James Biley keeps you connected

James Biley argues the case for better - and faster communication between property managers and their customers

Welcome to my first column for Flat Living. I’m really excited to have been given the opportunity to engage with you and to share and discuss our experiences of the world of social media as it relates to property management.

So, why am I doing this and what’s the idea behind it? I’ve been in my marketing and communications role at Countrywide for three years and was with the Countrywide Group in different roles for five years before that.
During this time I’ve experienced just how important it is to communicate and engage with our customers (not only in property management but in sales, lettings and auctions too). The advent of social media has raised the bar even higher and has dramatically increased the speed of communication. While this can be a good thing, it has also meant that companies have had to adapt to become much more responsive – and fast!

In today’s high octane media environment everything is much more accessible and instantaneous and in my view this has been an unexpected change for our industry. I remember, for example, sitting at the ARMA conference perhaps three years ago when James Max was hosting proceedings. He asked how many agents were on Twitter; I think three put their hands up, including me! So we don’t have to go too far back to see how things have changed and how the property industry has had to evolve to keep pace with our customers and the supply chain.

I’m often surprised at the reluctance of some agents to embrace social media as another channel of communication for their customers. This may be a symptom of my media background, as for 12 years I worked in
TV and advertising so everything was broadcast, but I guess every industry is different. The real difference however is that customer expectations has changed greatly and your clients will use social media to talk about your products or services (the good and the not so good) regardless of whether you are part of the conversation.

Naturally the advantage of being part of any dialogue is to be able to give your own view point, speak up and be heard. Now I know for a fact that within the property industry we are not short of people who are happy to do that! So let’s embrace this opportunity to engage with our client base and learn how it can be used for best effect in our industry. And there you have it - the reason for writing this column is to share with each other our ideas and experiences and to ask the ‘so what do I do when I do get a tweet?’ questions.

Now we’re not just talking about Twitter here; it doesn’t even need to be all social media, but it helps if you have platforms which are accessible to your customers and which allow them to engage with you. Sometimes that simple offer of additional support is all it takes to keep a customer updated and more importantly, informed. If they have a question and can get a quick ‘no effort required’ response from a Tweet or a post on Facebook or Instagram, that’s a fast, effective and simple way for them to communicate with you and engage with your service or product. It really can make all the difference.

Think about it yourself. Say you need to contact your bank and ask how long it typically takes for a transaction to clear (a simple enquiry with no security details to disclose). Just the thought of having to go to their website, look up their number, go through options 1, 2, 23, 87… ok I’m exaggerating but you get the idea. Just think if you could send a quick Tweet and get a quick response. Just how simple would that be? It can sometimes make the difference between you wanting to change banks or agents, because it’s the service you receive that differentiates the product. That’s the way to use social media to engage with your customers and offer that extra support. And don’t forget - once your customers are following you it’s very easy for you to update them with what you’re up to and promote the new products and services you can offer.

Well that’s my mission statement for this column set out. I now need YOU!! So tweet me your questions on social media and how to get the best from it to @jamesbiley or @FlatLivingLoves and use the hashtag #BeMoreSocial or email me.

James Biley is marketing and communications director at Countrywide Estate Management