The Guild of Property Professionals CEO, Iain McKenzie, recently spoke to Kristjan Byfield, Co-Founder of base property specialists and The Depositary, about streamlining the lettings process and improving the tenancy experience.
Wanting to start a business with the customer experience at heart, Byfield and his business partner An Deckers established base property specialists, with an ethos of offering the best customer service. An ethos that has seen the business become one of the most highly acclaimed lettings agents in the UK based on independent customer review sites.
Lettings and property management has always been at the core of the business, which led to Byfield and Deckers establishing The Depositary. “Essentially for agents, The Depositary streamlines the tenancy conclusion process. Everything that happens after notice is served though to a deposit refund and/or dispute we try and automate as much as we can. This includes data migration via API with our integrated partner network- of which there are currently seven, with at least another five in the pipeline. On average an agent will spend three-to-four-man hours per tenancy undertaking that process, however, agents using our platform typically do that in about 15 minutes, so about a 90-95% reduction in admin,” says Byfield.
He adds that from a consumer perspective, the aim of The Depositary was to vastly improve the tenant experience, which Byfield believes is often the worst experience within the lettings journey. “We wanted to give tenants clarity and an understanding of what was involved in the process. Often, in a tenant’s mind, the process is: they give notice, move out and then get their deposit back - simple. As lettings agents know, it is often not that simple and there are a lot of mechanics and stages involved in the process that tenants might not be aware of, so we wanted to help provide that guidance and transparency,” Byfield comments. “We also wanted to help speed the process up. The average deposit refund in the UK is around 22 days, our objective for our clients was to bring that down to 10 days or less, currently we average around 14 days, so a third faster than the national average.”
Looking at their plans going forward, Byfield says that he is a huge advocate of proptech in the sector and wants to continue to develop solutions that will help agents. “When it comes to proptech there are so many products available, so as an agent it is important to firstly understand the problems you are trying to solve before finding the products that will help you do that. From a supplier’s perspective, it also takes time to reinvent the business and develop products that will truly transform the sector,” he adds. “Agents should treat proptech as a new member of staff, you wouldn’t hire someone and have them quietly slink into the role without letting people know who they are and what their role is within the business. It is the same with proptech, it is there is make a change, but no proptech is going to switch on and transform your business overnight. The right proptech adopted in the right way can transform a business, but you have to make the right selection and have to make that commitment to embed it, as well as the discipline to come back to it every six months or every year to see if it is still the best solution because good products with evolve.”
McKenzie comments, “I like the analogy of proptech being a member of staff. Carrying on with that analogy, if you hired a member of staff and inducted them and trained them and they started doing well after a given period, you wouldn’t not talk to them for six or twelve months, would you?”
Byfield agrees, saying: “Exactly, you would come back to them and ask what’s next? How can you get that extra two or three percentage extra performance. In terms of proptech, it would be a setting or feature that perhaps currently isn’t being utilised to its full capacity. Alternately there could have been a better product developed within the time frame that goes far beyond what the current product does. It is important to keep investigating, keep investing and keep evolving. And that’s what we plan to do as a supplier, keep evolving to ensure we are providing our clients with the best possible solutions and products we can.”
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