The post-credit crunch fallout was notoriously difficult for estate agents, as market values plummeted by a third between 2008-10.
Thankfully, this downward trend has since reversed. According to UK estimates from IBISWorld, the industry is now undergoing a sustained period of recovery. Compound annual growth rates for 2011-2016 are expected to hit 4.6%, with residential sales being a key factor.
This renewed stability has allowed agencies to begin focussing on the future again. Specifically, companies in the property sector are now looking to embrace newer technologies to help them remain competitive, and to continue to meet both the demands of customers and of the changing marketplace.
Hosted Telephony in particular is one technology that is helping agencies across the UK do just this.
A Fully-Integrated Communications Strategy
Central to any service-based industry is communication. This goes for internal comms as well as dialogue with clients. Horizon’s hosted telephone system is empowering users in ways that traditional systems can only dream of, and estate agents have been embracing the technology to improve customer service and boost collaboration between team members.
Essentially, a ‘hosted’ system is a phone system hosted in a data centre in the Cloud, meaning all communications are handled by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). There is no physical phone system hardware in your office at all, except for any deskphones you require. Staff can be assigned a single contact number, transferrable between deskphones and mobile devices, ensuring that they remain contactable whether in the office or showing people around a property. This eliminates a major pain point for clients who require instant communication and quick answers. Most agents will currently be using their mobile phones during viewings and visits, but their phones may not be linked to the central phone system. Horizon has a very handy app for Android or iOS that links a mobile to a main business phone system easily and immediately, making everything centralised and unified.
Naturally, estate agents are always on the move and Business VoIP can empower mobile workforces, bringing together all communications in one platform. It allows staff incredible freedom and flexibility, enabling stronger customer relations to be built. Additionally, Horizon’s system can integrate with a company’s CRM system or with email clients like Outlook. It comes with Call Recording as standard- which many traditional phone systems require you to pay separately for as an additional service. For employees who are extremely mobile, there is also voicemail-to-email conversion, perfect for still picking up urgent messages if you are too time bound to listen to the message. Really, Horizon allows employees of businesses where travel and being out of the office is a part of daily life, an in-office experience via a mobile device.
With intuitive call-forwarding and diverting also available, staff can work from any location, with no need to have somebody permanently pinned to a desk to answer office calls, allowing agents to undertake viewings or attend appointments at short notice.
Ease of Expansion
Versatility is one of the primary benefits of a hosted system, enabling you to tailor the platform to your specific business needs. For example, if you open a new branch, it can be instantly added to your network. Usually, rolling a new phone system out into new premises takes time, which has to be factored into when a new office can open. With a hosted phone system, you could be up and running in a matter of one or two working days. You also pay for the phone system on a licence per-user basis, so new users are added easily and in a hassle-free way.
Furthermore, in the event of a crisis (such as a power cut), calls can be immediately redirected to mobiles or to sister branches, ensuring business continuity while the matter is resolved. All of this can be monitored from a single portal, giving management complete control of business operations at all times.
Finally, the lack of onsite hardware dramatically reduces installation and maintenance costs, resulting in the ability to shift to an operational expenditure model, rather than a Cap-ex model, and productivity is greatly improved with Horizon’s efficiency and reliability.
The Time Is Now
As an increasing number of agencies make the switch to hosted telephony, it will become necessary to keep up, especially with BT planning to abandon ISDN lines (the traditional digital network) by 2025. Moreover, as landline prices continue to rise, Hosted Telephony offers a future-proof solution with significantly lower costs.
It might seem daunting to make the move over to the Cloud, but so many other services and applications are being virtualised now, like Office 365, accounting programmes, CRM systems and security services that telephony is a natural progression of this trend.
The beauty of Hosted is that it’s extremely easy to roll out across your company, with simple features and user portals to give you that extra sense of control you might be craving.
While British agents have been more proactive in embracing ‘proptech’ (property technology) than American counterparts, there is a growing concern that more needs to be done in order to survive; the capabilities of the Cloud (and the Internet in general) can only help with this. Whilst aggregator sites are popular and user-friendly, what they lack is the human factor, and this can only be delivered personally by an Agent. Having the best communications technology to hand will help ensure that you’re well placed to deliver the very best in customer service, offering that personal touch that eventually converts into sales.
In short, as the real estate industry evolves, Hosted Telephony can help you to grow and succeed by ultimately making you more responsive, productive and collaborative.
If you’d like to learn more about Horizon’s Hosted Telephony and how it can benefit your business, please contact us today.