How customer experience measurement is driving cultural change at this global real estate group

Harcourts International chief strategy officer shares the journey of deploying a new customer experience management platform and how it's improving soft skills as well as business profitability outcomes

Customised training programs driven by client insights, company-wide experience awards and more personalised services are just some of ways real estate group, Harcourts International, is utilising a new customer experience platform for business growth.

Harcourt is a full service real estate franchising business operating 900 offices in nine countries including Australia. Its chief strategy officer, Steffi Andruchiw, told CMO the decision to bring on a fresh customer experience management platform in the last 12 months was about keeping up with client expectations and further cementing a culture of customer experience.

“With the pace of change, digital technology and capability in the world, client expectations are constantly increasing, as are consumer expectations everywhere. We needed to work hard to understand their needs and wants, what works and what doesn’t, and make sure our services exceed expectations,” she said.  

“Investing in a platform like Qualtrics enables us to take a data-driven approach to measuring client experience and use information to gain insights that can change our approach to clients to provide more value to them. Also, as a franchisor, everything we do in training, development, and our technology and tools, is about driving client experiences. Having data to develop the right things assists us greatly.”

Previously, Harcourts was running client-based surveys, but lacked a Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology and ability to easily share results. In addition, the group needed a platform with a global footprint to scale as the business grows.

To date, the Qualtrics Experience Management Platform has gone live in four countries – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the US. First use cases were in the sales business, and saw Harcourt surveying buyers and sellers at settlement. The next step is to roll the platform across Harcourt’s property management and mortgage broking business. Data being captured is being fed into Harcourts’ existing CRM platform.

“Like all businesses, we’re trying to ensure we have a single view of the client. When trust is so important, you have to make that relationship with clients across services as great as it can be, so it’s a key priority in the next 12 months,” Andruchiw said.

A significant outcome so far is in training and development. Harcourts is using the client insights to enhance and customise training and focus on areas that require improvement. As an example, feedback gleaned by using the Text iQ capability, showed soft skills needed to be improve in the business.

“Now we can get hard data on clients means we can run customised programs that improve that client experience,” Andruchiw said. “That insight is very powerful in leaders and sales agent’s hands.

“Relationships are key to referrable, repeatable business. People understand that fundamentally. What we have done in the training is work to close the loop in terms of processes. There are various pain points and opportunities that come through the data.

“We’ve built out a client experience guide, and distributed that with an in-person roadshow in A/NZ and South Africa. Training services cover things like seeing data come through and if they have a detractor, how to deal with results, pick up the phone and resolve with clients.

“Then there are things like personalisation and clients wanting to be kept in touch in certain ways. Finding that out early in the relationship has been very powerful. It’s not necessarily measurable in a harder ROI in these early stages.”

Another proof of concept led by the CIO and CFO sees customer feedback data compared with financial information via a Domo reporting platform showing profitability and productivity data at a business owner and office level.

“This is an example that shows the importance of cross-functional collaboration,” she said. “It also shows us jumping on innovation opportunities as we see them come up. This wasn’t something we thought about 18 months ago, but once you have the data, you can leverage it. Business owner profitability is very important to us as a franchisor, so supporting that is important. It’s a great outcome we didn’t see from the start.”

To build further CX momentum off the back of feedback data, Harcourts has recruited a client insights manager to help find additional use cases.

“We know we aren’t using the platform to its full potential yet. Need to ensure all learnings are captured and tweaked,” Andruchiw said.  

Off the back of the new platform and data insights being collected, Harcourts introduced new client experience awards into its employee recognition program in 2018, awarded both on a national and office level.

To ensure data and results are as impactful as possible, the company has also appointed client experience champions in each of its business units, as well as per office, who are armed with information and are key leaders in embedding the client experience program. Another way insights are circulated is via groups set up within the company’s Workplace by Facebook platform.

“These are either corporate employees or the wider team on the CX program, insights and reporting and what we were using. Curating that plan from teams to contribute has improved collaboration too,” Andruchiw explained.  

Of course technology only goes so far, and it’s having CX embedded within the DNA and culture of the Harcourts business that’s key to sustainable success. To continue this evolution, Harcourts is bringing together client experience, marketing and communications in one team headed up by a new director of brand experiences.

“Many businesses are looking at customer experience. The big difference for us is we had a published vision of having the best client experiences in real estate. All over our website, our MD says this publicly,” she said. “It wasn’t that hard to get executive buy-in for this as a result.”

Also recognising team experiences are important, Andruchiw said Harcourts has its sights on measuring employee insights in the next 12 months.

“We know team experiences are crucial in client experiences. We also do lots of work in culture and engagement in all projects and programs trying to help them drive successful business,” she said. “We want to maximise value to franchise network. Look at Qualtrics to measure that team experience for network satisfaction.”

Read more on how other brands are improving their CX game:

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