Young London Inspires New Approach
November 16, 2011
It was a normal commute to work, sitting on a packed train flipping through the paper, when I was jolted by a story about an innovative estate agent who had just won three South London Business of the Year awards.
Young London had taken the brave step of replacing transaction-based commission for its team with rewards for excellent customer service. An estate agency driven by customer care rather than hard-nosed sales initiatives? Surely not.
I am a project manager for Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP), a forward thinking and customer centric housing association in South-West London. I’m leading a project on creating a smooth, exciting experience for our new customers. We have a very clear vision; we want to provide the very best customer service in the country and be a great employer, always looking to punch above our weight.
With our relentless desire to learn from best practice and particularly organisations who break the mould, after reading the article about Young London’s approach, I was keen to know more. I met with one of their Directors to talk through how they’d managed to put customer service at the centre of their business in a sector that’s traditionally focused upon sales commissions and arranged to spend a day with Young London, meeting the rest of the team and seeing them in action first hand.
In sync with its customer friendly approach to letting and selling housing, I was welcomed by a very affable group of people who were tripping over themselves to give me a real sense of the company culture and strategy. They were as interested in RHP and how we operate as I was in them. At first glance Young London seems at a very different end of the rental market to RHP but our shared values and customer-first approach created some real opportunities to learn from one another.
I was struck by the breadth of knowledge of their consultants and their willingness to give the best to every customer, every time. They made it their business to know the local area and its properties like the back of their hands. Not only did this enable them to answer any questions that came their way but they could intuitively predict the type of questions each customer may want to ask.
So what did I learn? I took many things away with me but I was particularly struck how service excellence was driven by creativity. Thinking outside the box is Young London’s modus operandi and its service is completely tailored by what their customers need.
As a result I am recommending ways of modernising how we let our homes to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for our customers.
On the day our customers receive the keys to their new home we want it to instantly be a place that feels like home. We want to move away from the historical housing approach of managing ‘voids and lettings’ to creating personal spaces that our customers love.
As a social landlord we may have a different set of challenges to private companies like Young London but our determination to provide a continually improving service is the same.