3 Lessons from Real Estate During the Pandemic
Selling a house is not just a complicated financial and logistical endeavor. It’s also an emotional and personal affair. We often work with families who’ve spent decades in a house, watching their kids grow up and experiencing all of life’s ups and downs within its walls. They may be parting ways with their home for reasons outside of their control, such as financial hardship, death in the family, or a major life change. Often, it’s just time to move on. Whatever the case, they usually find themselves in a tough spot, and they demand a smooth, transparent process with someone they can trust. At Sundae, it’s imperative that we provide this.
Ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the stakes are even higher in our business. Customers buying and selling houses have all the normal challenges to consider, which are stressful enough on their own. But now they also have the added anxiety of a pandemic and threat of economic meltdown hanging over their heads. It’s understandable for many to feel like a house sale could make or break them. This makes our job even more important, and in some ways more difficult.
But dealing with coronavirus reminds us that there is always room to improve operations and customer service. In fact, streamlining the ways we work in the wake of the virus has not only helped us as a business, but also provided a more efficient and consistent customer experience for anyone looking to Sundae for help.
Here are three key lessons we’ve learned during this challenging time.
Lesson 1: Emphasize technology and internal cohesion
At Sundae, we define technology as more than just our hardware and software. Technology is, more broadly speaking, the process of constant innovation and drive for improvement. The way our business works is not always straightforward. In essence, we find customers looking to sell dated and damaged houses, and we buy those houses or find buyers for them through an investor marketplace. But there are a lot of moving parts.
We’re constantly reviewing our workflows from marketing and customer service to sales and closing operations. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned recently is the importance of keeping our teams connected. Our Customer Advisors dealing directly with home sellers need to know where each customer came from and why. Our Market Experts who negotiate directly with homeowners need to understand their motivations and goals. And our Marketing team can’t do its job properly without constant communication with downstream stakeholders to know what’s happening with prospects after they first come into contact with Sundae.
Going beyond the standard protocol of check-in meetings and emails, we used the time during the coronavirus shutdown to streamline our customer touch points and lead qualification process and tools. We also put together a task force of discipline leads to meet regularly and provide weekly company-wide updates on how each department was shifting its strategy.
Finally, we began exporting “call notes” from our sales platform and circulating them in a daily recap of every customer interaction with a qualified lead in our funnel. The updates placed special emphasis on how the virus was affecting (or not affecting) customer behaviors. Messages were circulated to every member of the marketing, sales, and operations groups, and a healthy conversation flowed from this forum. The result was a more informed and focused team, even while we all worked remotely.
Lesson 2: There is no substitute for the human touch
Improving our technical proficiency was helpful, but didn’t account for the personal challenges facing our customers during the time of coronavirus. According to Verse CEO David Tal, “Technology alone is inauthentic, but humans alone are inefficient.” That statement resonates with us now more than ever. We’ve learned that blending the best of humans and technology creates better sales and marketing outcomes.
As we looked for ways to get better in how we talk to our customers, we recognized a few limitations. One was that our Customer Advisor team was working around the clock to cover the phones all hours of the day and provide useful updates into our sales management platform. Looking at the alternatives, we saw that most third party providers either could not efficiently integrate with our sales funnel, or they leaned too heavily on off-shoring solutions. With a customer base dealing in the high anxiety situation of a home sale, we felt foreign call centers gave off a whiff of insensitivity.
Working with Verse, we were able to implement a custom workflow in which Verse customer service representatives help qualify leads and inject them directly into our sales funnel. Their call centers are based in the U.S. and provide 24-7 support, as well as a friendly voice who is familiar with our business. This solution provides better customer attention on the front lines. But more importantly, it allows our Customer Advisors to spend more time providing personalized engagement with qualified prospects, making every customer interaction more meaningful.
Lesson 3: Helpful content builds trust
As noted in our company mission statement, we aren’t just trying to “close deals” with our customers. We believe we aren’t successful if we haven’t fundamentally helped them address their problem. This aim does not conflict with a healthy revenue stream for our business. In fact, we think doing the right thing attracts more people to our business, helping us build scale and efficiency.
One of the best ways we help is through our content and messaging strategy. At Sundae, we are actively creating content for various audience segments to provide information, tips, and guidance on a range of real estate topics. This content includes data-driven analyses, human-focused customer stories, and instructional articles and videos. The Sundae blog may advise a reader on how to choose a buyer for their house, recognize fraud, or increase the value of their home through amazing interior design and home improvement hacks.
Perhaps as important as the content itself, at Sundae we actively encourage participation from throughout our organization in creating and distributing this helpful content to our customers. This means tapping into our extensive staff expertise for content generation, including articles written by our real estate economists and valuation experts. It also means integrating content and messaging into our sales interactions. Our goal is for everyone working with customers to be equipped with articles, infographics, videos, and other content they can share to help answer questions or provide more context on a range of personal circumstances.
This has been especially important lately, as people are wondering about the state of the economy and how it’s affecting housing. As a homebuyer that has continued to purchase houses throughout these uncertain times — even while many of our competitors suspended operations — this proactive approach to content dissemination has helped us build momentum and satisfy a lot of homeowners in need.