‘Transforming estate agency as we know it’: Knight Frank’s head of resi lifts lid on technology ambitions

Anyone who has not pushed the digital modernisation of their business to the forefront should be readying themselves for a shock in the near future, writes Tim Hyatt…

Anyone who has not pushed the digital modernisation of their business to the forefront should be readying themselves for a shock in the near future, writes Tim Hyatt…

When I took over the running of Knight Frank’s Residential division in April 2020 the digital evolution of the firm became of paramount importance and we began transforming our tech offering.

‘Trying to digitise a business that has never been digitised before is not an easy undertaking’

Since then the firm has delivered a suite of tech improvements and new systems, as well as made significant investments into PropTech – namely Fifth Wall – which has led to some remarkable results. We are, however, still on a journey. A journey which is critical to driving efficiencies internally and improving the customer experience for our diverse range of clients.

By the end of 2022, the way customers interact with Knight Frank’s UK residential business will have evolved. Of course human and personal interaction is a critical element of all property transactions, and for us this will always be a part of the Knight Frank offering. However, I have no doubt that the very best customer experience is a combination of this personal approach, underpinned by the latest technology, and supported by insightful digital content, real time market analysis and data.

In order to future-proof our business and take our customer offering to the next level, we have made numerous tech advancements over the last 18 months, in particular to our in-house, bespoke ‘CRM’ system, HUB. HUB has collectively moved us forward to deliver a system which is user friendly, able to track the appropriate data for our customers and alert us to when we need to speak with them to provide timely and relevant information – making each interaction with our customers far more focused and relevant.

For example, one such improvement, via our data and technology teams, has been enabling our negotiators to identify and track landlord requirements in real time, allowing us to better nurture relationships for the duration of every tenancy. Similarly, we have digitised our processes for setting up and managing lettings. This significant investment provides greater visibility for all throughout the tenancy life-cycle. Another exciting step forward is the advancement we have made in adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) type technologies to further tailor our property matches; working with a group of high performing negotiators AI has helped to match over 1.3 million properties to clients this year.

Working with a group of high performing negotiators AI has helped to match over 1.3 million properties to clients this year

No matter what business you’re in, for customers there is nothing more frustrating than being constantly bombarded with unrelated information – it is a sure-fire way to quickly lose customer loyalty. People are time poor and only want to know about things that are strictly relevant to them. That is why we’ve invested in driving insightful human interaction, with better intelligence from HUB and wider future developments.

Running alongside is our evolving customer digital experience, which has already resulted in a substantial increase in leads through our property pages globally. Newly redesigned international landing pages have resulted in the highest increase in page views in the developmental history of our webiste and the full rollout of QR codes onto ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ boards is building momentum, achieving an average of 40 scans per board currently. We have also delivered the ‘Intelligence Lab’,which is Knight Frank’s largest single deployment to date and one of the most comprehensive real estate research resources in the world.

We are spending a huge amount of time looking at our people’s digital workplace and how we can drive automation, productivity and support them in their day to day client management. Such advancements have significantly reduced viewing no shows via automated notifications, and saved our people thousands of hours of time by introducing fully integrated digital signing and better search functionality. We have also introduced a best-in-class lead management tool, which will potentially generate c.3,000 additional market appraisals per annum and much more.

We have also introduced a best-in-class lead management tool, which will potentially generate c.3,000 additional market appraisals per annum

However, despite all this superb progress, what I am most excited about is still to come. In the autumn of 2022 we will be in a position to unveil another significant technological advancement. Upon delivery, it will drive efficiencies for our customers, so our people can be fully focused on adding value. It will also create opportunities to drive customer loyalty and serve personalised content. It will be a hugely exciting milestone.

It is fair to say trying to digitise a business that has never been digitised before is not an easy undertaking. However, we are in the same camp as many others because this is a cross-industry issue. We shouldn’t think this can be resolved overnight. Our theory is based on building something, testing it, building something, testing it – always prioritising what will make the difference to our customers, but also to our own people.

The way property brands embrace technology will define their employee and customer experience…It has never been so critical

As we look to the future, the way property brands embrace technology will define their employee and customer experience. It has never been so critical. For us at Knight Frank, tech means two things: more time for our people to build lasting partnerships with our clients and, for our clients, a new and innovative way to engage with their partner in property.

If executed effectively, I am confident that this will totally transform estate agency as we know it.