With the coronavirus outbreak meaning a period of temporary home working could be on the horizon for UK businesses, industry leader Peter Knight joined us on Monday 16th March to share practical tips on how your business can prepare for, and make the most of, that scenario.
You can watch the full video above, or catch up on the key advice in the sections below.
The telephone remains your most powerful device. Here’s how to make sure your telephone systems can cope with home-working:
If possible, get yourself set up with multiple phones – you can make outgoing calls on one line and keep the other free for incoming calls. Use the hold function to manage multiple calls at once.
Do your company supply work mobiles? If not, are your team prepared to use personal mobiles? Perhaps thank your team for this by offering to pick up their mobile bills (including personal calls) during the period of home-working.
Check your team members have good mobile reception at home. If not, they may need a landline.
Consider using a telephone answering service to ensure all calls are picked up.
Test your call forwarding service to make sure calls to your office landline don’t go unanswered.
Could you use VOIP or “soft phones” that work over the internet? Make sure to test this in advance.
Your computer systems will play a vital role in keeping your team members connected to each other and your clients. With your team working across multiple locations and the increased likelihood of sickness, it’s also more important than ever to keep your CRM system up to date.
If you don’t already use laptops for home-working in your business you may need to configure suitable devices in advance – make a list of the systems you use a day to day basis and check you’re able to access them all from home
Make sure your team can access the CRM from home
Video calls and instant messaging
With limited face to face contact, the everyday interactions between colleagues won’t come so naturally. There’s plenty of tech that can provide your team with a platform for human interaction, helping them feel connected to each and other and the outside world during this unusual period:
Set up video conferencing now and test it with your team. Some services you could look at are: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or Microsoft Teams.
Hold your usual morning meeting via video conferencing every day.
Try more frequent, shorter, meetings to keep people feeling connected and motivated throughout the day.
Set up WhatsApp – you may want to create a company wide group plus several specialist team groups so you’re sending relevant messages and not inundating the whole team.
Stay connected with clients
Use the same service to keep your teams connected with your clients:
Set up video conferencing links on your website
Share how-to guides to help them get to grips with your chosen service provider
Managing client expectations
Communication is key to success.
We’ll have more on this subject from Josh Phegan on 19th March, you can see his webinar here.
Peter’s advice is to stay in touch with your existing clients and tenants, to keep them afloat of changes to your circumstances and what this means for them:
Be pre-emptive and transparent about the challenges you’re facing.
Share what you’re doing to continue service whilst keeping them and your team safe.
Reassure them that normal service will resume when possible.
Be clear about how tasks will be carried out differently.
Let them know if you need to redefine what classes as urgent.
There are lots of questions about how letting agents can cope with maintenance issues during the outbreak. David Cox will join us live on 24th March to provide more specific advice based on conversations with the government, you can sign up here.
In the meantime, Peter shared some things you can be doing now to prepare your teams, landlords and tenants:
Ensure multiple members of your team are equipped to handle maintenance issues. Think about the systems they’ll need access to, the details of all your contractors and the processes they’ll need to be aware of.
Get in touch with your contractors to understand what measures they have in place, the best way to contact them and identify any areas where you may need to find an alternative.
Think of alternative solutions to help in cases where you’re unable to carry out the usual service. For example, could you provide electric heaters to tenants whose boiler has broken?
Talking to your landlords
Over the coming months, some tenants may struggle to keep up with rental payments. Start speaking to your landlords now about the options available to them so you can respond quickly and minimise the impact on their cash flow. Some options you and your landlords may want to consider are:
Short term rent reductions for tenants
Payment breaks for tenants, with repayments spread out
Talking to your tenants
Maintenance issues often come out of the blue. Make sure your tenants know the best way to report issues to you and what level and speed of service they can expect to receive:
Remind tenants of how to report maintenance issues.
Re-define what maintenance issues will class as ‘urgent’ during this period.
Be transparent about the procedures you’ve put in place to keep them, your team and your contractors safe.
With social distancing measures in place, it will become increasingly difficult to carry out viewings in person. There are people who are moving out of necessity who you can still help.
Create and share a policy for viewings
Set out clear guidelines for viewings to show your commitment to keeping buyers, vendors and your team safe. Some suggestions from Peter:
Asking clients to declare their health prior to a viewing.
Wearing gloves, masks and shoe covers.
Conducting viewings whilst the current occupier is out to minimise interactions.
Focus on quality over quantity
Spend more time speaking to buyers to fully understand their needs.
Present them with a short list of properties to view.
Use video tours to help buyers get a feel for a property.
Managing staff working from home
Here’s some ideas from Peter to keep your team on track:
Ask your team to get up and dressed for work as usual.
Set out tasks for the day in a more structured way than usual with allocated time slots.
Check-in with your team throughout the day to maintain focus.
Remain connected but without constant interruptions by giving your teams times throughout the day you’ll be available to talk.
Identify projects to fill extra time as a result of less viewings. For example, you could use the opportunity to clean your CRM and re-engage your database.
Keep people feeling part of a team and show your appreciation
Show your team that you care for their personal well-being:
Encourage your team members to stay connected about personal issues as well as business issues.
Consider a ‘buddy system’ to make sure no one gets isolated.
Ask your team to share their highlights of each day.
Acknowledge everyday tasks being completed consistently and to a high standard, despite the disruption.
For more tips on maintaining your mental well-being, and that of your team, throughout the outbreak, you can also join our webinar on Wednesday 25th March here.
Peter Knight has a 40-year career in estate agency starting as a negotiator through to MD of Jackson Property Services. He’s the founder of Property Academy whose purpose is to inspire property professionals to fulfill their potential through coaching, mentoring and events. Peter is an International award winning speaker and author of bestselling book ‘HEMP’, the ‘Highly Effective Marketing Plan’.
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