As any professional in the industry would attest to, real estate is not a nine-to-five proposition. Real estate is a 24/7 commitment, which is now only compounded by the digital age and technology our customers have access to.
When I moved into the role of chief operating officer with Stockdale & Leggo, we had not fully embraced the digital age and all it had to offer. We were running on multiple independent systems which created a lot of manual work, wasted hours and a lag in productivity for our franchisees.
The custom-built platform we implemented included mail migration, a dedicated marketing portal, website, CRM and intranet which gave our franchisees the tools, capabilities and resources to drive their own businesses without limit. We put everything online so they could service their clients 24/7, which reduced our response time by approximately 20 per cent.
The impact has been that we’ve created a higher level of independence and autonomy for each of our franchisees. They can access marketing tools at any time, build their own personalised web presence on the website, showcase their listings, have access to all business, recruitment, HR, IT, training and other resources through the intranet, which means that they don’t necessarily have to grow their business within normal business hours as we know that most real estate professionals don’t clock off at 5pm.
Rolling out a project of this scope is not without its challenges. There are certainly some common mistakes made when introducing new technological systems to a business which can slow down profits in the early stages.
Here are my five tips to prevent this from happening:
1. Involve key stakeholders
People are often resistant to change, particularly when it involves learning a new way of doing things and this can slow down usage and therefore effectiveness of the new system.
I recommend involving franchisees (or key stakeholders) from the outset. Share with them why it needs to happen, how it’s going to happen and the multiple ongoing benefits which are going to help them grow their business to ensure that stakeholders understand and have ownership over the implementation process.
We decided to communicate every step of the process so offices knew what to expect and when. If we ran into issues that prevented meeting a deadline, we told them.
We communicated to ensure transparency and to also keep our people updated so they didn’t ever feel confused. We communicated via Franchise Committee meetings, emails, phone calls, personal visits to offices and the intranet. We also sent updates via text for those who were regularly out on the road.
Most frustration stems from not know how to use something so training is paramount to rolling out any new system.
We held multiple training sessions on how to use the different elements of the new system, at Corporate, in offices and via the intranet where access to training videos were provided. This enabled people to learn at their own pace while also providing ongoing training to their teams which made uptake of the system more efficient.
4. Ongoing support
We didn’t have the knowledge base or resources at Corporate to implement a project of this magnitude alone. We engaged an external IT project management company to help identify the issues, define the solution and roll it out. We continued their involvement on an ongoing basis for our franchisees and their teams via a head office IT support desk to ensure that they had a point of contact for any issues which arose.
5. Take baby steps
Trying to implement a new system all at once can be a massive misstep. There are so many moving parts and to try to incorporate it into multiple offices without interrupting the everyday flow of business can be problematic.
We realised very early on that we would need to do it in steps. It was broken down into a manageable process that made it easier to roll out and control without overwhelming our offices.
Taking small steps consistently was what helped us roll out a 2.5 year project in 12 months without any major headaches.
Today, customer service is all about mobility and agility and by embracing technologies, our business has been able to increase our service levels and reduce response time, leaving a trail of happy customers and solid relationships in its wake.
Anna Thomas is the COO of Stockdale & Leggo.