A director at the UK’s largest estate and letting agents, Countrywide, has slammed online-only agents that focus on price. He believes they will fail if they continue to “compromise” on customer service.
Sales Director for Estate Agency at the firm, Vince Corley, says that high street brands are still more popular with customers and that flat fees charged by online-only businesses will make them unsustainable in the long-term.
Countrywide CEO Alison Platt confirmed in June that the firm is refining plans for its own online agency, either through launching a new service or through acquisition.
Countrywide Slams Online Agents that Focus on Price
Corley states: “Online is important but our online presence combined with the strength and recognition of our established high street brands is the model that works most for the varied needs of our customers. In Q1 2015, around 50% of enquiries came from offline, and this hasn’t changed.
“There is a danger that digital and no frills become interchanged, while our view is that digital can and should continue to be developed to meet customers’ changing needs and expectations, while not compromising on service and only focusing on price.
“If online agents want to provide a quality service to their customers, their fees make their business model unsustainable in the long run.”
He notes that Countrywide agents are observing that traditional high street agents are still more popular than their online counterparts in some areas.
He continues: “For instance, we have three very strong brands in Cornwall and Devon. In this area, more than half of vendors – 54% – come to us through offline channels, highlighting that they clearly want a direct and personal approach with branches.
“In Cannock, the majority of our customers come to us via offline channels through a strong local newspaper, but just ten miles away in Walsall, it’s the opposite.
“With a clicks and mortar agent, the home buyer can take the next and natural step of speaking with a knowledgeable locally based expert who can provide a much higher level of personalised customer service, building trust with the client on the most important and personal transaction they will ever make.”
He adds that in the ever-changing world, it is important for agents to make the most of both the high street and online, to improve their businesses.
He concludes: “When looking to sell or let a property, it is important that [the agent] is in front of as many potential buyers as possible. We’ve always embraced the digital space – we were founding members of Rightmove and Zoopla.”1