ABOUT LAWRENCE RAND Lawrence Rand are a multiple award winning 2 office independent estate agency operating sales and lettings in the Pinner and Ruislip areas of Middlesex.In a market that shows no sign of bouncing back to 2006 transaction levels Peter understood that to move his business onto the next level required him to tackle three key challenges:
The first was to improve the experience of Lawrence Rand’s customers both from a service perspective and increasing the quality of marketing branding to increase fee levels. The second was to gain market share, a fairly obvious crucial point but how to increase volumes. Lastly was how to increase the business efficiency of Lawrence Rands staff to do more with less. Reapit were handed the challenge of delivering on these three key areas.
Challenge ONE Improve the experience of Lawrence Rand’s customers Lawrence Rand’s impressive growth in a tough market meant its staff workload was also increasing at a growing rate. With a company philosophy to provide incredible customer service, Lawrence Rand needed an IT platform that could match their aspirations by standing up to the pressure and to go beyond the traditional realms of the ‘off the shelf’ software that they’d been used to seeing up until that point. There had been challenges with the on-going client communication and sales progression. The valuation follow up area in particular was one that was identified in the early stages as being one where communication needed to be improved.
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Another aim was to provide timely referrals of additional products and services to Lawrence Rand clients and potential clients thus providing a total property solution.
Reapit Solution Client Contact Reapit created a simple and effective client contact system to ensure that the Lawrence Rand staff were reminded to keep in contact with their applicants at the appropriate time. The RPS Software was customised to show applicants that were overdue contact in a different colour to the non-urgent contacts, this ensured full attention and priority was given to each contact call. Our Reapit template teams created a series of customised company branded Email, SMS and Letter templates to allow the effective communication with the Lawrence Rand client base and provides the consumers with a pleasant interaction. It also positions the Lawrence Rand brand within the eyes of its target audience at every opportunity reinforcing the brand and driving traffic to the Lawrence Rand website.
â€˜A great example of this is highlighted below, whereby at the touch of a button Lawrence Rand can communicate with all interested parties that a listing has had a price changeâ€™ Throughout their business Lawrence Rand now have extremely high levels of marketing collateral in both digital and print formats that allow them to compete against much larger companies with dedicated resources for marketing.
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Buyer Web Enquiries This is another area where service levels and communication has been improved significantly is in the response to websites leads. Reapit have set up an automated lead response from websites which sends an HTML Email thanking the customer for their enquiry in real time. These emails contain valuable information about the company and even the current market and so the customer knows their response has been logged and they have some relevant information about the company to be going on with until a staff member contacts them.
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Withdrawal Rates In many businesses the focus is so much on getting instructions on the books that little heed is paid to all of the revenue going out the back door with incredibly damaging high withdrawal rates. Lawrence Rand have always wanted to raise the bar and each withdrawal is taken as a personal sleight against the business. Overvaluing other than being incredibly short sighted is a key area and so RPS’s ability to import all relevant stock currently on the market into the system and analyse these effectively is a key tool in getting the price right first time around. An improved strategy for client retention was another key requirement, by organising the company’s vendors into colour coded contact reminders there is a complete process built around ensuring each vendors needs are met as much as they can possibly be so. Then custom development requests come into play giving the Lawrence Rand staff another tool in the kitbag. This shows which instructions haven’t been viewed in the last x number of days, ensuring at the touch of a button that no property has slipped through the net. If a property registers as having little activity the Lawrence Rand team will use all means necessary to try and drum up interest specifically for that property going over old enquires in the area to see if this might work for them. To show how all of the disparate pieces of functionality within RPS dovetail perfectly together you’re able to see with another workflow reminder that Lawrence Rand setup a face to face meeting with each vendor to discuss the current state of the market and give the vendor constructive feedback on the marketing of their home. Doing exactly what should be done using technology as a tool rather than being a slave to it. To cement all this a custom vendor marketing report detailing Lawrence Rands ongoing marketing efforts with detailed buyer feedback has decreased the withdrawal rate significantly down to virtually nothing.
Colour Cod ing
Live Property Tracker One of the latest initiatives that Peter has introduced is the Property Tracker. This is in direct response to the growing demand from the public for 24/7/365 access. One of Reapit’s real USP’s is really blending the front and back office systems with websites so that there’s a seamless approach rather than the usual disjoint. By enabling both data from the website to be merged with marketing data out of RPS the Lawrence Rand client has unparalleled access to the ongoing sale of their home. As you can see from the screenshot below at any time of the night or day they can login and see how many offers, viewings, details have been sent out and where their property has been advertised with the responses against each. With each activity there is the ability to drill down into more detailed information. For example in the screenshot below you can see the viewings log which shows each and every viewing, obviously we’ve taken out any free form notes to prevent any unwarranted feedback! But as you can see from the pie chart in this example we can see that quite a few viewer’s are highlighting the price as being an issue, so there’s a ready made reason to be talking to the vendor about the market deeming their home as being overvalued in the current market. The total transparency adds a level of trust to the discussions that might not have been there before were it not for the tracker.
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Furthermore the tracker is always reminding the vendor of their manager in the top right hand corner should they want to discuss anything in more detail. Peter Lawrence Manging Director of Lawrence Rand comments:
‘One of our concerns was that it may reduce our contact time with vendor but we’ve found quite the opposite, in fact because they’re not phoning up every few hours asking ‘what’s happened’ we’re able to have much more structured constructive reviews with them where we’re not just passing across facts but explaining in much more detail. It’s been absolutely invaluable for our stock management which is always a challenge in a market like this. There’s also been a noticeable boost to instructions since we’ve been taking the tracker out to appraisals and showing the vendors the functionality they have at their fingertips on iPad’s. We know from our stats that over 72% of vendors also access the tracker from Mobile devices so it’s completely fitting in with the way people want to see information on the web these days. Is it enough to win an instruction by itself, no of course not but it’s invaluable if it’s a close run thing with an agent that’s promising a weekly or fortnightly update call.
Challenge TWO Gain market share One of Lawrence Rand’s key challenges was to increase his business in terms of number of properties sold each year. The common consensus amongst industry experts was that the levels of sales transactions were and are unlikely to go up in the short to medium term. Therefore the only way to increase the number of core sales transactions is to increase his market share. In small organisations without dedicated resource for marketing, the normal cycle is a large marketing campaign in a very non targeted fashion at great expense, if this is successful then new listings will be won and the focus shifts onto selling the new instruction. At this point typically the valuation leads can dry up and another time consuming and expensive campaign is required. Peter Lawrence wanted to move away from the ”feast of famine” approach to a more consistent and targeted approach to canvassing for new valuations.
Market Sha re
Reapit Solution Canvassing The canvassing module within Reapit prompts a user on exchange of contracts on a new sale to let other house owners in the local area know about this success. This sort of approach is sometimes known as a “20/20”. Whilst there are a number of marketing services that enable this sort of campaign to be sent, the Reapit solution is to actually open up the campaign manager screens from with the RPS application utilising the Brief Your Market data instantaneously and it then passes across relevant mailing information seamlessly to print fulfilment companies to carry out the mailing. Clever logic with RPS also removes properties that Lawrence Rand already have listed on their books, stopping any wastage and more importantly unprofessional communication with existing clients. At this point the negotiator can within three clicks send a default 20/20 flyer to 20 addresses either side of the exchanged property to the named vendors. However as you can see from the screenshot below there is the option to be even more targeted and to use filters based around key demographic information such as length of residency, value of property, etc. or indeed to widen the mailshot to a radial style search area. The staff member can also upload customised templates for a unique and varied approach.
‘It’s the very definition of ‘sniper shot’ marketing rather than the scattergun approach’
Touting Gaining market share in a difficult market was one of the key objectives and the Reapit developers were able to code a tool that enabled them to do exactly as described so that Lawrence Rand could identify any instructions going on with rival agents that they hadn’t had the opportunity to appraise. Touting is considered a contentious issue within the industry, but most of Reapit’s clients seem to take a view on this as being necessary given the hideous level of overvaluing in this market. With RightMove quoting last year that half of all properties had been on the market initially with another agent, a prescribed process to ensure when the vendor grows dissatisfied that our clients are able to take advantage has been found invaluable in seizing market share from the poorer agents. On receiving the normal email update from the portals telling them what was listed in their area Lawrence Rand could on a case by case basis decide to import the property into Reapit. Identified as a ‘Tout’ opportunity the property would be seamlessly imported with a flag to show which Agent it’s currently listed with. This is cross referenced against the Lawrence Rand’s data to ensure no duplication; if the property exists the record is appended with the latest information. A Lawrence Rand valuation manager is able to use any number of reports within the Reapit system to create a compelling marketing campaign against the property. If the vendors name wasn’t known then the system would default to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, if Lawrence Rand are able to find the vendors name be it via a direct approach or by using tools from the likes of Niche or Brief Your Market then the letter will be personalised. If Lawrence Rand are able to provide an email address then high quality HTML emails can be generated either within Reapit or via the trackable service that Brief Your Market provides.
The data that is imported provides an unparalleled edge to Lawrence Rand abilities to win the listing in the future. The address is imported, or at least as much as is displayed, the keys stats in terms of room numbers and bedrooms is detailed, the price and status of the listing is highlighted, often full room descriptions and sizes are outlined. All images against the property are also brought into the database and crossed referenced against the Royal Mail postcode database service (PAF) and then can be mail merged into a letter to create a marketing letter that is so far removed from the normal blanket touting approach that alienates so many that it has delivered £100,000’s of pounds of new business to Lawrence Rand. It’s invaluable because often the vendors are far more motivated after their poor experiences with the existing agent. In August 2012 alone Lawrence Rand won 35k’s worth of instructions from just his Pinner office using this tool. Other agent’s instructions can be tracked for price changes and length of time on market, this can then be pulled together to show for example if a particular competitor is a perennial over valuer! Ultimately Reapit’s touting module has allowed valuation staff to specifically target instructions via the property portals to ensure a steady stream of highly motivated valuation appointments. The touting tool also enables Lawrence Rand to target available stock by area, thus concentrating his canvassing efforts in more desirable locations has ensured that his conversion rate, average listing price and average sale price have increased.
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Challenge THREE Vendor Web & Portal Leads The Home Moving Trends Survey 2011 shows that 55% of vendors only see one or two agents in stark contrast to the popular view that they in fact have a queue of them lined up. Certainly this is true of a minority but it stands to reason in such a busy world today where everyone is time poor that much of the research and evaluation is done in advance of any meeting. So we can glean from this that it is more important than ever to ensure you are one of the first companies on the list. Any vendor leads whether they’re from the portals , Lawrence Rand’s own website or indeed marketing services like AudioAgent or Iceberg Digital are can be imported seamlessly and instantly into RPS prioritised as a hot lead. Using this Reapit ‘Valuation Alert’© innovation the lead and valuation requests are quickly routed into the firm’s database and the office staff are alerted on their computer screens. Typically, within minutes the branch agents are telephoning the prospective customers to arrange the valuation. It is this speed of response that is creating a valuable first impression and has helped Lawrence Rand to become the top selling agent in the area.
‘It is no surprise then when two years ago at the Sunday Times Awards and RightMove mystery shopped their clients for speed of response to their leads that seven out of ten of the top companies were using RPS, ably assisted by this functionality’
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Challenge Increase business efficiency One of the best ways of increasing profitability is increasing efficiency, Peter Lawrence knew this and wanted to to increase the key ratios within his business such as average fee and average sale price, conversion rate, withdrawal rate and a reduction in the average time to sell. The ability to report and analyse staff performance and create a friendly competitive environment had always inspired his team to a greater performance. Peter works on the basis of ‘If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it’ and so needed a system that would give him an instant overview not only of what the business had done but also key indicators for the business going forwards.
Reapit Solution Reporting With RPS’s Daily Report 36 separate key metrics from the business are available at the touch of a button. These KPI’s are reported on three separate levels, either company wide, down to an office, or even by drilling down into a negotiator. From there the report allows further analysis into individual stats.
There was a corresponding increase in conversion rate by targeting other agents vendors that have been on the market unsold for some time, the valuers were able to go out on better qualified, higher motivated appointments, by supporting the valuers with top quality marketing material this also supports the desire to increase the average fee and the average sale price by getting into a higher part of the market place.
Organiser The Organiser must be the Ronseal part of this case study, it really does what it says on the tin! It is an individual’s home page essentially for all your key activities for the day ahead. Many systems just hit their users with a long list where it’s impossible to prioritise important tasks and calls. Breaking down the dashboard into applicants and properties to ring, those to come off the system to be archived with sales down the left and lettings down the right completely feels right for most negotiators who want to get their key jobs out of the way first thing in the morning or before they go home at night. With the ability to use quick shortcuts to their appointments for the day, to follow up viewings and appraisals or indeed go straight to web leads or internal messages this is the centre point of the RPS system and one of the key reasons why it works so well. The custom nature of RPS shines through again on two levels, first in terms of this information being able to be filtered down to job role so that for example Peter can see all of the companies data, whereas a branch manager can only see their own office and a negotiator his or her own details means that it’s so completely relevant. Secondly there is the ability off each user to have custom reports i.e the ones they use most often accessible from the front screen without having to drill many layers down in a reporting suite. Another vital part of the Organiser is that when the highlighted information is clicked on for example highlighting all applicants due for a call then it allows dynamic filtering based on all the most useful fields.
So for example looking at the list of buyers to call, one of Lawrence Rand’s negotiators would be able to click on the last and next call dates to see when someone was last spoken to and when they’re next flagged for a call. But it works for all fields in the database so that for example at the touch of a button the negotiator can highlight people looking for property in price order or based on numbers of beds.
Telephone Integration Reapit enabled Lawrence Rand’s telephone system to be integrated with RPS, this allows one click outbound dialling from within the software and prompts for the recording of conversational notes and diary reminders for agreed future contact. Inbound calls would flag the clients contact record and populate it on the negotiators desktop. This streamlined one click integration with the phone system has resulted in an average of 12 more outbound calls per staff member per day. Taken over the year this adds a level of productivity that can be marked in comparison to the competition.
Tasks & Messaging
It doesn’t sound very exciting does it and yet this is such a fundamental and important piece of the system. Inspired initially by a report that hospital’s employing simple checklist procedures had cut the death rates by 15% Reapit decided to introduce their own within RPS. Staff efficiency has markedly improved across all areas of the system, with compliance a particularly noticeable area. Compliance is often referred to as business prevention! Yet given the potential pitfalls with the PMA, fines and worse, it’s not an area that can be ignored. Lawrence Rand have the ability to instantly audit their stock and look at areas of concern. For example which sets of details have been approved, which instructions have EPC’s. On top of this throughout the listing process there’s assistance at every step with workflow reminders to ensure best practice is adhered to.
Peter Lawrence commented ‘I’m delighted to say that we’ve always been on top of this area but it’s effortless within RPS and nothing is left to chance. We’ve only had the system in 8 months but we’ve not had a single complaint in that time. Checks that took hours now take minutes’
Workflow In the diagram below you can see an example of how sophisticated workflow is for an RPS client and the almost limitless amount of applications it offers a forward thinking company. Basically clients can map out how they want their businesses to run and then use RPS as the blueprint to put this into action.
Tasks is an area that can be configured to a client’s requirements and so triggers, for example on the anniversary of someone having moved with Lawrence Rand as a buyer or seller, can be automated. The Home Moving Trends Survey statistics show that 41% of vendors are estimated to move again within 5 years, what could be more important than ensuring your agency stays in contact with that select group, given that potential for future business simple reminders to remind Lawrence Rand to stay in touch means they’re going to stand a very good chance of winning those 213 potential valuations per annum based on their current figures.
Peter ‘It’s a simple concept that many agents pay lip service to but I’m always amazed how few actually have procedures in place to ensure the very people you’ve already done a good job for aren’t canvassed for future business in anything other than a haphazard fashion. We are methodical without being pushy and using a tool such as RPS makes the system work like clockwork. I’ve heard many talk about a ‘client for life’ methodology but it’s all lip service, many of the systems I’ve used in the past and even that are being sold today completely lose the ability to stay in contact with people once they’re archived. If that’s the case then you’re without doubt t ignoring the best possible source of c a tr n o ge of C future business.’ Exchan Inform FS ) (On Risk
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Mobile Reapit understand the need that today’s RPS user wants access 24/7 so we provide RPS on laptops and an optimised version for tablets and smartphones.
Peter comments ‘Its thrown around so often now as a term I thought it would be the starting point for the systems we were due to see as part of our review. You can imagine our surprise then when over half the suppliers we saw had no ability whatsoever to enable access from outside of the office. In the last seven months myself and the team have managed to wrap up 8 deals out of hours on our various devices. How many times do you hear ‘I wish I had more hours in the day!’ I do! And it allows us to work smarter than the competition. It also allows me to taunt the staff when I’m holiday from the beach which gives me no end of satisfaction!, there’ll be no slacking off whilst I’m away for sure.’
Challenge FOUR Increase the number of referral opportunity’s by integrating as seamlessly as possible with key partners It’s not all about us! The average number of partners that a Reapit client had two years ago was eight, this has now gone up to eleven and is still increasing. Which just goes to show there’s some very exciting partners out there for Estate Agents to choose from, but whilst the promise of technological wins, marketing tools and website solutions is great, what many Agents are finding is that there’s now a nightmare to deal with in terms of integrating them all together. Rather than ‘quick wins’ there can be a hideous trail of workarounds and rekeying of data.
Peter explains “I’ve always liked to think of myself as forward thinking & open to new ideas, but one thing I’ve noticed is that technology companies often meant to save you time and energy have unwittingly managed to hinder rather than help. What I mean by this is that there are plenty of tools out there that we need to use from a marketing perspective usually, unfortunately this has meant rekeying description fields, uploading photos and entering passwords and endless tick boxes on ordering systems for so many of our key partners. As I mentioned I’m a stickler for metrics when I reviewed the technology within my firm last year I discovered to my horror that we were wasting an hour and a half per week per negotiator on needless admin tasks. Coming to Reapit enabled seamless links to all my key partners and enabled me to save a huge amount of time and money’
Niche Reapit already had a tried and tested bit of integration with Niche and we have saved many hours of time spent rekeying information for ordering Lawrence Rand’s floorplans and other collateral marketing information such as professional photos.
Brief Your Market One of the dangers of using an external email marketing tool is that rather than simplify matters suddenly an explosion of exporting Excel spreadsheets starts to impact on efficiency. With Reapit seamlessly integrating Brief Your Market so that it works hand in hand with each other, Lawrence Rand’s ability to communicate with the public improved exponentially. By enabling them now to track their email more effectively they have a demonstrable and efficient ROI.
KS Signs Reapit allows Lawrence Rand to order for sale and to let signs with one click.
Peter comments ‘I’ve seen many people criticising the effectiveness of sale boards but I don’t see that myself not with 18% of our business still coming from boards in our various reports. A simple yet elegant bespoke bit of integration enables RPS to export to them the details of the boards, when to put up and take down without any phone calls at all.’
Reapit have always prided ourselves on the very tight conveyancing integration we do for MyHomeMove and Live amongst others.
Peter comments “An absolute requirement for me is the need for a conveyancing company that can provide me with the technology platform that prevents hours of staff time being wasted in needless chase ups with solicitors. It seemed to me that there were only two options in Live or MyHomeMove as only they seemed kitted up to understand what I wanted. It really couldn’t be any easier, rather than the 6 minutes we used to waste with each conveyancing referral and subsequent time logging in and amending changes now we do it all within the RPS system. With field and status changes held natively we’re in control and the flow of information aids the whole process which let’s not forget by definition can be very complex. We make around 9 referrals a week in each of the offices, across the year this adds up to some serious time won back from otherwise unnecessary rekeying.”
Reapit CleverVoice Reapit have again in an industry first launched an exciting new tool for Estate Agents so that negotiators can now easily and quickly use CleverVoice to send voicemails within Reapit’s software to individuals or large groups.
Peter commented "We have been using the new CleverVoice voicemail system integrated within Reapit’s software and have had some great results; being able to get in touch with our applicants in a more personal way, hundreds at a time, letting them know of new instructions and price changes. Using CleverVoice has enabled us to reach a much wider number of people in a cost and time effective way with good feedback from applicants on the service. They like the fact that they haven't been disturbed by a call at an inconvenient time and can respond to the voicemail to get the service they wish, without needing to call back. It is good to see responses within minutes of a CleverVoice voicemail being sent, coming into our inbox. We also know then who to approach and who is serious about the message sent to them. We have seen good response rates already at 16% of applicants wanting viewings or more information on properties. As customers get more used to the service, we expect these rates to rise.
Lawrence Rand will be using CleverVoice in many more ways: getting touch with landlords, tenants, offering services and market surveys. It is an easy and effective way to be in touch with people to do business with, how else can I get in touch with dozens or hundreds of people, where the personal touch is important with the same message, in a few minutes! “I believe this is a fantastic business tool and I can see it also being used where people need to get information out to a lot of people, in a more personal and powerful way than traditional text and email, that a voice message does and get an immediate response.”
SMS Speedway Reapit integrates with a number of text message providers offering considerable savings over the typical 10p text rates prolific in the industry, the abllity to use text as a method of aiding matches has been around for some time. What is unique to Reapit however is utilising text as a workflow option for example in terms of confirming appointments, this has had a massive effect on lowering no shows for viewings.
Peter comments my previous provider did have text messaging integrated but like so many of the cheaper systems it seems like what you saved with the upfront costs you had to pay the price with added extra’s with everything else. Because of the extra charges we’d be doing our text messaging outside of the system which led to a saving on the texts but there was the time wasted logging into the webpage and using the text provider. Within RPS text messaging works natively and we are making a huge saving over both of the previous providers we’ve used. Of greater importance is that it allows us to do some really clever things like confirm appointments or send update messages directly from the system based on our own triggers. Just the appointment confirmation alone has allowed us to cut the amount of no shows from viewings and valuations by a massive 67%. They clearly weren’t being rude it was a case of just being forgetful but the reminder on the morning of the appointment with the ability to confirm yay or nay has been a great unexpected benefit from using such an everyday tool slightly differently.’
AudioAgent Reapit has for some time integrated with the best of breed marketing tools to ensure its clients stay at the forefront in the marketplace and differentiate itself from so many of the Me2 agents all doing the same thing. Saving time having to laboriously attach and send photo’s to audio agent now having this done automatically or at the touch of a button has completely streamlined this process and allowed the Lawrence Rand team to do more proactive activities.
The Future Peter concluded “Reapit is at the very forefront of innovation within this industry. With a business of our aspirations the system and relationship needs to evolve as our requirements also change. They are always pushing the boundaries and there’s always something in beta and the existing RPS software is always being honed and extended. It was absolutely vital we found a partner that understood all this and had the flexibility to meet these exacting demands, I feel absolutely sure that with Reapit we have done so. Being a smaller independent, clearly we don’t have the benefit of a small army of IT or Marketing departments to call on like larger corporates, because all my people are too busy running the business and often wear many hats in terms of responsibility. Having a consultative approach from Reapit really helps show some of the best practice going on within the industry. There’s many great ideas flying around in this business but there’s even more owners who have more spinning plates going round without ever implementing them, what I love about dealing with Reapit is they enable us to get on and do the things we want to do. It would be pushing it a bit for Reapit for claim they’re at Apple level but what they both have in common is that Reapit make RPS unbelievably accessible. It’s so clear this is written by people who’ve come from the industry as every idea and task that you would have in day to day agency is there within RPS within a few clicks. As any right minded person should be I was healthily suspicious of the claims that all I needed was one more instruction from the software to justify the extra spend. I’m wary of anyone who says that but within 12 weeks of using RPS we’d won 17 instructions simply down to the easy way that the software helps you look for opportunities. My job is to try and recruit the best people and ascertain which are the best tools for our company at any given time. If I shirk from that then I’m only giving second best and that just won’t cut it, not in this market. There are plenty of bigger companies than Lawrence Rand but I’ll defend to the hilt that we pound for pound will hold our own against anyone. To do that though requires rigorously applying ourselves to the task in hand and I couldn’t achieve what I am doing without Reapit as a partner. I’m already planning for the expansion into our third office which is being prepared now and whilst I have many things on my checklist for that office the one thing I don’t have to consider for one minute is which software’s going in there.
Testimonials Peter Lawrence - Managing Director
Billy Byrne - Branch Manager
Louise New - PA to the Director
Robin Thomas - Sales Negotiator
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