On Friday myself and my business partner Alex Sewell headed up to Park Lane Hilton along with 4 of our respective sales and lettings teams, Kirsty Drabik & Jackie Scott from sales and Reagan Bradley & Susie Griffiths from lettings, for the first awards ceremony of the year, the ESTAS.
The ESTAS is a culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, sending out questionnaires to all of our clients from the previous year, so 2012’s customers in this instance, and that is vendors and buyers and landlords; then chasing up the return of the questionnaires, by phone, and resending again to those who have misplaced them, then chasing again (you get the drift – truly getting feedback, especially good feedback, is not the easiest task in the Estate Agent’s life!!). But that isn’t the real work involved in the ESTAS, it is all about offering our customers the very best service possible, over and above their expectation of service levels, so that they are delighted to have done business with us and are more than happy (if a little forgetful) to recommend us to their friends AND to return a questionnaire to say so!
The ESTAs ask the customers to vote on a number of customer service areas, from initial meeting, website, range of services provided, legal compliance, marketing & advertising, negotiation of deal, keeping you informed, to whether you would be recommended to a friend… and the scores range from very poor to excellent, all totally confidential, so there is no way of us influencing the votes other than to be the very best we can be!
To get a completely excellent score from all of our customers is incredibly difficult, we only need one bad questionnaire to bring our overall percentage right down, and we have to keep going all year long to get as many votes as possible, right up until the competition closes. Then in February we find out how many votes we have received, individually for sales and for lettings, and what our overall percentage score is… nerve-wracking for sure!
So as you can see from the above, both sales and lettings were shortlisted, meaning we were in the top 10 agencies in our region, out of 600 companies who entered and 23,000 votes cast. That in itself is an amazing achievement and one we were exceptionally proud of indeed, thank you to the ESTAS for collating all of this information for us, and thank you even more to OUR CUSTOMERS, the wonderful people whom we couldn’t do without…!
So back to Friday’s ceremony: We found ourselves in the South East (North) category, which is rather a mouthful, but with agencies from all over the UK entering, the regions have to be cut down quite small to accommodate everyone. We were up against some of our local competition so it was great to see some familiar faces, and as this is our 5th year in the competition, some other known agencies we’ve met at previous ceremonies, plus, of course, the sponsors of the event and their staff from Zoopla, Homelet, Moneypenny, Hallmark, Mortgage Advice Bureau, Let Alliance, No Letting Go, Endsleigh Insurance, Expert Agent, Etsos, GCB Recruitment & LCA Recruitment (phew).
The ceremony is hosted by Phil Spencer of ‘Location, Location, Location’ fame and he has a long old task of going through all of the regions, from Scotland, Wales & England, for both the sales Bronze, Silver & Gold winners and the lettings winners too. Then there is an overall Grand Prix competition to find the top 3 sales agents, the top 3 lettings agents and then the ultimate Grand Prix, the best sales & lettings agency in the UK…. it takes Phil quite a while to get through the lists, but after about an hour and a half we get to the South East (North) Region, and the nerves kick in!
So here is now the voting went:
So a haul of 4 awards, including the very best on the day, the overall Grand Prix for Best Sales & Letting Agents in the UK. Alex wasn’t as happy when he realised how heavy they were and he had the task of carrying them home on the train!
All that hard work wasn’t in vain, thank goodness. I hope that our customers realise how important these awards are, it is all down to them voting, they are the judges in this competition and we know that they wouldn’t vote if they didn’t feel we were worth it. Out of 23,000 votes, our little Rickmansworth agency took the top prize, that has to be the best result ever, as Phil Spencer said on the day…
“This is the highest accolade as it is voted for by the most influential people, your customers”
So next in the Estate Agency Awards calendar is the Lettings Agency of the Year, in conjunction with The Times & Sunday Times newspapers.
A totally different type of award ceremony, this time voted by industry experts, who will mystery shop and telephone interview our staff, and will look at the different levels of commitment and service that we offer our customers. This award is also exceptionally important from a company perspective, it makes us examine everything we do and how we do it, how successful different initiatives are, and it also focuses the staff, knowing that they are being ‘watched’ and ‘judged’.
This year is the first individual awards, and the lettings team are really proud to have 4 individual staff shortlisted for awards, Jon Jackson-Bass nominated for Lettings Manager of the Year, Reagan Bradley for Property Manager of the Year and both Ben Smith & Rochelle Latham are vying for Lettings Negotiator of the Year. In addition we are entered into the Small Lettings Agency of the East of England category (we’ve moved again) plus Best Customer Service in the UK, Best Training & Development and Best Small Property Management categories. The awards are announced on May 24th at the Lancaster Hotel, London… I am keeping everything crossed that we are victorious again.
I know that we are a top class agency and I can vouch for how hard all of the staff work and how much they love to look after our customers, it is what makes Sewell & Gardner such a fantastic place to work and such a fantastic agency to choose! If you are one of our valued customers, I just want to say a huge thank you for everything, it means a LOT.