BIG READ: Customer service is absolutely key to high street estate agents

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 31 May 2018

“I HAVE never known a false economy like it.” Jim Cassidy reflects on the surge of internet property agents, what he sees as a race to the bottom based on price to go on the market, and distinctly not what the property will sell for.

He is in a good position to judge. His Argyle Estate Agency on Cleethorpes’ Sea View Street has recently been crowned by the British Property Awards as offering a gold service for the resort, a patch he regards as the best in the region, while sales make it something of a double – despite his resolute attitude to set  fees.

“To be the number one selling agent is the jewel in the crown, DN35, is just great, but we don’t undervalue service,” he said.

“In 2016 we did a total rebrand. We always knew the agenda was there to give best service, we just didn’t think the polish was. As a high street business we are very, very clear that we cannot compete with internet agencies. They are a different type of animal. We made it our total aim to be the number one customer service-focused agency in North East Lincolnshire.

“Now everything we do, from the first phone call about a viewing or asking for a valuation, to the last contact – the key and congratulations card – we are 100 per cent customer service focused.

“We’re open, honest and doing everything to promote our integrity and service.”

Bradford Avenue, part of the ‘jewel in the crown’ as he coins DN35 - central Cleethorpes.

Examples focus around accessibility and flexibility. 

“We are open until 7pm Thursdays and Fridays, we have the longest opening hours on a Saturday, we open Sundays, Bank Holidays,” said Mr Cassidy. “If someone wants a viewing on a Saturday evening, it will be done. All the staff treat the business as if it is their business.”

Launching with one member of staff, there are now a dozen at Argyle, but had he not been enjoying one of the street’s main attractions, it may never have happened. 

“I was in retail from leaving school, a retail manager with Tesco. Coming to Cleethorpes was meant to be a stepping stone, part of the career and here for two years, but I met a local girl, loved living in Cleethorpes, and soon found I was the most settled I’d ever been.”

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He went into financial services, but he couldn’t stand working purely in that sphere.

“It was a hard sales environment, but as an individual I don’t do hard sales, I prefer to offer advice, information, and let a client or potential client make good decisions.

“I found many of my ilk were trying to get jobs in estate agencies as that was the biggest part of the role,  but I couldn’t get a foothold. Then I was walking down Sea View Street one day with my wife and saw an empty building. We went to Marples for a bit of lunch, and I was watching people looking in the window. Up until five seconds before that there was no plan to open an estate agency, but the premises was too big for just mortgage advice.”

Jim Cassidy and some of the  the team.

Soon he was with Peter Mountain in Louth learning how to be an estate agent.

“As a mortgage adviser, I can help with it all. Many people don’t know if they can finance a purchase, some think they can’t but they can. When clients want the double service we can save them time and money, and it can help the process.”

In business 16 years, exactly half way through the run came the huge recession. 

“What underpinned us through that time was the fact we have always been a forward-looking business, always trying to better ourselves, never taking customers for granted. The fact we have financial services too, it is my business – not farmed out – and it is such a central focus, an integral part of the business, and that helps support it.

“The lettings department has gone from strength to strength too. We set up the business for quality houses, quality landlords and quality tenants. We could have double the property portfolio, but we find the agents who chase every single property don’t give the better service.”

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In the intervening period the premises were bought with business partner Charlotte Taylor, who heads up the letting side, and now the challenge appears online, rather than an economic one as the core patch blossoms.

“As a business we don’t compete against internet agents. I ask, can you trust them with viewings, trust they are pushing the price to the maximum, trust they are checking on the chain – top to bottom, organising surveys and special reports, and ensuring the solicitors’ chain is as tight as it can be?

“You can save £1,000 on the face of it, or I can make them £10,000 at offer. I have never known a false economy like it.”

The gold service accolade from the British Property Awards is testament to that, based on mystery visitors into the agency, and enquiries by email and phone.

“We beat Purple Bricks for sales in Cleethorpes too. If we keep our focus on number one for sales we won’t be number on one service though, and that is the long term aim, to be number one on service. That will keep the business solid, and provide the longevity.”

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