I have spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to drag our office into the twenty first century! In the past, investment in new technologies always involved a hefty upfront spend to purchase the software or hardware before you had even really had the chance to try it out in anger. That isn’t so much the case anymore with the advent of low cost/free apps that are easily downloadable to a tablet or phone and can really enhance efficiency in your working life.
The surveying industry has always been very traditional, we still use square feet for the majority of measurements for example, and so the adoption of new technology has perhaps not been as quick as it may be in other industries. Speaking to colleagues locally, the number of companies who actively pursue a social media agenda on Twitter for example is few and far between but I can say honestly that I have made more good quality contacts from Twitter than I would have done from face to face meetings in the same amount of time. It has even resulted in two fee instructions which I never expected!
I think there is a certain amount of concern that the application of new technology will bring about the death of the industry as we know it; that the agency world will be consigned to history as all properties will be sold purely online. I don’t think that is the case at all; technology will change the industry for sure but the only agents and surveyors who will find themselves under threat from technology are those who refuse to embrace it. As younger talent comes through the ranks, the companies they will want to work for are those that are innovative and are pursuing a digital agenda.
Many surveying practices just seem to pay lip service to technology, particularly when it comes to an online presence. Many practices have a website but the property search function is difficult to use or the news page hasn’t been updated in months. This is almost worse than not having a website at all.
A website is your shop front: clients visit it before they even pick up the phone to you and if it looks rubbish, it’s a big black mark against your name before they have even spoken to you. With the advent of mobile internet access those sites that can’t be viewed properly through a mobile device also begin to give a negative impression to users and will now have a direct impact on Google rankings too.
What technology gives us is the ability to provide a better, more efficient and more cost effective service to our clients. If we can utilise the new ideas to provide a better service, rather than just as a gimmick, the benefits won’t just be for the customer but also for the surveyor in terms of being able to provide more competitive fee quotes and therefore an increase in the level of fee instructions. A better website and agency search function, providing more useful information than competitors, will attract more potential occupiers and if you can show this in traffic data in your pitches for new business, you can improve your bid conversion and your client service level too.
We have spent a lot of time on our website recently with a bit of a redesign to include the property search function. This is very definitely unfinished business as far as we are concerned – there is far more information that we can provide for each property than we do at the moment (and than many agents do) which will give users the ability to make informed decisions about a property almost before they have even left their desk!
Next time, I’ll look at some of the technologies and apps that we are using. RIP the 5m tape – long live the laser measure!