Despite the barrage of articles and opinions depicting economic doom and gloom of a mammoth scale, reports of tumbling property values, double-digit percentages losses by developers and property investors (the list goes on), no one is paying attention to the current state of the brokerage industry. The remaining standing companies still believe that, if things are done differently, with a client-centric philosophy, an incisive fact- based approach and a clear set of realistic objectives and values derived from truly objective assessments, the existence of real opportunities in the UAE real estate scene to create and build for the long-term was undeniable.
Pre-2008 saw all manner of people get into the real estate brokerage industry. The lucrative and easy to make commissions were too attractive to ignore. That is fine since there is nothing wrong in wanting to (legally) better yourself or income. But many thought their skills alone were what brought in results – none more so than the plethora of salespeople, who flocked to the field, many of whom were not familiar with properties.
Now, as the UAE property market matures through its first crisis, the nature of selling and buying realty is changing irreversibly and with it a lot of new industry and consumer trends are emerging, one of which is the lack of satisfaction of customers with real estate brokers. According to a survey conducted by Harbor Real Estate in October 2009, 61 per cent of consumers who bought property in the last two years are dissatisfied with the performance of real estate agents who brokered their purchases. What we have here is an indicator that brokerage companies need to shape up in order to survive during and beyond the financial crisis. The level of proficiency in effective consultancy, based on sound knowledge of the market and an understanding of the buyer’s requirements, appears to be the main shortcoming. Buyers today have choice and are more knowledgeable about the market, and they seek advice from professionals whom they feel they can trust. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, consumers are left feeling disappointed. This lack of trust is producing a lot of challenges for property brokers, including questioning of their standard commission rates, lack of sole representation or appointment and negative pre-judgment and perceptions.
The main concern is that these problems are not only affecting bad and illegal freelance brokers only but also impacting the professional and experienced brokers and overall reputation of the industry as well.
Traditionally, real estate has been viewed as a sales industry. The scenario is radically different in today’s environment. Customers have evolved to become more educated, better informed, more value conscious and demand more for their dirhams. Their expectations of the companies and the brokers they buy or sell through are much higher. They are no longer willing to be pushed around by unprofessional brokers. In short, they want better customer service. So brokers have to work harder and spend more effort and time to regain the trust of buyers and sellers. They need to realise that true and sustainable success comes from repeat business and word-of-mouth.
Customer service is one of the greatest keys that can help real estate service providers succeed. It can literally make or break a company. This is so because the entire business, marketing, sales, leasing and profits depend on customers.
Great marketing can help brokerage companies acquire new customers, but it is great customer service that ensures that the customers keep coming back. According to our survey, most customers quit dealing with a certain brokerage company because of an indifferent attitude towards them from the business owner, managers and/or employees. A typical brokerage company will only hear from a handful of dissatisfied customers; most of the rest of the customers will just quietly go away and never come back. To further compound the problem, a typical dissatisfied customer will tell an average of seven to 10 people about his problem and the bad service offered by the company.