During this rapidly changing climate, technology, innovation and adaptability are more important than ever before for both buyers and sellers alike.
There are plenty of companies that believe that the technology they use will resolve all issues and simplify transactions. However, we firmly believe that such technology is never perfect and requires constant tweaking and modification.
One of the key ways we have been adapting to the changing needs of our clients is through our approach to customer feedback.
We have more than 50 people working within the company who are constantly taking on board feedback from the general public. If even one person struggles with our system, our approach is to find an immediate solution. Constructive criticism from users is the only way we, as a business, can develop and progress our processes and technology.
No question in the auction – or property – world is a silly one and we are happy to explain the process step by step as many times as needed to ensure interested parties understand the way our auctions work.
We may have heard the same question multiple times throughout the day; however, our staff will spend the time explaining the process as many times as necessary, as we believe that good customer service is the linchpin of a successful business.
The key is making communication with us easy and accessible. We can be contacted by phone, email, Zoom, Messenger, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. People should not be reticent to contact us; we are here to answer any and all questions no matter how small. The main thing is that people should not be afraid to pick up the phone; sometimes talking it through means we are able to pass on a great deal more information in a telephone call.
Live vs online auctions
As a result of the shift to homeworking, we believe the online auctions industry is three to five years ahead of where it would have been otherwise.
People who typically wanted to go to the live auction room have been encouraged to use the online facility with ease and confidence. However, although there is not really an alternative under the current restrictions, there have been many people who say they prefer the online process.
While we cannot predict the future, the important thing is to be prepared for the right medium. We may see a hybrid auction system in the future, which we have offered in the past, where you have the traditional auction room with people attending in person together with the option of online bidding for those who would rather attend virtually.
Looking back over recent months, what we have ended up seeing has been the opposite of what we expected. We assumed the older generation would be more resistant to the online auction site; however, this has not been the case.
We have one older client who has never owned a computer, let alone a smart phone. When we explained the process was now online, he bought his first computer, set it up with the help of one of his relations and went through the registration process. Following the auction, he rang up to say it was the most excitement he has had at an auction and he loves the “newfangled” way. That is from somebody who, up until that point, had come along to the auctions for the past three decades and is now embracing the changes, which is wonderful to see.
Despite the ever-growing need to adapt, the auction market has been resilient during the Covid-19 downturn. During these past six months, people have had more time to research what they are looking at – and that is perhaps partly due to working from home and having more time to carry out research.
We have had many more phone calls from people during this time asking us to help them and explain the online process. It is important they get the chance to really understand how everything works, rather than taking advice from friends who feel that auctions are “only for dealers”. That is a myth that has been around for the past 30 years. We, of course, do see investors and dealers purchase at auction; however, we also see an ever-increasing number of owner-occupiers and first-time buyers.
As for the key trends in the market itself, it is hard to know what will happen in the future given how long the uncertainty may go on for. There are indeed some commercial markets that people are slightly nervous about at the moment, such as some retail and offices with a moving trend to homeworking, although they have not been greatly affected.
The residential market has also been performing very well. We are currently finding that people are looking to purchase properties with gardens, as opposed to flats to live in. Our core area is covering the south coast from Essex to Cornwall and everywhere in between.
We are currently seeing people look at properties further afield than they would usually. This may be due to people no longer having to travel to work five days a week; they are now happier to be slightly further from transport links, such as train stations and motorways.
One area of the market where we have seen an increase in value recently is land. When you have half an acre or an acre of land in an area, where people can have allotments or outdoor space to do some work on the ground, demand is increasing. We have seen that over the past few auctions, especially where people have not got much external space at home, they want to grow their own vegetables and become more self-sufficient.
Going forward, there is always more that we as a business – and an industry – can do.
Right now, we are in as good a position as we can be. For example, with our land and property inspections: when the initial inspection is done, videos and photos are taken and full details produced at that point, rather than going back a second time. This means we are not making unnecessary trips and, by embracing technology, everything can be dealt with remotely and turned round very quickly.
We have always invested in technology and tried to be ahead of the game, having had our first online auction six years ago. It has meant that we were in a strong position going into lockdown the first time. We were actually halfway through the auction week in March when lockdown came into effect, meaning we had to delay the remaining lots by a week and upload them to the online platform. This all happened seamlessly, which shows why we will never stop investing in technology.
During these changing times, it is not only technology but also a general ability to communicate and adapt that will be crucial. Nobody knows what the next change to the industry will be, but by listening to feedback and suggestions, along with having adaptable systems in place, we can be as prepared as possible for the future – especially by having a dynamic team who embrace change from both within the company and taking into account any external feedback.
About Clive Emson
- One of the top five auctioneers in the UK
- Regional offices with teams offering a wealth of local knowledge for buyers and sellers
- Over 80% sale rates regularly achieved
- High-profile marketing
- Exclusively trading as auctioneers (not part of a chain or franchise)