Estate agents…they just don’t get it

26Jun10
Danny Dyer

My estate agent - or Danny Dyer?

When it comes to buying a property, there are many estate agents to choose from.

As such, you’d think it’d be within their interests to treat you as a valued customer, and not make every interaction with them a hassle.

I’ve had no such luck so far. Some have been worse than others, but today I am here to ‘out’ the crappy service I have received from Mann Countrywide.

Stage 1: My boyfriend and I were looking at properties in the window of their High Street branch. We were pounced on by an enthusiastic young agent of around half my age (quite a feat considering I’m 25), who was determined to drag us into the branch.

Stage 2: The branch was depressing. It’s a small room with 6 desks and 6 disillusioned, agitated sales people, each desperate for the merest sniff of a prospect. Young agent with semi-flock-of-seagulls haircut forces me to impart all of my details before he’ll let me see any properties on their books.

Young agent sniggers at my ‘Radiohead’ based email address that I created when I was 15. I guess Radiohead aren’t ‘cool’ anymore.

Stage 3: Agent asks me if I’ve had mortgage advice. Why yes I have! Just a few minutes ago from Robinson Michael and Jackson. He informs me that RM&J’s mortgage advisor is rubbish, but theirs is much better. Do I want an appointment? I say no thank you, but unsatisfied with this response, agent calls me later in the day to give me the spiel a second time.

Just to make REALLY sure, a second agent rings me the next day with property details, and again tells me why I should see their mortgage adviser. While trying to say no, agent is finding appointments for me. I start to wonder if I’m speaking the same language.

Stage 4: No properties are suitable at present. I’m added to a mailing list and emailed potential properties every day.

Stage 5: I have decided not to buy a property and as such would like to unsubscribe from the mailing list. Within the email is a line that reads: “We respect your privacy. To remove yourself from our email distribution, please click here”.

I click the link, at which point my Outlook opens up a new email with subject line ‘Remove from mailing list’, but no ‘To’ address included. *Sigh*

Stage 6: I try to read the email disclaimer by clicking the link. However, the link is just some blue underlined text, and doesn’t go anywhere. I copy and paste the URL mentioned below into the browser, and am taken to a generic page that doesn’t mention anything about emails whatsoever.

Email unsubscribe option

Stage 7: Bemused – I try to find a phone number. No number in the email…so I call my local branch. Young agent answers the phone. Apparently he remembers me. I ask him to remove me from the emails, a simple enough request. The following conversation ensues (me in red, agent in blue).

“Why aren’t you going to buy anymore?”

“I don’t want to. I’m going to save up and maybe buy in 6 months time”

“I can set up a reminder for us to send you properties in 3 months time”

“No thank you. My requirements will be different then; I’ll have more money to spend”

“I’ll set up a reminder to call you then in three months time”

“NO thank you, I’ll come back to you when I’m ready”

“Oh. *Sulks*”

“By the way, can you please tell your marketing people that the unsubscribe link in their emails doesn’t work. It’s incredibly annoying.” (Of course I suspect this is a marketing tactic to make you ring the branch but I mentioned it anyway).

“Er….yeah. OK.”

And so I said my goodbyes. Young agent was clearly unimpressed that I did not fall for his smooth-talking estate agent charms.

I already have a short list of agents I won’t go near unless I HAVE to (Greyfox, Ward & Partners, now Mann Countrywide), but what they don’t seem to realise is that if they’d just treated me like someone who was able to make their own decisions, I would have come back. I respect their need to make a living, but making me feel very uncomfortable on the phone and in person a number of times is not the way to earn my business/loyalty.

So many other industries seem to have grasped this simple premise, so why can’t estate agents? There’s a reason why moving house is thought to be the 3rd most stressful thing that people can go through, after bereavement and divorce. And I have a strong suspicion that estate agents make a large contribution to that.

Addition: Since writing this post, I received a comment from ‘Warren’ at Countrywide. As he added the comment to the wrong post, I’ll add it here:

“Morning Jennifer

I work for Countrywide (the company that owns Mann amongst other brands). Apologise for the bad experience – we are slowly embracing email technology and this is a very bad example (and certainly not good practice).

I am starting to roll out a more robust customer communications process (that will embrace best practice) – could you send me the email in question? I will ensure that we;

1. Unsubscribe you
2. Use this to improve email training

Kind Regards

Warren”

Second addition: Despite email contact with Warren and my call to the agent a week ago, I am still receiving property alerts from Mann Countrywide. It seems I may never be free of their mailing list.

I sent a stroppy email to my local branch to complain and received a response this morning; “Good morning Jennifer, I have removed you from our mailing list. Kind regards, Branch Manager” (note, no apologies). I am feeling skeptical.

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