A few months prior to Covid-19 hitting Australia, I started an online property brokerage that I had gotten the idea for after working in the sector for 10 years and dealing with the same recurring problems daily.
The centred around lack of transparency, and a lengthy and stressful customer experience.
Fast forward to now, and my business partner and I thought what we built ticked “all the boxes”.
One measure of success we had placed on the business was to eliminate the need for customers to speak to people and for a while it seemed like this measure was perfect because Covid has changed the way so many of us operate our businesses. It almost felt like the perfect storm pushing us in the right direction but we were missing something.
Over time, we spoke to our customers, got to know them and asked questions about their motivations for building a home and what it meant to them.
What we came to realise is that yes, the technology is solid but we had been so focused on streamlining the process that we had eradicated most of the human element from a transaction which for most people is the biggest decision they will make in life, one worth more than $500,000.
It felt like everything during Covid was digital but we made sure that we could add a human element back in whilst adhering to changing restrictions.
I started doing research and read about how Google had now housed an empathy lab that focused on ‘design feeling’ rather than ‘design thinking’ to increase UI.
Design feeling aims to help developers focus on how their designs make users feel, rather than on seeing designs solely as a solution to a problem.
Even though we had taken the stress out and reduced the time it took from enquiry through to purchase, we hadn’t put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. It was a lightbulb moment for me.
Through getting to know our customers we were able to take stock of our process. What was working, what our fast wins were, and what we needed to change.
In the digital age and when building a company centred around technology, it’s important that we all connect with our consumers and offer added value. We ended up trialing a blended approach of technology and human-centred service, and we really found our ‘sweet spot’.
Surely enough, our sales started to steadily increase and what was great was that a lot of it was from referrals so it validated our efforts to re-introduce the human approach to improve our customer experience. We hired dedicated finance experts and people on the ground to take our customers through display homes in our high-growth areas and people really responded to it.
We recently had our full first month of operating with our complete process and sales went from $1 million to $19 million in a month.
The key ways we brought human elements back to our technology were:
1. Putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes
We began reaching out to our customers throughout different stages of the process to get a gauge for how they were feeling, and any questions they had. Understanding their feelings and having empathy for them made all the difference and the feedback was invaluable.
2. Use customer feedback to weigh up convenience versus human
Most customers will prefer to speak to a chatbot if it can save them time on small transactions or enquiries.
However, on the flip side, research shows us that companies should ensure that consumers can engage with real human beings through the entire customer experience.
When we put our feedback into action and integrated the human back into our experience, our NPS increased significantly (so the proof is in the pudding so to speak).
3. Being truly accountable for both customer and partner experiences
Any company starting out has kinks to iron out, and there are always improvements that can be made. Add in unchartered territories and things aren’t always seamless.
We put a real focus on accountability, whether that’s with a phone call with a new customer, an update to our portal, or onboarding a building partner. We are accountable for their experience and ensuring it is a great one.
- Jimmy Mullany is a co-founder and Director of Balfour Homes.