped by everyone else and success is infectious. Agents do need to wake up as my experience when I moved was as ugly, as it has always been. Look at the market leaders in your area and normally there is someone there who is restless and always building relationships and deals. The internet is only a tool, it doesn’t sell houses, viewings and good agents do.


    2. Anonymous Coward

      Horses to water and the 80/20 rule…

      As a member of the general public I will not hand over my information to ANYONE any more unless I am serious about something.   You might ask “why?” but you already know the two most important answers – I don’t want to be harassed or “sold to” and I don’t trust anyone to use my mobile number and email address with the care that I think they should.

      As an estate agent I have always treated people straightforwardly and evaluated them being polite and offering them the opportunity to leave their details.   If someone comes in to my shop and states right off the bat “I was just out shopping and saw [subject property] in the window – can I have the details?” the first answer is “Of course you can” but I might fairly rapidly work out that they are probably not my next deal.

      The important thing is how the customer feels after the interaction and whether or not they go away with a good impression.   In this case it sounds as though they were extremely underwhelmed…

  5. JSSoxted58

    Never Judge a book by its cover is my motto – the same customer service regardless of who the customer is, what they look like and whether you have the time or not!

  6. Votta583

    This is a prime example of poor service through and through no matter which way you look at it.  If someone walked into my branch to receive the same service not only would I be embarrassed but we would have a very serious conversation about whether or not they are right for this type of business. Although if the government gets its way and they ban  letting agent fees to tenants then  tenants will be completely palmed off  because they’re not paying a fee and therefore won’t be getting a service  Plus it will be all about supply and demand due to landlord taxation in addition so when the property Goes on the Internet  enquiries will come flooding through and properties will let very very quickly.  So currently there is around five tenants to each property. Soon there will be around 30. And because the government’s proposal on capping deposits as well, anybody with a pet won’t even get a look in.  Is this fair in the eyes of the government  is it also in line with the governments idea of transparency???  I think not.  Because every brochure will then say sorry no pets allowed no DSS  and there will be no room for negotiation.

  7. Property Peep

    Not a massive pot of evidence in this story about estate agents and customer service and ‘evidence’.


    A lady walks into an estate agents …………………..

    The lady asks for property details……………..

    The lady gets the details…………….

    The lady asks for extra information, the information is offered, albeit from another person, at another time, but it is offered.


    More evidence needed. Did the lady rush in, out of breath, as if she needed to get somewhere else ? Did she act aloof, as if she may be offended to be questioned further, did she park on a double yellow outside while traffic wardens loomed? There are so many reasons why she may not have been asked more questions.

    Odd story.

    1. aSalesAgent

      Agreed. Odd how this has been presented.

      Did the agents ask, or did the friend explain how, he was “interested” in the property in the window? The agents reportedly did not ask for his name, telephone number or email address, but had they already asked for his address, or whereabouts he lived? If so, was he stand-offish, or maybe he politely explained that he did not wish to leave any details (meaning the agents felt they should not ask any more probing questions)?

      Has the office manager since been asked to give an explanation? Maybe the women in the office were intimidated by this (male) friend? Is he a “bit of a character” or “a harmless eccentric”. I would be interested to know the other side of the story. Maybe the agents are simply lackadaisical, maybe not.

  8. CPestateagentesq

    Is it any wonder though?

    Peter Knight has spent the last six months mystery shopping agents with no intention to buy, now Julian o’dell is mystery shopping agents with no itention to buy  – are there any real buyers out there?



  9. smile please

    This is brilliant news.

    Always happy reading comments about/from agents who assume.

    Make myself and my staff look even better.

    Keep it up guys 🙂




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