In real estate, agents always talk about service. That’s not surprising considering it’s a service industry, but is there truly a difference between individual agencies or national brands?
Customer satisfaction research & ratings agency, Canstar Blue, recently announced First National Real Estate the winner of its 2016 ‘Most Satisfied Customers’ award, following customer research about the experience of homeowners, tenants and landlords with Australia’s largest real estate companies. It’s an outcome that shocked some of the nation’s biggest players.
How could a cooperative real estate network be the only one to achieve 5-star ratings nationally, using a business model that arguably gives it less control than a contemporary franchising system? That’s a question that deserves an answer, especially when some of the biggest franchise brands failed to achieve more than 3 stars.
Firstly, what’s a cooperative?
Cooperatives, or co-ops as they’re more commonly known, are an association of people who come together to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs through a jointly owned and democratically controlled business.
Does that make a difference in real estate?
First National’s founders sought to unite under a nationally recognised brand, without losing control to a corporate entity focused on driving each estate agency to produce more and more profit for head office. Consequently, from day one, First National attracted a different type of estate agent. Unlike a franchise, it required its agents to work together, not only build its resources but to share expertise and help each other in times of difficulty.
The 2010/11 Brisbane floods became an example of how this makes a difference. With hundreds of families in rental properties distressed or homeless, and with some of its own offices underwater, First National called on its property managers to roll up their sleeves. Volunteers answered the call from all over Australia, pulling on gum boots and wading through hundreds of homes to urgently produce condition reports, re-home those who had lost everything, and dispense advice, safe drinking water, and a shoulder to cry upon in some circumstances.
What did Canstar Blue find?
In assessing quality of service delivery nationwide, Canstar Blue focused on a series of measures incorporating agent advice and communication; problem resolution, value for money, marketing, moving services, contract handling and finally, overall satisfaction. First National was the only real estate company to achieve 5-star ratings. See the full results here.
Head of Canstar Blue, Megan Doyle, said ‘This is a great result across all customer touch points, suggesting First National is satisfying its customers regardless of their differing professional real estate requirements. Good communications and problem resolution are crucial elements of any good real estate service and it is notable that First National was the only one to rate five stars in these areas.’
Could this be a one off?
Researchers look for trends and patterns before drawing conclusions about a company’s performance or culture. In this instance, First National Real Estate’s 2016 win for ‘Overall Satisfaction’ mirrors that of its New Zealand arm, where its sixty offices won the same award in 2015.
Then there’s the industry’s own research. In 2015, Real Estate Business Online conducted a poll of industry experts in its Real Estate Employer of Choice survey. Once again, First National Real Estate was voted number one for culture, brand and support – interestingly from a survey sample that included the network’s competitors.
The wrap up
Ultimately, culture plays a critical role in the attitude of any business and its staff. The better supported the staff of any organisation feel, the higher the chance of a tangibly better customer experience. The fact that First National has now won Canstar Blue’s ‘Most Satisfied Customers’ award twice shows its approach prioritises the total customer experience.