‘They don’t want us sitting in an office’ – Norfolk estate agent announces new multi-service hubs
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An estate agency in Norfolk says it will not be reopening some of its branches after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions because buying and selling habits have changed.
Arnolds Keys will be transitioning and increasing business operations to three new multi-service hubs in Norwich, Sheringham and Aylsham, to further expand their city, county and coastal coverage. As a result, they will not be reopening their former single service branches in Wroxham, North Walsham and Cromer.
Operations partner Jan Hÿtch says that the Covid-19 lockdown has given the business time to understand and to find effective alternatives to meet new and different customer demands.
“There’s not enough news I don’t think about people who’ve evolved their services in response to customer’s changing buying patterns, and who have made a really informed and responsive transition from one business model to another,” she says. “I think many smaller businesses have done this brilliantly during lockdown, and customers have evolved in the same way – being small and local makes us much more able to shapeshift to meet changing market conditions.
“From our perspective, their requirements of us are so different now. They want us out there, seeing properties, being out and about – they don’t want us sitting in an office keeping the door open for no foot traffic. So what we’ve decided to do is place our services strategically where customers need them to be.”
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The new hubs will augment the business’ existing services, with the Aylsham branch continuing to offer its agricultural services and the Sheringham office looking after clients and customers of the holiday side of the business.
Some staff members have been re-allocated to the city, county and coastal locations and the emphasis, Jan says, has been on finding a more agile, more effective way of working.
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“A good estate agent loves selling houses and doesn’t want to be stuck in the office,” she says. “They want to be out showing people properties, and that’s exactly where the clients want to see us.
“We’ve actually just invested quite heavily in new tech to be able to make it possible. If someone calls, we want the phone to ring wherever the agent is, not just in the office. As an industry we’ve got much better at using VOIP telephony, laptops, tablets, things like that – and this will give us the ability to drop everything and do whatever it is we need to do wherever we need to be.”
Jan believes that the recent lockdown has helped more people to become comfortable with using technology. “Before, video meetings were thought to be the arena for young people,” says Jan, “but now people are finding using video to be much nicer than just having a phone call.
“All generations and demographics are more savvy with their tech because they’ve had to be in order to keep in touch with their own families, and now we have clients asking us if we can do calls by Zoom and FaceTime – it’s really different, much more personal, and we like it.”
Jan says that Covid-19 has taught the business a lot about listening to what clients want from their services – including assurances around safe social distancing, PPE and online tours. “I think we were one of the few agents who, when we all saw lockdown coming, went about making video viewing tours of most of our properties,” says Jan, “so we feel our clients benefitted from that as we were able to further sale negotiations on that basis when the restrictions prevented in person viewings.
“Covid and its consequences has taught us all new skills and given us time to think and assess what we’re doing and to make sure we get ourselves pointing in the right direction for the future, so we can give the best possible service to our clients and customers.”