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lettings agency

2014

SPONSORED BY

The 2014 Judges’ Report


lettings agency

Contents A Message from the Chairman of the Judging Panel

1

A Message from the Organisers

1

Lettings Agency of the Year 2014

2

Best Northern Ireland Agency

3

Best Scotland Agency

4

Best Wales Agency

5

Best Large Agency

8

Best Medium Agency

10

Best Small Agency

10

Best Single Office Agency

10

Best London Agency

12

Best East of England Agency

14

Best Midlands Agency

16

Best Northern Agency

18

Best South East Agency

20

Best South West Agency

22

Best Property Management Agency

24

Best Prestige

32

Best Customer Service

34

Best Franchise

38

Best Innovation

40

Best Marketing

42

Outstanding Contribution

44

Best Block Management

46

Best Newcomer

48

Best Student Lettings Agency

50

Best Supplier

52

Individual Negotiator

53

Individual Branch Manager

53

Individual Property Manager

54

Individual Relocation Agent

54

Best Website

56

Best Social Media

58

Best Training & Development

60

Best Relocation Agency

62

2014

SPONSORED BY


A Message from the Organisers Those of you who have entered and supported these awards for a number of years will know that the lettings categories were originally included as part of The Estate Agency of the Year Awards. Five years ago, we took the decision to give lettings teams nationwide the individual recognition they deserve and The Lettings Agency of the Year Awards were born. Every year it becomes ever more clear that this was the right decision. Even though I play no part whatsoever in the judging process, I am told by members of the panel that the standard is higher than ever. Those who have judged previously told me that their job gets harder every year, whilst the new judges were surprised and impressed, not only with the standards of agencies they were asked to scrutinize but with the rigour of the judging process itself. Without exception, every company which entered should be congratulated on putting itself forward for scrutiny; that they do so is cause enough for celebration, and whilst I congratulate those agencies who have won, I would also like to thank those companies who perhaps weren’t publicly awarded. I am assured by Christopher Hamer that it can often be a fine line between those who won an award, and those who unfortunately haven’t. The standards across the board are exemplary which can only mean great things for landlords and tenants nationwide. Well done to you all. Peter Knight Chairman, Estate Agent Events

A Message from the Chairman of the Judges With an increasing number of entries each year the judges make a huge commitment to examining every submission and in making follow up telephone enquiries. The judging panel has a wide range of experience of the lettings industry either as a past or present practising agent or otherwise as actively connected with the sector.

This year the panel has a mix of new judges and those who have previously been involved thereby ensuring consistency of approach from previous years. Each year the individual judges provide feedback on the process so that it can be fine-tuned and be subject to continuing development. In the main part of this report you will find a list of those individual judges but I must emphasise that decision on awards is made by the entire panel after consideration of the information presented by the particular judge for each category. You will also see an explanation of why a particular agent attained the Gold, Silver or (where relevant) Bronze award with the aim of showing how their practice might help you develop your procedures. My thanks to the judges for their hard work and lively discussions during the panel meetings, and my congratulations to the winners! Christopher J Hamer Chairman of Judges


LL WINN ERA ER V O

lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Best Letting Agency OVERALL WINNER Castledene Castledene is unique in the industry. The offices are based in former colliery towns, areas which can be viewed as deprived when compared nationally, with a higher than average proportion of housing association tenants. Where many agents and landlords tend to shy away from this demographic, Castledene embraces it and looks for ways it can improve the lives of its clients. Operating at the coalface of social deprivation, John Paul and his team understand their work can be challenging but face this head on, constantly evolving the business and offerings to meet the requirements of a diverse section of the population in a sympathetic and empathetic manner. They spent time building relationships with local housing associations and hostels in order to garner trust and respect from tenants, both current and potential. They work with the HA’s to devise schemes and initiatives to help tenants move out of social housing and into private rentals, and once these are established with robust systems, they use these protocols to recruit more private landlords and encourage them to consider letting their properties to social housing tenants. Due to Castledene’s links with local charities, and John Paul’s regular appearances on television and radio as an advocate and commentator on the UK’s social housing problems, landlords see this agency as expert and are confident in allowing Castledene to let their portfolio to social housing tenants. It has also meant they’ve been contacted by other leading agencies seeking advice as to issues they may be experiencing in this sector. The breadth and variety of initiatives is breathtaking. Their Rent to Own scheme is for landlords who have high borrowings against their properties and therefore cannot afford to sell them, and tenants who have the desire to buy but may struggle to secure a mortgage due to low credit ratings. Tenants agree to rent the property long-term, say 5-10 years, and pay a set rent for the term alongside a top up which they use at the end against the pre-agreed value of the property. The landlords sell for a profit, and the tenants can become homeowners. They now have a number of properties under this scheme. They have worked with HomeLet to devise a rental guarantee scheme for HA tenants enabling them to become more attractive to landlords; they have managed to retain 100% of their landlords who are invested in this. Staff are expected to work hard but can also expect excellent rewards and opportunities. Castledene is recognised as an Investor in People and the team can expect thorough training via the Castledene Academy. They are also given flexibility to develop non-agency specific skills such as one negotiator who is retraining as a social worker. They are using her growing expertise to help their clients whilst allowing her time off to study. This focus on training and development is also extended to their tenants: they started a charity called North East Support Housing which helps tenants up skill, improving their confidence and motivation. Many of the Castledene team has become accredited trainers themselves and they run regular sessions for their clients to help them with much needed skills such as cv writing, interview techniques and managing finances. They are also able to refer clients who need help to debt and addiction counselors.

2

The panel is delighted to reward this agency for its efforts and achievements. It has managed to combine a profitable business with social enterprise and as a model operates almost entirely through helping others. The team works extremely hard to help people and imbue them with confidence and hope, and almost everything the judges saw exceeded expectations.


Best Northern Ireland Letting Agency Pinkerton Murray Gold winners in 2013, Pinkerton Murray is an excellent agency. Offering a full range of services under one roof including finance and refurbishment advice, they’ve allocated a designated area in-branch with tablets available for client usage. The overriding ethos is, “honesty, openness and transparency”, and the entire team believe that the quality of service shines through in the attention to detail, which they strive to achieve through every interaction. Principal Victoria Pinkerton is extremely knowledgeable and she places great importance on her team; recruitment is stringent with a thorough interview process but employees can rest assured that they will be looked after and well rewarded for hard work and dedication through an excellent training programme, higher than average salary and generous commission structure. Landlords and tenants enjoy a transparent service and the introduction of paperless inventory makes it easier for them to access their records but also frees up the team to focus on what they do best – customer service. With numerous examples of above-and-beyond customer care, Pinkerton Murray proved itself to be an impressive company which wants clients to remember the team and the service they received.

GOC Estate Agent

GOLD

northern ireland lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

With combined experience of over 60 years, GOC Estates is a force to be reckoned with. The directors have worked hard to ensure that they successfully marry up the longstanding heritage of their business with modern systems and processes and a fresh approach. This in turn informs the team behavior and each individual works to a high standard based on impeccable but friendly service. As a small agency they are able to offer a very personal and tailored service and they feel they have a duty of care to all stakeholders so both tenants and landlords can feel confident they will receive the same exacting standards of service. Weekly team meetings keep the staff up to date with industry legislation and market trends and there is clear emphasis on on-the-job training and an open door policy for all, which has resulted in an impressively low staff attrition rate. IT systems are robust and imaginatively utilised and they combine this with strong networking in the local community – GOC are well respected and well liked.

3


GOLD

scotland lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

4

Best Scotland Letting Agency Clyde Property The judges’ view was that this agency is a class act. A healthy profit margin is driven by customer service led opening hours and a reputation in its areas of operation as the agency to go to. Open for 11.5 hours per day, seven days a week, both landlords and tenants can be confident of dealing with experienced and hardworking people who are led from the top by hands-on directors. Not afraid to break the mould, they seek to innovate and one particularly impressive initiative is their MyClyde tool which gives total information transparency to landlords; this has the double benefit of imbuing landlords with confidence that they can keep abreast of developments at any stage and also frees up the team to work on what they do best – offering the personal touch. Without exception all properties are inspected every two months; this has resulted in extremely low dispute levels during vacation and an increase in landlord retention. Bonuses are shared amongst the team on a pro rata basis so everyone is fully invested in ensuring that targets are not only met but exceeded and the team enjoy excellent training.

1Let 1Let is a single office enterprise that has made leaps and bounds in its financial growth over the past 12 months. The directors pride themselves on their communication skills and have worked hard to build a transparent and open business across all areas. This is especially true of the financial side as all figures are shared with the team so they can feel confident they’re working for a wellfunded and secure business – the directors believe this approach offers job security and also encourages the team to become invested as they can see the tangible outcome of their actions. Training is excellent as is the rewards and remuneration structure with a focus on gathering and analysing feedback so they can act on this accordingly where necessary and promote their exceptional reviews. Well respected in the local area, the judges were impressed by the team’s participation in their community and it was clear that this directly impacts the excellent reputation of 1Let.

Rettie & Co Rettie & Co is an agency that spends time thinking outside the box to offer its customers a superlative experience from start to finish. In addition to the norm, the directors have retained a solicitor in-house for client services and whom also carries out training and offers advice to the negotiators. This enables them to respond quickly and confidently to any and all legal questions which might be asked, and client feedback indicates this has been extremely well received. Another interesting innovation is the in-house research team who leverage their findings to inform the marketing activity. The website is the principal marketing tool and is constantly updated with new information, market trends and instructions so not only does it keep customers informed but also acts as another method of proving Rettie & Co’s lettings expertise. Fully compliant, this agency takes regulation seriously and works hard to do its bit for improving standards and the reputation of the industry.


Best Wales Letting Agency Peter Alan Peter Alan proved at every stage of the judging process that it is a deserving gold winner and the judges were delighted to see the continued desire to improve on the sky-high standards which won this agency the gold award in 2013 as well. Highlights range from a “Pay Day” rent guarantee scheme which has proved itself to be a winner wth landlords, to the introduction of MAZE technology which is used by Norwegian banks and companies such as SpecSavers, and the staff benefits are also excellent. The directors recognise the importance of interaction and spend a significant amount of time ensuring that all parties feel valued and respected from external contractors to the Peter Alan team and most importantly, the customers. They have implemented service level agreements with contractors which must be adhered to in order to continue the relationship and the team are measured against a number of KPI’s and rewarded according to these being met. The average length of service for the key team is over 20 years and the recruitment policy is designed to complement these experienced hands with new people who can be trained up to Peter Alan’s exacting standards.

Dawsons In a competitive category the panel were pleased to see this agency jump from a bronze awards last year to silver this year; proof that the entire team are striving to exceed customer expectations across the board. The judges found the customer service standards were outstanding and there was clear evidence to show that the team act in the best interests of the clients both when working as individuals and as part of the wider team. One great example was a gentleman with mobility issues who found it difficult to view properties so the negotiator took his wife on the viewings and filmed them on an iPad which they then took home to him so he could feel involved in the process. The staff appear to embrace training and there is an impressive take up of both technical training and ‘soft skills’ courses with debriefing in the office afterwards to share the experience with the rest of the team. The MD meets regularly with his managers so the senior team is fully apprised of any developments with relevant updates distilled down to the rest of the employees.

Harry Harper

GOLD

wales lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Run by a young and energetic director, this is a family-run and family-friendly organisation with an impressive customer focus and a strong handle on the financials. There is heavy control of branch standards and the directors work hard to maintain consistency across the offices which they do well whilst managing to give their team autonomy with decision making. This confidence in their team is well placed and they work hard to get recruitment right in the first place. Staff can in turn expect a flexible working environment with excellent rewards. The overriding driving force at this company is to offer great service every day and there is a belief that by starting with this straightforward ethos that every aspect of customer interaction will then be thoughtful and high quality. Profits have increased year on year and the extensive and slick marketing is based on a strong foundation of doing what they say they will. Customers are in safe hands with this exuberant team.

5


lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Foxtons Foxtons is a great example of a business that leverages its size for the benefit of all parties, and there were numerous examples of excellent customer service. Recruitment is taken extremely seriously – all senior management are promoted from within – they don’t recruit for these positions externally, and the average length of service for these people is seven years. Training is ongoing and thorough and everyone undergoes the same training whether a junior negotiator or senior partner. This way they can be sure that they provide consistency of service, knowledge and the Foxtons standards at all times. All staff are full time which also helps with the relationship management and tenants and landlords are treated with the same level of priority. Communication between the branches is excellent and enables the team to offer cross-London options for those not fixed on a certain location. They also offer extensive online services which enables landlords and tenants to access their files 24 hours a day. These are also used to automate as many services as possible so the team can concentrate on building relationships and offering personal service.

Reeds Rains

GOLD

SILVER

As a franchise model, Reeds Rains leverages its position to combine the best of services that a large corporation can offer with small independent agency work. It offers extended opening hours and second viewings are encouraged where appropriate so tenants can spend time making a decision and don’t feel rushed. Additional time is also spent with first-time renters to ensure they fully understand the contracts and their obligations as tenants. This has reduced problems during tenancies and also during vacation and the number of complaints has dramatically reduced. A dedicated management centre offers seamless service to both landlords and tenants as all the staff are fully apprised of each persons file through the online systems and can help immediately. There is a culture of personal accountability at Reeds Rains so every employee takes full responsibility for every client interaction they participate in. The directors are hands on and remain fully involved with the business at grass roots level; every branch is audited quarterly and they value their team, rewarding them well with bonuses, incentive trips and excellent training provision.

Countrywide BRONZE

8

For an agency of this size, the passion of the senior team is refreshing. Countrywide is perpetually successful in this category and this is because it demonstrates every year that it strives to evolve its business through innovation and a consistent approach. Full colour reports are produced to show the property condition and these are then used to highlight potential areas that require attention or repair. A significant proportion of new tenants are foreign nationals and the team speaks 12 different languages to accommodate their requirements and make them feel more comfortable and confident in their understanding of the complexities of contracts etc. The directors focus on maintaining an upbeat atmosphere for the staff and they carry out regular surveys through which people can voice concerns and also highlight best practice and personal achievements. The MD also visits each branch regularly so he can speak to the teams personally - he believes this approach facilitates an open door policy so they in turn feel comfortable approaching him. All of these initiatives work together to create a happy team who deliver exceptional customer service.


Best UK Large Letting Agency

9


lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Castledene Castledene operates in an area with a high proportion of local housing association tenants. Former colliery towns, these areas have seen hard times but John Paul and his team embrace the area and culture and look for ways in which they can help and empower the residents. They have spent a significant amount of time seeking innovative ways to do this and demonstrate sensitivity and understanding at all times. Their rental guarantee scheme, devised for tenants, is proving successful as it helps social housing tenants become more attractive to landlords and is has also improved rentention rates of both parties. The team is valued highly and trained in a number of ways and via a number of courses with many agents also qualifying as accredited trainers. Every 6 weeks or so they run sessions on employability for tenants which covers budgeting, interview techniques and cv writing; they can also help with access to debt and addiction counselors where necessary. John Paul and his team are proud to work in a tough area and the judges feel they fully deserve this award.

MyLondonHome GOLD

GOLD

The number of services on offer to clients is very impressive indeed and MyLondonHome seeks to look beyond the norm in order to stay above the competition. The directors have spent time on their systems and processes as their desire is to offer a lifetime service to clients who can rest assured it will be seamless from start to finish. Many of their resources have been brought in-house to set and maintain control and speed of response. Cleaning is now offered as part of the managed service proposition with extremely high take up from landlords who like the comfort of knowing the property will be maintained to a high standard throughout the tenancy. This has also reduced cleaning complaints to zero at vacation and speeds up turnaround time for the new tenants to move in. The MyLondonHome Academy offers training for staff on various different topics and there is a focus on training and retaining highly skilled staff; all Property Managers are qualified to BTEC Level 4 in Residential Letting and Management.

Best UK GOLD

10

College & County The ethos at College & County is, “One office. One team. One Ethical Mission� and they use this ideal as the foundation for every activity. The director views the staff as part of his customer base and treats them accordingly. They are all very clear as to the implications, rights, and responsibilities for all parties and therefore find that staff, landlords and tenants appreciate the services on offer. There is a strong commitment to honesty and integrity and the team feels valued due to the heavy investment in its development, both in terms of training and also financial reward. The non-commission based pay structure ensures everyone works to the same goals as they all profit share. Clever and considered use of social media and online has resulted in high levels of new business whilst also increasing rentention rates of landlords and repeat tenants as they are kept informed of new developments and initiatives.


Best UK Medium Letting Agency

Best UK Small Letting Agency

Single Office Letting Agency

11


GOLD

london lettings agency

Martyn Gerrard medium agency

Family-run Martyn Gerrard has really nailed its business offering. Providing very strong evidence of best practice in the written submission, this agency enjoys high market share in key operating areas. All staff possess technical qualifications and new starters must sit their exams within six months of joining. Having recently celebrated its 50th anniversary this is an illuminating example of a business which has expanded whilst maintaining high professional standards. This anniversary has seen lots of celebrations which have been inclusive and well publicised, so landlords and tenants are aware of its illustrious history. The directors have implemented KPIs which are monitored regularly across any measurable activity. Mystery shops are used frequently and the results are openly shared with the team for the improvement of all.

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

Edmund Cude medium agency

GOLD

SILVER

SILVER GOLD

Edmund Cude provides a one-stop shop for lettings requirements in London. 60% of its tenants have migrated in from outside of London so the marketing department has produced a number of research guides which are proving invaluable. The negotiators spend a lot of time with tenants at first meeting in order to fully understand their requirements and lifestyle, and they offer a flexible fee structure to landlords. They also run Landlords’ Workshops with external speakers appearing and are getting ca. 200 landlords attending each one. The lettings teams work with the sales office to retain landlords selling stock, and they run an Investors’ Club for investor landlords. Customer service is very good; one example was a tenant who tweeted late after locking herself out. The tweet was picked up, referred to the manager and she was back in her property within 30 minutes of the original tweet.

Jones Lang LaSalle SILVER

SILVER

12

medium agency

The panel was very impressed at the level of service offered by the residential lettings arm of this organisation. 70% of its landlords are based overseas so one of the team has relocated to Hong Kong in order to provide a face-to-face presence on the ground. The service levels have led to high retention of both landlords and tenants, and repeat tenants are offered discounted fees to incentivise them further to stay with this agency. The team is a happy one and it has never lost a member of staff to a competitor. Use of technology is thoughtful and the systems used are strong and proven. The director believes the team works hard to be adaptable and fluid so they can react to changes and issues with a minimum of fuss, and there are numerous examples of added value transactions and upselling such as tenants who have become landlords and use JLL to manage their properties.


Best London Lettings Agency MyLondonHome

Paramount Lettings

This business comes up with ideas that caused the judges to wonder why their practices aren’t being adopted by agencies nationwide. The level of innovation is outstanding and impressive and much of the services are in-house in order to maintain quality control and costs. The effusive team builds relationships with concierges and porters in blocks they manage, and this personal contact means that any issues are communicated and resolved promptly. The growth over the last 12 months has been formidable and this is due in part to the Managing Director’s attention to detail which he distils down to the team. The in-house Inventory Services team ensures continuity in inspections and they also carry out six monthly inspections and pre-check out consultations. As the clerk meets the tenants 10 days before check-out, they can minimise last minute issues and delays and also advise landlords of repairs required prior to the new tenancy commencing.

The MD of Paramount represents the staff absolutely and believes that his attitude and behaviour influences the team and therefore in turn, influences the business. They value the links with their local community and work hard to maintain these via a number of initiatives from acting as a drop off point for the local foodbank, to distributing loyalty cards. They have also started offering a concierge service so tenants can have deliveries made to the Paramount office. They adhere to strict rules and timelines for maintenance and repair, making sure that any discount they receive is passed on to the client. Client contact is regular, meaningful and relevant; there is no “scatter gun” approach at this company. Tenants and landlords alike can expect cards and gifts for special occasions from birthdays to weddings and new babies. In a competitive location, Paramount is impressive.

small agency

single office agency

Coopers Lettings small agency

The judges found Coopers to be professional, trustworthy and keen. The focus on process is sharp and the directors spend time looking at this regularly to amend as and when necessary. They set stringent standards for their staff which must be adhered to. Staff retention is excellent and there is a tangible sense of trust and responsibility. The team is incentivised on the results of customer reviews and they’re encouraged to seek new ways to exceed expectation of landlords and tenants. Open evenings run in conjunction with one of the major banks are well received and making strides for Coopers being seen as an authority. All involved at Coopers are clearly working hard at getting things right; they’re open-minded about new ideas and they make them work. It was clear that service is front and centre and they’re doing all the right things and more. Impressive.

Orchards of London small agency

This company has seen its turnover nearly double over the past 12 months and it was crystal clear to the panel as to how this has been achieved. The directors have developed their services to handle every aspect of lettings. Without exception, the lettings management team has been cultivated and promoted from within so their expertise and understanding of the Orchards culture is second to none. Their aim is very clear; they want to make clients’ lives easier through great communication and finely honed processes to provide peace of mind. There is a disciplined approach to canvassing and marketing activity and a bespoke software system automates a proportion of this, saving time. The team has set out to build great relationships with blue chip companies and relocation agencies via which they manage to let a number of their high end properties. New tenants are given a “Happy Box” on moving day which contains a number of useful and thoughtful items sourced locally through trusted suppliers.

Vanet Property Asset Mgt single office agency

Vanet is clearly going all out to grow its managed portfolio. Fees are not requested upfront but rather monthly in arrears giving clients breathing space and also ensuring Vanet is incentivised to make sure rents are paid on time. The arrears rate is rock bottom and void periods are also extremely low. Company values are clearly set out and the director and senior team use these to recruit against and reward against as well. The Managing Director is working hard to drive capital value - he is applying the lessons of his MBA to the business and sees his role, and that of the entire management team, as one of support and guidance, not control. The multilingual staff operate with autonomy and are encouraged to make decisions and act proactively and decisively. The culture is warm and friendly and both clients and staff alike can feel this through every interaction.

13


GOLD

east of england lettings agency

Intercounty medium agency

In a very well run business, the directors are extremely forward thinking in their approach and seek to keep the team informed of any pertinent developments and news. They make an effort to maintain a presence at all levels and work at the coalface of agency every Friday, the MD and director spend time on customer care calls, the results of which they then relay back to their staff in training sessions, with great feedback being rewarded. Rewards are wide ranging and are chosen because the both incentivise the staff and are fun. There is a strong focus on corporate social responsibility and each member of staff is allowed one day per year to engage with the community and work with a charity of their choice. The agency enjoys an established and trusted presence in the community and this is reflected in the bottom line, retention rate and recommendations.

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

Balgores

medium agency

GOLD

SILVER

SILVER GOLD

14

Balgores is a truly outstanding agency which concentrates equally on both tenants and landlords. The dedicated team works hard to proactively search for suitable properties and instructions and this approach means they are seen as an agency that goes above and beyond by landlords. This view is by no means limited to landlords though; the judges found it to be as well respected by tenants with many staying as Balgores clients through different moves. The Balgores team spend a lot of their time qualifying tenants and matching them with great properties which has increased retention and reduced void periods and complaints. Most of the staff are longstanding so are experienced with full buy-in to the Balgores visions and ethics which they communicate very well indeed – they do what they say they will. There were some top notch examples of customer service with ‘thinking outside the box’ solutions and ideas to stay ahead of the competition. Balgores is a slick and progressive operation with a blend of very experienced individuals.


Best East of England Lettings Agency Lenwell

Putterills

The Lenwell team works hard on their awareness of the marketplace and they evolve their service standards and offerings accordingly to give added value. Customers can therefore rest assured that they are in good hands. The systems are amazing and the directors have recently launched their bespoke “Callwell” system which has improved response times to enquiries from over 24 hours to under 5 minutes so they are extremely responsive. This is coupled with a fun and friendly brand and personality, embodied by the team so the automation of processes goes hand-in-hand with the personal touch. Staff are incentivised well and communication is excellent, both internally and through their impressive and slick marketing materials. An innovative agency working hard for the good of the client.

The staff at Putterills is absolutely paramount to the success of the business. The owner absolutely values his people and has cultivated a culture of incentive and reward for hard work. This is rewarded in turn with absolute loyalty and respect. The senior team is fully involved, and completely informed and enthusiastic about all aspects of the business – this attitude is filtered down to the team. The focus on systems and processes is strong and if they identify any areas where they can streamline or simplify for business benefit, they do it. The judge said she would use this agency if she lived in the area – there can be no higher praise.

small agency

single office agency

CXG Lettings

single office agency

Sewell & Gardner small agency

Anyone using Sewell & Gardner can expect to receive customer service that is out of this world. The passionate and dedicated team is excellent and without exception all are fully “up there” with every aspect of the business. The website is extremely interactive and provides both new and existing customers with a wealth of information not only with regards to Sewell & Gardner’s service but the lettings industry as a whole. Strong believers in PR and marketing, the directors fully understand that good PR needs to be grounded in reality and they work hard to ensure that they have some great deeds and news to publicise. They encourage the team to have a presence in the local community and there are numerous examples of employees raising money and actively participating in local events and charitable initiatives. In an agency of this standard, one question can be how to keep ahead of the competitors and there is no question that they manage this.

CXG was founded 8 years ago by successful local property investors who have utilised their grassroots understanding to great effect. CXG is a committed and positive company with a team dedicated to the customer experience. They understand the importance of new business acquisition but this is sought sympathetically to ensure that plenty of attention is paid to existing tenants and landlords to ensure they feel looked after. They’re not afraid to use their experience and contacts for the good of the business; one recent innovation is the acquisition of a derelict pub which they have completely refurbished as their new office. This has refreshed the High Street and invigorated the team but has also doubled in value which can only be good for the bottom line. Training is excellent as is the marketing, and this agency is fully regulated and compliant.

Penningtons

single office agency – shortlisted

15


GOLD

midlands lettings agency

Goodchilds medium agency

Goodchilds is all about service and control of experience. It offers a 100% no quibble rent guarantee scheme included within the fees so if a tenant goes over 14 days in arrears, Goodchilds pays the landlord directly then seeks to recover the costs in its own time saving the landlord time and hassle. This also allows the team to spot early warning signs with tenants and means they can work with them to exit the tenancy and take something more affordable if necessary. They work hard to imbue confidence; another great idea is the “Be a Good Neighbour� initiative whereby if a property goes up for letting, they contact the neighbours around the property in order to keep them informed and onside with the new tenants. The directors recruit staff and franchisees who want a career as opposed to a job and offer flexibility and reward, recently enabling a young employee to become a franchise owner rather than lose them to the competition.

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

GOLD

GOLD

16

SILVER

SILVER


Best Midlands Lettings Agency Acquire

Cavendish Lettings

This agency has been built on a strong foundation by a switched on group of people. The team at Acquire exudes a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for the task at hand, whether photographing properties or calling prospects. Innovation is at the core of this company and they apply this to the business itself and to their community involvement; both of which are exemplary. Opening hours are extensive with valuations carried out from 7am until 10pm if required. Viewings are offered via Skype and Facetime as well as accompanied in person which has resulted in higher numbers of tenants using Acquire due to the flexibility they can offer. They have retained over 95% of their business over the past five years - proof their methods are working. The panel is extremely pleased to reward their increased hard work and effort with the gold award this year.

Having won the silver in this category last year, the directors at Cavendish were very clear that they have sought to learn from and build on this experience. With this in mind, they’ve worked hard to improve even further, starting with an enhanced recruitment process and a more stringent training programme. They feel the business wouldn’t be what it was if not for the calibre of the team and it was clear to the judges this is not just lip service; the rewards scheme and promotion structure are excellent. Their mission is simple – to provide tenants with an enjoyable home in a manner that empowers landlords. Customer surveys are carried out regularly with formal structures in place to analyse the results and action changes in a timely and communicative manner. A call recording system has been implemented and is proving invaluable; on the back of this, the directors have amended the training manual with very positive results.

small agency

single office agency

Premier Places single office agency

Jayman

small agency Jayman is an agency that continues to impress, winning it an award in this category yet again. Client contact is key; the team wants to give all clients peace of mind that they’re in safe and efficient hands. They have implemented resilient and varied systems and processes and are growing the brand recognition via multiple channels from welcome packs and loyalty cards to involvement with the local Chamber of Commerce. The director also appears on radio as a commentator on market changes so landlords and tenants have a sense they are dealing with an authoritative and knowledgeable individual and team. These activities ensure Jayman is at the forefront of peoples’ minds. The MD is continuously developing his people and investigates ways in which he can challenge them, and encourage them to stretch themselves. A worthy winner.

Over the past 12 months Premier Places has accelerated its ambitious growth plan and cemented its position as the market leader in Worcestershire. Operating in a competitive marketplace, it has defied the doom and gloom of the financial climate and increased the number of properties and rooms let by over a third in the past 12 months – an impressive increase for a single office agency. The Chief Executive’s policy of investment and re-investment makes it stand out from other regional single offices in the Midlands and is underpinned by her commitment to staff development, systems, technology and unrivalled PR. The CEO herself has climbed the ranks from accounts to her current position – proof of how this company supports the careers of its people. Accompanied viewings are carried out 7 days a week, including bank holidays, and they operate a successful referral scheme for word of mouth recommendations for both landlords and tenants. Offering a group of unique service options, Premier Places is a serious contender.

17


GOLD

northern lettings agency

Castledene medium agency

The judges commented that they were blown away by this agency. What they do in terms of best practice is excellent and should serve as a benchmark for the rest of the industry. Operating in a location which can be difficult, the team recognises the importance of supporting the different types of landlord in their varied area, and have systems in place and training to support this. One example of this is that they now have 40 properties where the tenants rent for longer periods but at a lower rent to allow them to save for a deposit whilst they rent. A number of the team have qualified as accredited trainers to help tenants with employability skills; they also work closely with debt and addiction counselors so can recommend these when necessary. Fully committed to “putting something back”, this agency lives and breathes corporate social responsibility and it is more than playing its part in helping residents improve their lives and opportunities.

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

GOLD

SILVER

SILVER

GOLD

Sheffield Residential small agency – shortlisted

Redbrick Properties

single office agency – shortlisted

18


Best Northern Lettings Agency Preston Baker

Sugarhouse Properties

In a very strong category Preston Baker proved itself to be a terrifically well-rounded business - anyone using this agency will be in safe and capable hands. The directors absolutely believe in sharing with the team so they’re fully involved in the strategy and direction of the business, and they’re encouraged to share ideas with directors – the culture and environment is very open and transparent. All staff are put through a CPD programme as part of the detailed training schedule and can be sure of career progression opportunities as senior roles are filled from within. They are heavily involved with the local community and can often be seen supporting school arts and sport initiatives. Unafraid to implement new ideas, the directors spend time looking at the larger national agencies to see what they’re doing well and shape their offering around this – Preston Baker is a small, personal agency offering a great big service.

In a highly competitive category, this agency should be delighted with itself; the judges were extremely pleased to rewards its efforts with the gold. With a focus on students and young professionals the attitude and communication is well tailored to this audience. The team has an established presence across the social media platforms and uses social networking sites extremely well. The website is very good indeed and has a number of features expected by the young and tech savvy target audience. The directors value their staff and there is a very good mentoring scheme in place to develop negotiators into senior staff. As can be expected in student sharing tenancies, they are well versed in dispute resolution and manage to remedy any issues without legal recourse, so all parties come away happy with the results.

small agency

single office agency

Let-Leeds Karl Tatler small agency

Karl and his team have been successful in this category every year and the judges look forward each year to seeing what developments they have undertaken in a bid to stay ahead of the pack. Karl’s method is one of reassurance; he and his team tackle lettings with confidence and flair, an approach which has earned them a great reputation in their area. The customer service emphasis is not on ‘what’ but ‘how’ and they offer an impressive number of services delivered with polish. They work hard to build personal relationships with their client base and their feedback reflects the positivity with which they are viewed. Staff retention is very good indeed; all on the frontline are NFoPP qualified. Karl also provides in-house training outside the technical awards based on a number of softer skillsets; these courses are tailored to the individual’s requirements and interests. Karl Tatler is a professional operator getting the best from his team for the good of his clients.

single office agency Successful in this category in 2013, Let-Leeds has continued to strive for excellence and the award allocation in this category was extremely closely fought. Everyone at this agency is positive and helpful and work to ethical and stringent standards. They actively seek feedback and measure the responses to inform future practices and marketing campaigns. There is a real urge to demonstrate a dynamic and innovative approach to lettings and they are very vocal that they want to shake the market up. Staff are fully engaged in this philosophy and are well rewarded for their buy-in both financially and through a number of more informal incentives. The use of technology is well thought out and designed with the client in mind; the view is that anything implemented, whether a new website or a simple canvassing letter, must have direct and tangible client benefit.

19


GOLD

south east lettings agency

Sponsored by

GOLD

medium agency

Finders Keepers offer an end-to-end service with impressive end of tenancy turnarounds and extremely low void periods. It wants to offer the, “best properties and the best rents” and this core principal is the same now as it was when it started trading 30 years ago. Standards are maintained and measured by managers with weekly follow ups and a newly implemented dashboard on the back office system. This dashboard notifies staff each morning as to what check-ins are due, which properties are coming up for re-let and any activities that need to happen that day so nothing slips through the net. Maintenance is kept in-house as is the furnishing department so landlords and tenants feel secure that issues will be dealt with quickly and with the utmost control of standards. The directors at Finders Keepers believe that their business is not about low fees but providing good service through excellent and diligent staff. Their retention rates, managed occupancy percentage and arrears rates are all proof that this approach works. Well done.

2014

GOLD

Finders Keepers

SILVER

SILVER

GOLD

Red Door Homes

small agency – shortlisted

20


Best South East Lettings Agency Streets Ahead

College & County

It is obvious why Streets Ahead has done well with the awards in the past and yet continue to be successful. They say they’re the biggest personality in town and it was absolutely clear that this is the case. Unafraid to “put themselves out there”, they get involved with their local community and try different things in order to see how they get on. One example of this is the sponsorship of the local rock festival which they supported knowing there would be a high proportion of students in attendance. The directors have clear plans as to the future of the business and its growth and one way they measure success is to analyse the customer reviews and testimonials – once they’ve assessed the average they add on 10% as the target for the following year; no mean feat when you’re already at 90% success! The team is extremely close and this is communicated at interview so they can ensure new starters buy into this ethos and want to get involved – team participation is expected and encouraged and they are rewarded accordingly.

College & County is head and shoulders above its competitors. The quality was fantastic – the effusive MD knows his stuff. This agency takes simple yet fun ideas and makes them work, with high levels of buy-in from clients, and isn’t afraid to break the mould. The mystery shopping results were excellent with personal and tailored responses each time from a senior team member and were received promptly. Use of technology is clever and thoughtful irrespective of whether it’s a back office system or an online social media platform and the company values shine through. The energy from the team was infectious and the judges couldn’t help but be swept along by their ebullience, especially when they could see it is backed up by solid agency work and fantastic results.

small agency

single office agency

2-Move

small agency The MD at 2-Move is clearly seeking his point of difference and he places great importance on the figures; he goes through numbers and trends with a fine toothcomb in order to transform these into ideas and marketing pieces to improve the business. The standards of customer care are non negotiable and are clearly communicated to the team who understand what’s expected and why, through every element of business activity. Marketing is innovative with a fresh look and feel, and the results of any campaign are measured. The recent spring clean campaign was aimed at generating new business leads and bought a 25% increase in enquiries. The processes and due diligence is thorough; an applicant recently passed referencing but the staff felt something was amiss and upon further digging found there was £5,000 outstanding in previous rental arrears. They have invested hugely in their team, office refurbishment and technology.

ISIS Residential Homes single office agency

The team at Isis understands the requirement for adaptability. They clearly work very hard on finding new ways to offer extended services to their clients for added value, which at the same time benefit all parties. One idea the judges liked was them working with tenants on less formal inspections but on a more regular basis. This seems to be paying off with fewer issues reported at tenancy end and increased retention of good tenants. This has also had the knock-on effect of increased word of mouth referrals leading to to more instructions and increased renewals. The team are kept fully apprised of developments and participate in a profit share scheme so they all buy-in to the company’s vision and direction. The director believes he and his team are doing their bit to improve the perception of the industry by providing good solid agency work.

21


GOLD

south west lettings agency

Sponsored by

GOLD

GOLD

22

medium agency

Ocean Estates is head and shoulders above the competition. Every single partner and manager started as a trainee at Ocean and worked their way up so they know the company and the ethics inside out. The judges’ overriding feel was that this business is refreshingly old school in a very good way – this is an agency you would trust with your property. Established for over 30 years, Ocean strives to provide unique and bespoke service, which is customer focused and gives all parties an enjoyable lettings experience. They run Focus Groups with landlords and tenants and many of their services have been implemented as a direct result of the feedback from these whether showing tenants where the stopcock is or delivering welcome packs on moving day. There is a thriving culture of loyalty and motivation led by an inspirational MD. Many businesses would aspire to have a reputation to match Ocean’s – impressive.

2014

GOLD

Ocean Estates

SILVER

SILVER


Best South West Lettings Agency Intire

Sarah Kenny

This is a great business run by a team of very lovely and enthusiastic people. The agency is run around four central tenets; specialist, professional, informative and willing to go the extra mile. This philosophy is working as demonstrated by the growth rates and high levels of customer satisfaction; they’re winning new tenants and landlords every day. Investment and innovation is key and would be impressive in a business much larger than this one. In the first few months of this year alone they have opened a new office, launched a rebranded website, introduced their 21 Point Promise for landlords and the “Intirely Guaranteed” premium service, and given landlords access to online services via new technology. The aim is to offer an unrivalled service – team morale is sky high and the judges have every confidence that the people of the South West have access to a truly outstanding agency.

This company is doing everything it should be doing and more and the sense of enthusiasm imbued the judge with complete confidence. Since winning last year, the team has not rested on its laurels. They are still striving to be the best in their field. Realising that the industry in which they operate is constantly changing, with new agents opening all the time, they seek to innovate where they can but retain those solid services and standards which are working. As a result of this, they have rebranded and launched their new website to increase their competitive advantage and local market share. Three members of staff have become ARLA qualified with two more currently studying. Both landlord and tenancy contracts have been reworked and they are producing high quality and informative packs for tenants in response to customer feedback. As gold winners last year, this agency has done everything in its power to maintain and exceed its high standards.

Sawdye & Harris

Accredited Lettings

small agency

single office agency

Sawdye & Harris works with a whole range of lettings clients from rural to city and there is a sense that irrespective of who the client is, and what type of property they wish to let, all can rest assured they’re in confident and capable hands. Having opened in 1846, this family-run business has the best of both worlds; an illustrious heritage which they couple with the latest in technology and innovation. One item that they believe sets them apart is the creation of their own dedicated lettings software. Working closely with their cloud software provider, this system was implemented in direct response to feedback from their customer questionnaire and helps them manage the lettings process from start to finish. Every member of the team considers themselves to be the face of Sawdye & Harris and work with this in mind to ensure the reputation of this business is second to none.

Having been shortlisted previously for these awards, the team at Accredited Lettings has undertaken to implement improvements to their service and internal structures. As a company they offer outstanding customer service to both landlords and tenants and provide a memorable and enjoyable experience. They are confident that their level of service and transparency, combined with their knowledgeable and experienced team, ensures they offer their clients the best advice and service possible. The director is a strong believer in training and development, and participates personally in as many learning experiences as he can, as well as encouraging the team to attend courses. His vision is for his agency to fulfil its potential as the best local agent in the South West which landlords and tenants approach with confidence; they’re doing extremely well – the dedicated team does everything diligently and everything about them works.

small agency

single office agency

23


GOLD

property management lettings agency

Best Property Management Agency Reeds Rains 1001+ properties

2014 100

1+ properties

The team at Reeds Rains takes innovation to a new level, which for a business of this size impressed the panel. Systems are centralised and automation is in place where appropriate to effectively manage all branches and ensure consistency of service. The property management team is also centralised to support the client facing offices via a number of core specialists units so competencies are focused and used for best effect. The directors are very clear on the business strengths and weaknesses and also what action is needed to improve. They actively seek customer feedback via social media platforms, whether positive or negative, and the judges loved the honesty and passion of this approach; allowing landlords and tenants to publicly appraise their services is a bold move but it’s paying off as an open testament to a fantastic business.

Sponsored by

Countrywide 1001+ properties

GOLD

The property management team at Countrywide has a tough task as not only are they managing people and properties but also the numerous Countrywide brands. As a nationwide business, one difficulty they often face is the variety of languages and regional accents. To counter this, a new telecoms system has been implemented which recognises accents and routes the call through to a person with a similar accent or the same languages as the caller. This has reduced call queuing time and drop-offs and resulted in increased customer satisfaction as communication is much, much better. The directors have implemented new development programmes to train and motivate staff for the challenges of managing tens of thousands of properties nationwide – the training structure is exceptional with a constant focus on improving processes to ensure clients enjoy a great experience.

Your Move 1001+ properties

SILVER

SILVER

Your Move balances the legal requirements of landlords with high levels of customer service. The directors constantly look to improve and adapt their existing procedures as required to meet increased standards. They have created a property management centre called The Hub, which is able to provide support and information to staff, tenants and landlords. This has also enabled them to maintain better records on properties, with the ability to check the maintenance history of a property to advise the landlord as to what action is required. The teams hold regular lettings surgeries to explain technical information and legislative changes to landlords. They also hold training sessions for staff on new legislation and safety regulations. Your Move is a solid company that focuses on recruiting and keeping high quality staff offering innovative and informative customer service.

Finders Keepers 1001+ properties

BRONZE

24

Finders Keepers has impressive knowledge and is extremely passionate about the industry as a whole. There is a very high level of management engagement with the team and they focus on constant improvement. There is a culture of promoting from within and the property management team is encouraged to get involved with all areas of the business to ensure fluidity and consistency of service. It also enables each department to recommend others according to a landlord’s or tenant’s needs. They spend time cultivating relationships with contractors which makes them feel appreciated and it’s clear this mutual respect works well for clients as the contractors work quickly to resolve any issues. Processes are subject to tight controls however the team is given autonomy and freedom to make decisions, and software is used effectively to monitor and manage feedback levels and response times. Extremely low dispute rates, 99% rent collection and an occupancy rate of 99.2% proves they are doing a great job.


GOLD

property management lettings agency

Best Property Management Agency Pinkerton Murray 501-1000 properties

2014

501 -1000 properties

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Victoria Pinkerton and her team have built a significant base of landlords due to their honest, open and transparent service. The Pinkerton Murray proposition is all about quality, offering the warmth and traditional ease of a small business but combining this with big business thinking and unrivalled modern service. Landlord retention is practically 100% and new business mainly comes through recommendation. They continue to invest in technology and have recently implemented a new paperless inventory system. The website is fresh looking and easily navigable, and their systems and processes are very clearly laid out here alongside comprehensive landlord and tenant guides. This company is a high tech, high quality business with a team driven to exceed expectations every time. That Victoria and her team can manage this number of properties from a single office is proof of their hard work, dedication and focus and the judges believe Pinkerton Murray is strongly deserving of the gold award.

Streets Ahead 501-1000 properties

The directors at Streets Ahead took the decision this year to integrate the property management team into the business as a whole so their roles changed slightly from that of back office staff to client facing. As a result they are now more visible to the rest of the team and the clients and are working hard alongside the other departments to build the Streets Ahead reputation in the community. Motivation has improved as has staff retention. Led from the top by enthusiastic and ebullient directors, who are obsessed with customer feedback, the team use every tool at their disposal to provide outstanding property management. It was as a direct response to client comments that they recruited a customer services manager to run the property management department and help the existing managers offer added value services. This area is crucial to the business and they use a number of initiatives to help this department soar. Anyone using Streets Ahead to manage their portfolio is in very capable hands.

Paramount Lettings 501-1000 properties

Paramount is run on a foundation of thoughtful and durable processes designed to give landlords a professional and competent service which meet their requirements. They get the right person in the right property every time. Tenants also receive excellent service as the team goes out of its way to build a relationship with them prior to the tenancy commencing. Opening hours have been extended at clients’ request and an online system means issues can be logged and solved 24/7. The statistics speak for themselves; occupancy levels are sky high, void periods are low and nearly all maintenance issues are dealt with within 24 hours, with emergencies attended within one hour. Paramount offers a strong proposition with excellent communication across the board, whether via social media, a comprehensive brochure or face-to-face.

EweMove.com

501-1000 properties – shortlisted

26


GOLD

property management lettings agency

Best Property Management Agency Karl Tatler

201-500 properties

2014 201 -500 properties

Sponsored by

The property management department at this agency is well developed with a great combination of technology usage and the personal approach. Karl himself has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve and he shares this with his team whom he views as family. In turn, the staff are all very keen to develop along with the company and it is clear from the support Karl provides that he values them highly. In order to improve customer service, Karl has ensured that property managers have less managed stock to look after so they can use the extra time building good relationships with landlords and tenants. Managed stock levels have climbed by nearly 50% over the past two years and careful use of technology has ensured they maintain their high customer service standards through automation where appropriate, freeing up the staff to focus on the people.

W.A. Ellis GOLD

SILVER

201-500 properties W.A. Ellis is a great company with a clear vision for providing high levels of service in keeping with its reputation and history. Property Management is hands-on and the managers view themselves as consultants whose role is to advise and guide landlords and tenants. It is standard practice for them to produce product guides for each property containing key information ranging from the location of the stopcock to how to work the music system. They also work closely with landlords, suggesting improvement works to maximise their return on investment. Staff are given top level technology in order to allow them to work effectively, for example so they can receive alerts for any out of hours maintenance issues. The team is highly knowledgeable and passionate which is vital when managing luxury properties in some of the most exclusive areas of London. Their clients have high expectations and the team at W.A. Ellis exceed these time and again.

Sewell & Gardner 201-500 properties BRONZE

The property management department at Sewell & Gardner has grown slowly over a number of years and this growth has been managed extremely well so it’s been both organic and focused. It has also ensured that customer service levels remain high as the team doesn’t take on more than it can handle. The team takes the long view on its offering and works hard to instill confidence in their clients so they use more of their services; they provide management advice to landlords who have used them as a let only provider, and in doing so are managing to convert many to a full management service. A VIP Landlord group was set up to reward repeat landlords with a loyalty card and they use a blog to keep landlords informed of changes to legislation. Other agencies are invited to business networking events run by Reagan Bradley and her team and through these they noticed that smaller agencies can struggle with property management; they have therefore outsourced their services and are enjoying strong links with other local agencies, working together to give clients the best possible experience.

Vanet Property Asset Mgt 28

201-500 properties – shortlisted


GOLD

property management lettings agency

Best Property Management Agency Heaton Property 0-200 properties

2014 0-2

00 properties

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

Based in Newcastle, this is an agency with a passionate and effective team. They are very proactive with the procedures they put in place. As a high proportion of their customer base is students, they offer a range of options suitable to this group including a pro-share arrangement which includes the price of all utilities and amenities within the rent – this has proved popular with parents! The directors at Heaton are passionate about their business and the industry as a whole. They strongly believe in giving something back and have a recruitment policy in place to actively employ people from Northumbria University. Training participation is encouraged and incentivised so the team has a good understanding of the legal obligations of renting properties, as well as the more soft skills around customer care and personal development.

Hudsons Property 0-200 properties

Hudsons takes care to provide a tailored service to its landlords and the team spend a lot of time familiarising themselves with their stock in order to make confident recommendations to avoid problems, enhance the experience and increase rental return. Landlords have access to an online system, which allows them to check invoices, accounts and certificates at any time of day or night. The software also issues alerts for renewals of Gas Safety Certificates and EPC’s, as well as checklists for tenants when they take possession of a property. Without exception everyone makes a point of getting to know their landlords personally so communication is faultless. Landlords feel looked after, knowing they can speak to someone they know at any time. Systems and processes are constantly developed to suit the needs of their clients and they invest a lot of energy making sure that all services on offer are of the highest quality.

CXG Lettings BRONZE

0-200 properties

CXG is a highly ethical company who taking great pride in its central ethos of treating everyone to the same standard. It provides outstanding customer service with special attention paid to building personal contact with landlords and tenants. The team wants to contribute to improving the image of agents with the public and the panel was confident that this business is doing just that. Technology is well utilised to improve efficiency and the systems offer added value for landlords and tenants through their online platforms. The directors focus on two main areas; technology and customer service and understand that when these are done well, one informs the other in terms of offering and standard. Growth is steady and consistent which can be ascribed to the breadth and quality of CXG’s offering, and if it continues working to these standards, the panel is confident that this will continue in the future.

Winchester White 30

0-200 properties – shortlisted


GOLD

prestige lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Best Prestige Lettings Agency W.A. Ellis The directors continually look to move their business forward and strive to offer even better service to a discerning and demanding audience. This business is successful in this category year on year which is no mean feat given the competition; that W.A. Ellis continues to win awards for its prestige offering is evidence of its meticulous attention to detail. The marketing team works hard to promote their prestige services to tenants and landlords via mixed media and events both UK based and overseas, and their production of market commentary has helped cement their position as an authority on the prime central London market. The team works hard to maintain their longstanding relationships with relocation agents and their affiliates in New York, Paris and Monaco and the director travels widely to meet personally with clients in locations as diverse as the Channel Islands to the Asia Pacific region. It can be difficult to offer above and beyond service to a clientele as high profile as those who use W.A. Ellis but the team manages to exceed even their expectations time and again through sensitivity and with the utmost discretion. They clearly have an understanding of their market place, their clients’ needs and can also demonstrate exactly what is required to meet these needs and attract new business whilst maintaining their excellent reputation.

GOLD

SILVER

1st Asset Management Everyone at 1st Asset Management understands that operating in the prime central London market requires them to wear many hats as they are expected to offer a wide range of services by their clients. They don’t just see themselves as agents so much as trusted and discreet advisors who are able to fulfill not only the traditional and necessary lettings agent role but also those of concierge, assistant and consultant. With this in mind, they work hard to offer a private client experience with full confidentiality. The staff are fluent in 10 languages, they offer chauffeured viewings 12 hours a day, seven days a week as well as a full concierge relocation service. Contact is regular and personal and the renewal and retention rates are impressive in a relatively young agency – one nice touch is the delivery of gifts tailored to the season and the client, from luxury fortune cookies during Chinese New Year to rose flavoured pastilles during the Chelsea Flower Show. Operating in a highly competitive area with over 150 agents in their patch, they understand that they have to be different. Their offices are located above an art gallery and they use this to great effect both to host events and as a talking point with clients.

32


GOLD

customer service lettings agency

2014

l ar

ge agenc y

Sponsored by

Best Customer Service Agency - Large Streets Ahead The directors are passionate about service standards and spend a lot of time gathering and analysing feedback. They continue what works but make changes where required in order to continue to innovate, and are focusing on how they can grow the lettings business. They’ve recruited a Customer Service Manager who is leaving no stone unturned in looking at every process and finding ways to improve them. This new position coupled with the implementation of new software is reaping rewards; the CS Manager is bringing in lots of new business whilst the software is automating the systems, helping retention. The entire team is active in the community and recently sponsored a local marathon. One of their clients was participating and the directors supported her throughout training. She crossed the finish line after 5.5 hours and the directors were waiting there to cheer her across. This example sums up everything about the Streets Ahead attitude.

Foxtons

GOLD

As could be expected in an agency of this size, Foxtons has an entire team whose responsibility is service delivery. What the judges found refreshing was the entire workforce is focused on making sure they do the little things well, remembering small details about clients to personalise their service. Even the offices are designed with client comfort in mind. Communication is excellent and there is a strong culture of supporting tenants who can be confident in Foxtons’ service; the level of information they receive is second to none and they’re kept apprised of developments at every stage of the process. The new live online chat facility has been extremely well received, and well utilised. The complaints programme is detailed and they take control of positive feedback so everyone is treated honestly and fairly at all times. Staff training is extensive so the team is kept enlightened on how to deliver consistently.

Belvoir SILVER

BRONZE

The judges felt that the team at Belvoir has spent the last 12 months focusing on how they can improve the customer journey. There were many lovely examples of exemplary customer service, which in many instances have led to Belvoir upselling its services. They undertook a let-only service for a landlord however following a fire at the property, they worked with both parties and the landlord now retains them to manage his portfolio as well. Training is stringent and provided across live sessions and online platforms for both franchise owners and employees. The team is encouraged to build a rapport with clients and the dedicated customer service helpline is there to help with any issues. Offices are subject to audits, both expected and unannounced to ensure compliance and standards are up to scratch. The customer service policy is published on the website, and issues are taken seriously; the MD sees all complaints and gets involved with the resolution of any issues.

Orchards of London BRONZE

34

Orchards of London sees its customers are stakeholders and treats them accordingly. The directors employ a constant stream of mystery shoppers to monitor service levels both in person with actors (who pose as a variety of different client “types”) and on the telephone. The telephone answering service is linked with the software so it provides a 24/7 personally answered overflow telephone service via messages sent directly to the appropriate employee’s mobile phones for a rapid response. Staff undergo training in reading verbal and non verbal interactions such as body language and mirroring, and are also taught how to use these cues for customer benefit. “Happy Boxes” are hand delivered to tenants on moving day - these are unique gift boxes with hand- made, organic and fair trade products that are specifically tailored to the individual tenants based on Orchards’ knowledge of their circumstances and lifestyle choices.


GOLD

customer service lettings agency

2014

sm

a l l a g en c y

Sponsored by

Best Customer Service Agency - Small Karl Tatler In terms of its customer service standards, Karl Tatler stands head and shoulders above its competition. Karl and his team have a relentless focus on moving forwards and they constantly ask for feedback from their clients, with whom they enjoy a great relationship. The recruitment process is rigorous to ensure they get the right people first time, and staff retention is also excellent resulting in absolute consistency of service. There are strict rules in place regarding stock levels so property managers have enough time to make landlords and tenants feel they’re valued and are receiving great service. Landlord and tenant retention is also outstanding with over 75% of tenants using Karl Tatler when moving to another rental. This meticulousness also extends to the community and the team is actively involved in a number of local good causes. Year after year Karl continues to drive his standards ever higher and we’re pleased to award this vision and work ethic with the gold.

W.A. Ellis

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

The attention to detail at this agency is exemplary. With a VIP Promise that sets it apart from any of its competition, and consistent marketing materials that prove it understands its customer, W.A. Ellis is outstanding. The directors have mapped out their customer journey ensuring that at every touch point they feel well and truly special. Service is proactive and often pre-empts client requests. Their service model is one of private client asset management with the focus being to add value to clients’ propositions with minimal loss and in a personal and informed fashion. Landlords and tenants are on record as stating that they believe the teamwork is outstanding, and this includes external contractors, all of whom represent W.A. Ellis perfectly. Contractors undergo annual quality checks and this is followed up with a thank you party for them so W.A. Ellis’ service standards extends to all parties, not just clients.

Maxine Lester This agency is led from the top by a true professional. Maxine Lester knows her local market and distils this knowledge down to inspire her team to deliver excellence every time. One particularly touching example is a situation which arose during a standard property check. It was clear to the property manager upon arrival that the tenant was unwell due to the condition of the tenant and the property. They contacted the tenant’s family, the landlord and social services and worked with all parties to arrange treatment and care for the tenant, and to get the property cleaned and back up to standard. This difficult and upsetting situation was handled with the utmost discretion and sensitivity and given significant time and resources to resolve it for the benefit of all parties. The judges felt this particular example was indicative of the attitude and caring ethos of this agency.

Avenue; Lawton & Dawe shortlisted

36


GOLD

lettings franchise

2014

Sponsored by

Best Lettings Franchise Agency Belvoir The panel found Belvoir to be one of the most responsible, ethical and well positioned franchise businesses in the industry with a 19 year track record to prove it; we are pleased to award it the gold for the third year running. The website is particularly informative for potential franchisees with comprehensive guides as to why they should go down this route with Belvoir. The senior team believe that each franchise owner has the capability to soar provided they are hard working, honest and follow the business model and this belief is borne out by the increase in both turnover and profit. The acquisition process is smooth and reliable and franchisees can rest assured they will be well looked after by Belvoir. Compliance is taken very seriously and there is a team of full time auditors who work with franchisees to ensure consistency of approach based on the Belvoir operations manual. Franchisees also have regular sessions with the Business Development Manager. Communications are excellent and delivered via a variety of media and they successfully combine centralised systems with autonomy for owners. In short, an outstanding franchise operation.

GOLD

Martin & Co

SILVER

As the largest property franchise business in the UK, Martin & Co’s ability to evolve its offering is very impressive. Franchisees can rest assured they will receive outstanding support through extensive training, ongoing mentoring and robust systems and processes. This support is viewed as a continuous resource that is available whenever needed. Head Office provides a wealth of opportunity for inter-branch communication through bespoke in-house forums, a weekly newsletter, regional meetings and the annual national conference. The operations manual containing fully documented business processes is available online so it can be accessed at any time, and the social media and marketing is controlled by Head Office to ensure consistency. They have recently invested significantly in a new cloud based IT system which has been gradually rolled out to the network. This fully integrated platform imposes a particular workflow and quality assurance on offices and works with all other business systems to increase audit visibility.

BRONZE

HomeXperts

38

A relative newcomer, this business is built as a home agent model and was launched in direct response to the changing property market. The directors were determined to build a customer-centric model so spent a lot of time at the start identifying areas of best practice before piloting two branches. Within four years, they’ve grown to 38 franchisees which is proof that their approach is working. Recognising that technology is key, they’ve invested heavily in their back office systems and all branches use the recommended processes, providers and software systems so Head Office has instant access to each branch’s data and activity levels. They also issue all invoices, statements and payments from central accounts, freeing up franchisees to focus on winning new business. Franchisees have access to numerous marketing documents and an extensive training programme. Void periods are extremely low and all viewings are accompanied without exception. The panel is pleased to see this dynamic business jump from shortlist in 2013 to the bronze award this year and there is no doubt that it will continue to shine.


GOLD

innovation lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Best Innovation Agency Lenwell Lenwell developed the Callwell software system to address one of the most common areas of customer complaint in the industry; that of response times to internet requests. The Callwell system allows the team to deal with each call promptly, grade the enquiry via a fully interactive dashboard and monitor the quality and source of the lead. When an enquiry comes in to the server, a call is generated to the appropriate office and sends an automated receipt to the client. The negotiator knows the call is a Callwell lead and can access the applicant’s details to immediately contact them by pressing 1. Through this system, they have managed to reduce their response time from over 24 hours in busy periods, to practically immediate most of the time. Managers can access staff productivity figures and because the system gives them the quality breakdown of leads, they can also measure and assess the lead sources and conversion and closure rates on deals. Ultimately though, they know this system is invaluable through the sharp increase in tenancies and profit.

CanDo Lettings CanDo Lettings is a subsidiary of a not-for-profit Housing Association that has pioneered a sustainable and successful social lettings model in Cardiff for vulnerable tenants. Research carried out by its parent company found that large numbers of people living in hostels were ready and keen to move into permanent accommodation but were stuck due to lack of social housing stock and difficulty accessing private sector rentals. Spotting a niche opportunity, the team at CanDo set about establishing relationships with sympathetic landlords to offer good quality, sustainable tenancies to clients on low incomes or who are receiving housing benefit. Alongside this is the first class service they give to landlords. The team is accredited and registered with the industry bodies so is fully compliant and they also work alongside Local Authorities and hostel providers to build relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Profits are reinvested in social works and enterprise and their expertise is sought out by policy makers in Wales.

EweMove.com The team at EweMove.com wanted a system that offered the same ease of access and cohesive service to tenants as to landlords. Unable to find an off-the-shelf solution to do this, they set about designing their own. Ewereka! is a fully automated, cloud based system which enables prospective tenants to book viewings and apply for tenancies online. Functionality includes sms and email alerts and reminders, as well as systems for chasing rent arrears and alerting guarantors to potential issues. The ability for potential tenants to book their own viewings has led to an increase in viewing figures as the team is no longer struggling to reach people in response to an enquiry; this increase enables Ewemove to choose the highest quality tenants resulting in reduced rent issues, increased landlord retention, lower void periods and above average tenancy length (almost double the UK average).

Streets Ahead 40

shortlisted


GOLD

marketing lettings agency

2014

Best Marketing Agency W.A. Ellis W.A. Ellis’ single-focus campaign had enormous business impact. The directors are incredibly keen to show that this is an agency combining 150 years’ experience with a modern approach. Following six months of research through internal surveys, mystery shopping and client feedback, they wrote a blueprint of their standards: the “VIP Promise”, and created the “Everyone’s a VIP” campaign to communicate this pledge. Materials were rolled out over a number of platforms from digital and online to print and direct mail, and through outdoor media and live events. Press coverage was impressive and the team worked with journalists to release findings from their research. Since the campaign launch, W.A. Ellis has seen transaction volume and turnover grow, and has managed to increase its average fee by a significant amount.

Sponsored by

Champions This independent Chelsea-based firm is knowledgeable and fully committed to its locale. As its target clients are based in a small location, the marketing is suitably focused and specific. Starting with the creation of a new brand look and feel, the team produced an entirely new suite of marketing materials. They want to be seen as expert but friendly and approachable and it’s clear this was taken into consideration when designing the collateral, such as branded umbrellas and ponchos for Chelsea Flower Show week. As a result of this campaign, another branch of Champions is due to open soon to cope with the increased business, and staff retention is up.

GOLD

CJ Hole

SILVER

BRONZE

BRONZE

42

CJ Hole launched a campaign to increase its share of the thriving local student market. The directors wanted to encourage students to make CJ Hole their first port of call when seeking accommodation. The campaign ran from January to April to maximise the impact at the busiest time for student viewings. The campaign was multi-faceted across a selection of media, events and technologies to ensure key messages reached students. The directors ran a series of press ads and advertorials in student publications advertising their expertise, stock, services and competitions (these were also run on the student-specific Facebook page). The competitions were fun with great buy-in and the chauffeur service for multiple viewings proved extremely popular. Income from student lettings is up (despite a lower student intake and increase in purpose built accommodation in Bristol) and enquiry figures have grown, as have positive reviews and web traffic.

Orchards of London The team at Orchards of London does an enormous amount of charity work, and their campaign was run around this altruistic philosophy. One of Orchards’ landlords is Russ Dawkins, who following a life changing accident, started the Back on Track Trust to help people with spinal injuries through sport and fitness initiatives. They ran an amateur boxing night with none other than their MD volunteering to take to the ring! Through extensive social media activity and word of mouth, the event reached a number of people, including celebrities, and 1,200 tickets sold out. Crucially the event was covered on Sky Sport, which has viewing figures in excess of 100,000. Orchards works hard to promote the Trust through significant marketing support. This has the knock-on effect of growing consumer awareness of their own brand creating a winwin situation for both parties, not to mention the hundreds of people who benefit from the funds raised.


GOLD

outstanding contribution lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Outstanding Contribution Valerie Bannister Valerie Bannister is one of the most respected figures in the lettings industry today acknowledged only recently by her appointment as ARLA President – a role which, in her words, she is “unconditionally committed to” and, after a year as President Elect, clearly deserves. Starting her career over 30 years ago, originally within Morris, Beale and Partners in the South of England - which was subsequently acquired by General Accident - she then moved to Your Move where she continues to work as Head of its Lettings operations. It is here that she has firmly established herself as the ‘go to’ person for advice on anything and everything about the lettings industry, not just within Your Move, but within the LSL Property Services Group as a whole and beyond. Her voracious appetite for reading gives her the breadth and depth of knowledge few, if any, can match and despite having years of industry experience she continues to stay ahead of the game in terms of her understanding of issues and developments facing the industry today. From acquisitions to cold starts, to leasehold block management and franchising – she has experience of it all as well as the technical, legislative and regulatory ‘know how’ that is the envy of many. It is this understanding and knowledge that has seen Valerie establish herself as a key media spokesperson, often taking part in wide ranging industry debate including a Carbon Monoxide Reform Working Party in the House of Commons. In addition she has worked with Housing Associations and the Health and Safety Executive in rewriting landlord and tenant guidelines. She may have fallen off her chair at her very first interview with Morris, Beale and Partners but she clearly has her feet very firmly on the ground now - highly regarded and respected amongst her peers, she has proved to be an inspiration and true leader to many within the industry and as such is a very worthy winner of the 2014 Outstanding Contribution to the Lettings Industry Award.

44


GOLD

block management agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

46

Best Block Management Agency Premier Estates Premier Estates is an extremely good all-round company with an inherent desire to provide excellent service. The directors have purposefully gone all out to implement a thorough and robust training programme which has been enthusiastically received by the team and the results of which can be seen through the improved client feedback and retention rates. Another interesting idea is the focus on zero carbon developments which has resulted in this agency winning the contract to manage the UK’s largest zero carbon development as well as one of the largest regeneration projects in the country. The block managers are regular visitors to all developments which allows them to ensure any repairs are correctly identified and addressed promptly and to ensure contracts are tightly managed. Their aim is to be the managing agent of choice across the UK and it is clear they are managing to achieve this aim – in the past two years, they have not had their service terminated, customer satisfaction levels are up and over 75% of their growth is via word of mouth recommendation.

Braemar Estates Braemar Estates offers a full management service based on an end-to-end “turnkey solution” for investors whereby it manages the communal areas of a block as well as the letting out of the individual properties and the ground rent collection which is then given to investors via a single monthly payment. Experienced in managing both listed buildings and modern developments, the team works with a sense of purpose and are encouraged to think laterally to provide solutions to issues where they arise. One recent issue was a client facing an expensive lease variation due to historic issues; Braemar managed to resolve at a much reduced cost from that which he was originally facing. This approach has seen it recognised as an authority and it is often approached by third parties to arbitrate disputes and carry out independent audits for sites. Keen to be a green company, the directors are working hard to develop a paperless office through significant investment in technology; they have developed a back office system for online payments - this also provides instant and easy access for landlords to their files. Incentive schemes are run to drive both landlords and tenants online.

Ringley The guys at Ringley have an overriding desire to get their service provision right at every level, and they are absolutely focused on what needs to be done. There is a big emphasis on the personal touch and the team’s ability to empathise with their clients is admirable; this leads in turn to them being able to take an appropriate approach to any and all issues. The directors are extremely clear on their desire to treat their employees with the same respect as their clients and there is an impressive number of schemes in place to recognise and reward the team. Not only does this make all at Ringley feel valued but also ensures there is complete dedication and focus on what needs to be achieved. Again, in order to ensure consistency of values across both clients and the staff there are also a number of incentives in place for clients such as rewarding them to report problems to ensure swift resolution. One key initiative can be found in the recruitment policy as they only employ people who can be “personally sorry” for any issues whether or not they played a direct part; the ethos is that if a client makes them aware of a problem, then they become responsible for that until resolution. A great approach.


GOLD

NEWCOMER lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

48

Best Newcomer Patrick Henry For an agency that has only been trading since January, this is one impressive business; the judging panel believes that if the standards continue as they have started, it will only go from strength to strength. Managing Director Patrick is keen to play his part in improving the reputation of the industry and not only is he a member of the main industry bodies but he is also working closely with Trading Standards to ensure compliance and to reassure consumers that he and his team take their legal responsibilities seriously. He has put robust procedures in place alongside a clear business plan for growth and is determined to be the best in his field. The team understands that this is first and foremost a people to people business and they have implemented a number of excellent services for their clients – this is a small agency with big ideas. The sense of excitement is palpable and each person seeks to go the extra mile for their lettings clients. From what they’ve achieved in a short amount of time, Patrick Henry is a stand out agency and we look forward to hearing more from this team in the future.


GOLD

student lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Customers at the heart of it

GOLD

Best Student Lettings Agency Bill Free Homes The director’s knowledge of his clientele is amazing. To accommodate and assist the high numbers of foreign students, they’ve had their marketing materials translated into over 20 languages. They use their customer base extremely well in helping to spread the Bill Free Homes way whether through supporting charity events or paying students a weekly wage to advertise the brand on their cars. They’re committed to their landlords too; recently tenants substantially damaged an 8 bedroom property. It took half the company but they turned it round in 24 hours and reclaimed expenses through the deposit. Whilst this was painful, they worked hard with the students and parents to resolve the situation in an efficient and calm manner. Having won the silver last year, the director stripped down the systems and processes and set about improving all areas to become a gold standard agency; the judges were thrilled to agree.

Premier Places Premier Places has implemented a lot of ideas for engagement above and beyond the standard and they work with the students to facilitate harmony in the homes. The polished marketing is superb and the team embraces new ideas from ‘speedflatmating’ evenings to property pop-up shows; they cover it all. The directors have also thought laterally about different services they can offer students and have implemented a number of key initiatives. Alongside this, they also work hard with landlords to communicate the benefits of student lets as they realise it can be an area landlords shy away from. There is an equal split of let only and managed properties across the portfolio with property management take up growing year on year due to the excellent feedback and growing reputation of this agency. Premier Places provides a compelling service offering resulting in impressive market share.

College & County SILVER

BRONZE

College and County understands students and the team feels privileged to help young adults find their first house away from home. They recognise that it is an exciting time for them and seek to temper this excitement with a professional and responsible service. They work hard on building relationships with both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes and the office is located between them so they’re well known and well liked by both student communities. They spend a lot of time (appropriately!) on education, delivering talks and guest lectures to students on the do’s and don’t’s of renting properties. They are one of the principal sponsors of the Oxford Blue rugby club and can be regularly seen at Fresher’s fairs and theme days. Students also seem to be enthusiastic collectors of College and County’s “Too Late/ Too Let” signage boards! This is an accessible, forward thinking and dynamic agency.

Finders Keepers BRONZE

50

This agency makes no secret of the fact that it has extremely high standards when vetting potential student tenants. The team is very communicative and whilst they recognise the importance of engaging with the students, they also understand the importance of building strong relationships with parents. From the outset they manage the process to reassure all parties and to ensure everyone is aware of their obligations with regard to the legalities of lettings, as often it is the parents and students’ first experience of renting. They run social events to enable students and parents to get to know each other; this approach fosters trust and communication and means all involved feel much more confident picking the phone up to resolve potential issues. Twitter is very well utilised and they pick up a significant proportion of listings and instructions through this and other social media platforms.


GOLD

lettings supplier

2014

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Lettings Supplier of The Year Fixflo Fixflo provides an innovative product with no direct peers, and is enjoying a rapid take-up for such a young company. Its system allows properly qualified reporting of property management issues within a regulatory compliant framework, which can be amended and tailored according to the agency’s own best practice guidelines. Fixflo works by guiding a tenant through a picture-based diagnostic tool to identify their precise issue. It then prompts them with appropriate advice e.g. how to fix simple issues, how to protect themselves and the property and who is ultimately responsible. This in-built advice has seen repair requests reduce, especially across boiler-related issues, and an increase in appliance-related issues being submitted with details of make, model and any warning lights or sounds. This means repairs can be much quicker as the contractor can bring the right parts on their first visit. Repair requests are date stamped providing transparency and reducing disputes. Automatic reminders are set, and there is a progress update on the dashboard so managers can identify bottlenecks or chase up issues, and tenants are kept informed as to exactly what’s happening without having to ring the branch.

traceWise traceWise provides real-time property owner information which is totally compliant with the Data Protection Act. Its aim is to help agents contact property owners and landlords directly and personally. Its unique service helps agents by providing an up-to-date suite of contact information which includes full name and address and, in most cases, landline and/or mobile numbers. Having ascertained that the information held by the Land Registry can often be inaccurate (for example, investor landlords who own a number of properties rented by someone else) the team at traceWise utilises over 120 consented population datasets covering most of the UK and these are updated in real time. As they are also able to cross reference the information they can provide phone numbers and sometimes, email addresses so agents can be confident they’ll make contact with their targets. Agents can feel confident that the information they receive is consented and fully complies with current legislation and industry best practice. traceWise offers excellent training and transparent pricing allowing agents to take a refined and cost effective approach to their direct marketing.

Reapit Reapit is successful in this category year on year and the standard and breadth of its service continues to impress. This software is extremely comprehensive and in terms of automation offers notable time saving features. The software suite includes platforms and applications to help agents across a number of departments including lettings, sales, property management and accounts, but agents should also know they’re in safe hands as Reapit is keen to provide excellent customer service; over 80% of the team work in development, support and customer focused roles. The Reapit system is a fully integrated CRM software solution that provides links between the key disciplines within residential estate agency so agents know they’ll see significant time and cost savings which in turn aids efficiency resulting in a healthy bottom line.

52


Best Lettings Negotiator Ed Cooper

lettings agency

Sheffield Residential Ed Cooper is an example of a negotiator who has an intrinsic understanding of what his clients want and need, and he acts to address these on every level. Sheffield Residential has a strong student lettings focus and Ed has worked hard to implement innovative ideas for this audience. He is very savvy when it comes to customer service and one particularly effective idea is to encourage students’ families to buy houses for their children to live in whilst at Uni as this can often be more cost effective; this is then turned into a rental property once they’ve left yielding a healthy rental income for the families. This has seen a high take-up and has resulted in Ed cementing the agency’s reputation as a knowledgeable and helpful company. Ed understands the importance of social media usage in communicating with this audience and utilises the various platforms to great effect. The judges were pleased to read the excellent testimonials regarding Ed’s attention to detail when it comes to personal and considered customer service and the impact on the business was clear.

2014

Sponsored by

Lauren Venning Acquire Properties – shortlisted Carl Elliot Andrews & Partners – shortlisted Alie Horton CBRE – shortlisted Camilla Askew Hamptons International – shortlisted George Ioannou Hamptons International – shortlisted Neil Govier Harry Harper – shortlisted

Best Lettings Branch Manager Ben Smith

Sewell & Gardner Ben is an outstanding branch manager. He starts every interaction on the basis of meaningful contact rather than contact for contact’s sake and undertakes every customer touchpoint with this in mind. He works hard with his team and has a history and focus on working with his staff to move them onwards and upwards. This approach works on several levels as he gets buy-in from the team who can see a clear career path and progression opportunities but also ensure his senior people have come up through the ranks and know the business inside out. Ben focuses his team on managing expectations and there were scores of proven examples of these guys working hard for customer delight. Ben also works hard to ensure unity across the business and ensures he speaks to the sales teams daily to identify where they can assist each other for the benefit of the business and the consumer. Some of his sales techniques are excellent and he seeks to refine and improve these at any opportunity for the good of all involved.

Dolly Bachada Acquire Properties – shortlisted Sam Harrison Hamptons International – shortlisted Cathy Evans Preston Baker – shortlisted Maz Iqbal Sheffield Residential – shortlisted

53


lettings agency

Best Lettings Property Manager Reagan Bradley Sewell & Gardner

2014

Sponsored by

The judge’s overriding opinion was that Reagan Bradley is a seriously good property manager. Landlords can rest assured that Reagan will always go the extra mile when it comes to taking care of their properties and she works hard with tenants to ensure a good outcome for all. Reagan proactively seeks solutions and new ideas to improve the experience of both customers and her team and having won this award last year, it is refreshing to see she has built on this success with a host of new initiatives. She has worked hard to create a strong team who all work to the same standards and ethics. It is clear that Reagan has an innate understanding of the importance of the personal touch when it comes to people but she is also very clear as to the impact this has on the business. Understanding that reputation is all, Reagan does a lot of work with local charities and the local community, which ensures that she is well liked in her area and has led to a significant level of recommendation and repeat business.

Amy Wray Applegate Properties – shortlisted Danielle Sparkes Clear Property – shortlisted Christopher Crampsie Hamptons International – shortlisted Simon Waring Hodders – shortlisted

Best Lettings Relocation Agent Emma Morley

Executive Relocation Plus Emma is a passionate individual with exacting standards appropriate to meeting the demands of the clients she looks after. Whether working with a large multinational company on a corporate relocation, or a high-net-worth individual relocating for personal reasons, all clients can rest assured that Emma has the expertise and knowledge to assist them. Coming from a retail background, Emma applies the lessons and experience she learnt working with blue chip companies to the relocation industry with great effect. A great believer in training and improvement, Emma is qualified to the highest standard possible for a relocation agent, and she actively seeks to build relationships with a trusted network of suppliers and service providers so she can be confident making recommendations to her clients. Much of her research is done prior to meeting the clients so she can maximise their time together (which can often be short and hectic) and ensure that without exception, every property viewed meets the clients’ briefs. The reputation of her business is excellent and this is entirely due to Emma’s vision and attitude.

Ginny Adams Relocation Unlimited – shortlisted

54


GOLD

website lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Best Website Foxtons The judges were pleased to award Foxtons the gold in this category in 2013, and were even more impressed by the work the team has undertaken to improve it even further; a feat the panel didn’t think was possible! There are almost too many innovations to mention – over the past 12 months, the design team at Foxtons has gone all out to improve accessibility even further to reach the 690,000 unique visitors per month who use the website. Listings are updated every two hours and they now use strategically placed global data centres to deliver images at a lightning fast speed to users around the world. They have produced a Foxtons app for every variety of smartphone and tablet including one for Windows8 and these can be downloaded via a variety of platforms. These apps utilise the “Responsive” functionality to adapt the website dynamically to whatever device is being used, therefore speeding up the download times for mobile users. Foxtons website is constantly evolving its unique and innovative features with incredible scope.

Pinnacle Lettings GOLD

SILVER

The guys at Pinnacle wanted to ensure their web offering was second to none so with this in mind they spent a significant amount of time at the Google headquarters to gain a better understanding of how to enhance the website for the good of the business and the customer service. They amend the banner message to align themselves with visitor type, which has increased the time spent on the site and reduced bounce rates. The live bookings facility has seen excellent takeup and the online maintenance reports have reduced telephone traffic and also provide guidance on non-essential repairs. The dedicated web team is responsive and the impression given is that the website isn’t just part of the business but almost regarded as a business in itself. As a Cardiff based agency, the website is also available as a full Welsh language option. For a three branch company the unique visitor figures are excellent.

Andrews & Partners BRONZE

The directors at Andrews have worked hard with the marketing team to improve their overall website experience. They are constantly evaluating the site using monthly dashboards through Google Analytics and Hitwise to assess key online metrics. These figures are set alongside the customer surveys to develop a programme of rolling monthly updates in order to maximise the customer’s experience and the service Andrews provides. Information is shared in a seamless manner and customers can be confident they’re accessing up to date information and consistently high levels of intergrated service. As nearly 20% of Andrews’ customers are located overseas, it is vital they are able to make contact with someone or source information outside of UK business hours. This is also key for Andrews’ UK based landlords as research showed that only 54% of them live near their rental property and therefore the relevant branch. Andrews sees transparency as crucial to the business and this view is borne out by landlords’ feedback.

Martin & Co shortlisted

56


GOLD

social media lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Best Social Media Northfields In this highly competitive new category, the judging panel is pleased to give the gold award to such a deserving agency with no doubt that Northfields will publicise this win across various platforms! The directors took the route of using social media to give their brand a living personality but made sure this approach was rooted in a firm business proposition via a clear three point strategy: Acquisition, Conversion and Retention. Understanding that most people choose their letting agent based on trust, they accept individual word of mouth is vital, but collective recommendation via the entire community is even better. They track the results of their social media and amend and evolve accordingly. The figures speak for themselves: their business community group on Facebook has over 4,000 members; they created #ealinghour which reached over 157,000 individuals on Twitter; they have cultivated relationships with local bloggers who share ideas and articles relevant to the industry and they are totally transparent – negative tweets or feedback are dealt with publicly which builds trust. Northfields has an intelligent, considered and fun approach to social media.

Andrews & Partners The senior team invested a lot of time last year working closely with the marketing department to develop their social media policy as they took the view that if they were going to do it, they were going to do it well and consistently. From this, they put in place strong policies and procedures and it is clear there is an innate understanding of their social media proposition and journey. As a multioffice business, they approach social media from two sides: the strategy and responsibility lies with the marketing team but recognising the need for local engagement, they created a Twitter account for each branch giving the managers control of training their teams so everyone can participate whilst adhering to the guidelines. This way there is consistency of approach but an individual and personal feel. They have clear guidance as to how they deal with negative comments and this is proving successful as they convert potential issues into great feedback and happy clients.

College & County College & County’s social media usage forms a key part of the overall marketing strategy and its engagement levels with its target market is impressive. Operating in Oxford, there is a strong focus on the student lettings market and Facebook is used to great effect for building and maintaining relationships with students. They run student lists and competitions to increase engagement – to be added to this list, students must ‘like’ them and once they’ve done this they can access prerelease viewing opportunities alongside adverts for holidays, part-time work and competitions such as “win a cleaner”. The last time this contest was run, it achieved a social reach of over 18,000. It is absolutely clear that the entire team is on board with the vision as they are trusted to use their own initiative and common sense when commenting on platforms as there isn’t a formal procedure in place for this; all the directors ask is that two people check the content before it goes live. This relaxed and confident approach is an excellent example of how social media can have a dramatic effect on the business.

58


GOLD

training & development lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Best Training & Development Castledene Director John Paul views his team as his competitive advantage and he works hard with them to hone their skills at every opportunity. The results demonstrate that this ethos is working as the business continues to grow via client retention and recommendation. There has been heavy investment in an online portal through which the team accesses all training as well as their records and results. The trainers take into account individual learning styles so whilst the content and standards are same across the board, the delivery is tailored to the person ensuring maximum value and intake of information. This is an agency operating in a challenging location with a higher than average number of social housing tenants – John Paul and his team therefore don’t just confine their training to the team; they also offer courses to their tenants via a not-for-profit organisation which was set up to aid the skills gap of the HA tenants. This helps them with welfare reform, financial management and gives them the motivation and confidence to seek sustainable employment. Reward is also important. Three different awards are given out each month to high achievers with the overall winner at the end of the year given a free holiday at the company villa. The numerous initiatives are overwhelming and Castledene offers staff and clients alike a unique and comprehensive opportunity to be the best they can be.

Aston Mead GOLD

SILVER

The directors at Aston Mead are passionate about establishing creative training styles which take into account each person’s psychological makeup and motivation. They teach their team that they have to understand themselves in order to discover both how they work best and how they relate to and identify with customers and colleagues. The culture is one of honesty and openness, and training is undertaken with this in mind. Psychometric testing is used alongside workshops, seminars and online sessions to train the team, and they hold regular Q&A sessions to keep staff informed and invested in market developments and legislative changes. The judges felt there was a palpable sense of fun that ran through the syllabus at Aston Mead which seems to be developed sensitively but with a clear roadmap as to what they want to achieve. The highest compliment they could pay was that they’d like to attend the “Human Smmothie” workshop to find out which of them is a “Gregarious Grape”! The directors spend a lot of their time gathering feedback and measuring results so the courses are constantly evolved according to what they find.

Paramount Lettings SILVER

Starting with a clear and comprehensive induction process, Paramount’s training curriculum is steeped in a culture of learning and improvement for all. The directors really do care about the wellbeing of their teams and the environment is one of mutual respect and collective responsibility. Taking a holistic approach, the senior team recognises that whilst there is a definite place for technical training and understanding of the legalities and compliance requirements, there is also a need to nurture and support people. With this philosophy in mind, they have set about designing and implementing a programme which develops the entire person, not just their lettings skills: happy staff = happy clients. Courses are available on everything from technical awards to social media awareness and from first aid to life coaching sessions. For a single office operation, the breadth of courses on offer is outstanding. Staff attrition is rock bottom and client retention is sky high – proof that this agency’s approach is the right one.

haart; MyLondonHome shortlisted

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GOLD

relocation agency

lettings agency

2014

Sponsored by

Best Relocation Agency Connells Relocation Services Connells covers a whole myriad of services and solutions for its wide variety of clients. It scrapped any systems to do with automated call answering so that every call is answered by a person every time – impressive in an agency of this size. Particularly strong was the level and availability of different services according to the market and the team is able to successfully manage large projects yet tailor packages to suit smaller clients as well. Bespoke systems, employee engagement meetings and regular drop-in sessions are part and parcel of a standard Connells service. A strong focus on communication allows for exceptional management of clients’ needs, from sensitive government based relocations to ensuring they have a number of key staff with a variety of languages. Connells Relocation Services has it all: excellent knowledge of the industry and capable, dedicated staff with wide ranging skillsets. These attributes coupled with an exclusive and high profile client portfolio means it is a leading player in the relocation sector.

GOLD

Chiltern Relocation

SILVER

Chiltern’s is a full relocation services company providing end-to-end service through a specialist network. The team concentrates on developing relationships with local agents and they offer a bespoke service to ensure their corporate clients and tenants are completely satisfied. Unafraid to seek alternate measures to improve service, they have recently come up with innovative solutions to ensure they can properly assist their growing Chinese client base. They found enquiries from China were growing exponentially however were experiencing issues with closing deals. The senior team flew to Shanghai and spent time working with agents there with the result that they are now able to better match Chinese expats with properties resulting in higher levels of closing and recommendation. They have also invited their Chinese counterparts to visit the UK in order that they can then better smooth the way for UK residents relocating to China and APAC.

BRONZE

Relocation Support Services The team at this agency knows everything about its clients. Dealing with a wide range of corporate clients can be daunting but this agency faces the challenge head on. As it’s main points of contact tend to be Corporate Officers of multinational companies, the team needs different skills than when dealing with individual landlords. The management structure is excellent with a focus on account management and the provision of a single point of contact for clients. They offer a great landlord service which manages property for tenants who are working away on overseas assignments; if it’s empty, they will manage it accordingly or arrange a let if required. The client can therefore focus on their move without the added pressures of renting their home out. The team knows they have to constantly improve and keep offering a top service to their clients and they focus on every move as if it were the first, leading to an exceptional market reputation.

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Thank You | To the Judges The Estate Agency Events team would like to extend a huge thank you to this year’s judging panel:

Chairman of the Judging Panel: Christopher Hamer, The Property Ombudsman

The Judging Panel: Gareth Ashington, Ashington Page Gary Barker, Reapit EJ Barton, Duel Services John Boyle, Let Alliance Lynn Cannell, LCA Recruitment Lesley Dunn, Zoopla Property Group Brian Farrell, Metropix Susan Fitz-Gibbon, ARLA Stephen Hayter, Myhomemove Matthew Hobbs, Savills Sam Jones, Moneypenny Nick Lyons, No Letting Go Russell Manning, Manning Stainton Bryony McIndoe, Imfuna Sim Sekhon, Legal 4 Landlords Ian Stratford, Relocation Agent Network Joanna Swash, Moneypenny Julie Twist, Julie Twist Properties Alec Watt, Accouter Group Julie Westby, NAEA Trevor Youens, Qube SLM We would also like to thank Mark Hayward, NAEA, who kindly acted as Arbiter during the judging process.


With thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters:


Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2014