Best Estate Agency Software
18 January, 2017 | Technology
Estate agents searching for Client Relationship Management (CRM) software have plenty to choose from. But what makes a good piece of software and how do you choose the best package?
Listed below are some of the key considerations -
1) What is Client Relationship Manager (CRM) software?
Having a clear understanding of this is important, old school estate agents often see this type of software system as a ’back office’ or ‘administrative’ tool and not as a revenue generator. So clearly defining exactly what a CRM system is, and helping agents understand how intelligent software systems can bring considerable benefit and revenue to the modern estate agency is crucial.
Many estate agency software packages are orientated towards the ‘property’, as opposed to being focused on ‘People’. This may seem like splitting hairs but the logic is much more fundamental, it is after all, the person you have the relationship with and not the property. The ability to form, maintain a relationship, to remember and be remembered by ‘people’ is the essential key to any good estate agency business. You are much more likely to gain a client’s trust and their business if you are remembered.
The approach has been to put the person at the centre of every activity, to have the ability to quickly access a ‘persons’ record and to be able to add every touch point over the life cycle of each business transaction. This is the very essence of great CRM technology. What it means in practice is that from an initial client interaction, maybe as a tenant or an applicant, their file (or record) is accessed, updated and added to throughout each transaction, often over many years. So from an initial applicant enquiry, this over time, can lead to them being a valuation client, a potential vendor, instruction, landlord etc., etc.
CRM based systems allow for a single file approach, where each individual touch point is added to one central file. The software allows for all staff members to quickly understand the importance and history of client relationships, and to enable unfamiliar staff members to confidently engage with clients from a position of understanding and not as a complete stranger. After all, we all enjoy recognition, efficiency and a friendly professional service..
A CRM or people based systems enable a ‘person’ to be added to the software once, but with multiple things going on – the person might be an applicant, but may also be a vendor, or a vendor of lots of properties, as well as a landlord. A people based system will enable the estate agent to see the whole relationship they have with a client (past or present) all in one place.
Perhaps most importantly, what these systems offer is ‘return on investment’ (ROI). If used well, they bring a great leave of communication with potential clients, notify the agents of potential business opportunities and efficiently manage client relationships.
2) What is cloud based software?
Cloud software is essentially estate agency software which is internet-based. There are many benefits to using internet-based technology over the old server-based systems; the key benefits are listed below -
i) Internet based - This essentially means that the software is a secure website (think Facebook). Using an internet browser, with a secure log in, you can access your business system from literally anywhere in the world. A more relevant application would be to check appointment information from your mobile device or access client files or sales progress when you are at home or maybe even on holiday.
ii) Backup systems - Backing up important business data is one of those offices procedures that’s often an afterthought, or worse, something that doesn’t happen at all. Until that is, your system fails, is damaged or stolen… Then, old back systems will not have worked or the person originally responsible has left and not passed on this vital process… Cloud systems will generally have integrated backup systems, that store data in separate data centres to ensure clients data is safe and secure whatever happens. Understanding this is an important element of your choice of cloud system provider.
iii) Security - In an ever increasing world of cyber-crime, where local (in office software systems) are easily exposed to this criminal behaviour, cloud based systems offer high levels of security with SSL encryption, ensuring secure web based access.
iv) Accessibility - One of the Key benefits of cloud based technology is accessibility. Internet-based software enables estate agents freedom from their desks, and gives the ability to work away from the office. Internet-based (cloud) software should also be accessible from any device (PC, MAC, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc.) with an internet connection and an internet browser.
3) A trusted partner
When choosing a software supplier, it is important to consider that you are likely to be entering in to a long term business relationship. Therefore, choosing the right software partner is as important as choosing the right software. Consider how long the software vendor has been specialising in software for estate agents. Maybe speak to some of their estate agent clients and gather some testimonials.
Resource Techniques are an independently owned software business based in North London, we have been established since the mid 1980’s and have supplied estate agency software & technology for over 30 years.
4) Hosting for your cloud based system
Hosting is perhaps the most frequently over looked but one of the most important technical questions. Hosting is where the software is physically located, security, uptime and support is essential for you and your business systems. Many companies cut corners where hosting is concerned so be sure to ask questions, do some research, ask around and get some professional advice.
5) Secure browser based cloud technology
The best estate agency software systems should be true secure browser based software, this ensures that it can be safely used on any device with an internet connection and from anywhere in the world. Software that is browser based also gives estate agents the ability to open many full versions of the software on multiple internet browser tabs. For example; if an estate agent has a property instruction, and an applicant comes in looking to be registered on the mailing list, the agent doesn’t have to stop what they are doing, or even hit save, they simply open another tab and add the applicant, then switch back to the tab with the property instruction still open and start where they left off.
6) Future proof software
Estate agency software along with technology in general is continually evolving, so it is important that any chosen software package is also continually being developed. Software systems need to evolve, as new technology becomes available. Systems that take advantage of this ensure that their estate agent clients stay ahead of their competition and always have the latest technology available to them.
At Resource Techniques, our culture, from both a technology and functionality perspective, is primarily driven by our users through our user forums. Product development has always been seen as a partnership between our research and development team and clients that engage with us through development forums. We see our relationship very much as a partnership and not the typical ‘client/supplier’ relationship of many software companies.
Estate agency in general terms, certainly the independent sector, has a poor reputation where technology training, if not training in general, is concerned. Software systems can be complex, but if understood and managed correctly, can have a hugely positive impact on business and the bottom line.
Software systems are rarely seen by business owners as a mechanism for generating additional revenue. Indeed many IT systems are purely an administrative tool, used for feeding property information to portals or for matching and emailing applicants. This has never been our vision or how our CRM system functions. Like any investment, a software system should offer a return on that investment. It is therefore essential that all staff, from senior management to part time staff, are well trained.
Like most software systems, often as little as 15% of the system as a whole is ever used. This is almost always due the business owners/senior management are not engaged with the system, not trained and consequently not understanding the benefits and revenue generating potential their systems have.
Our position is to always include business owners in training sessions, and yes, this is good old fashioned ‘on-site’, person to person training, not remote Skype or video based training that has become common place. Our policy is to employ trainers with backgrounds in both estate agency and technology, this ensures that we are able to understand your requirements and quickly tailor our training to your individual requirements. It is therefore essential that a training culture, both initial and on-going, is adapted to software system use. Professional ‘on site’ training is critical and something you should insist on.
Most, if not all estate agency software is licensed and paid for monthly, for as long as the agent wishes to access it. You should be wary of paying extortionate upfront fees to use a software package, but also consider that if something is cheap it is normally cheap for a good reason…
To help the decision making process we’ve put together a checklist of the key points to ensure your new software system ticks all the boxes.
1) Software company profile - who are they? Do they have a good pedigree, how long have they been trading and creating software, who are their estate agency clients and what do they say about them?
2) Is it really cloud based software? - This is important and some companies are often not transparent about this. Ask if any downloads are necessary to run the software, if yes then it is not totally cloud based. Put them to the test, if you can open your internet browsers enter a user name and password and have instant access then it is the real deal.
3) Hosting - Be sure to understand where your software is being hosted, ask about system uptime and securing as well as backup systems.
4) True browser based technology - This again can be where agents get mislead, be sure to check that you can open your new cloud based system on multiple tabs with the internet browsers, this allows the user to multi-task - essential for the modern estate agent.
5) What type of CRM based system do they have? - Ensure that your system is client focused, single client entry is key to building good client relationships, every business touch point available in one place.
6) Is it future proof? Be sure that the software company you chose is committed to an on-going development path and that the upgrades are inclusive part of the service.
7) What type of training do they offer? - Professional ‘on site’ training is critical and something you should insist on.
8) Extra fees - Cloud based systems do not require installation, and only require minimum setup, you therefore shouldn’t be looking at high setup fees.