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Alex Davies, Chief Commercial Officer at Dubai Holding Real Estate Image Credit: Supplied

In an increasingly personalised world, a standardised, one-size-fits-all customer interaction doesn’t work. Customers provide a wealth of information about themselves — either intentionally or inadvertently – and intelligent brands capture that data at every touchpoint to correctly forecast business and intuitively service the customer.

There is no excuse for a disconnect between brands and customers in a connected and data-driven world. For instance, one of the best examples of a constantly evolving and exceptionally high level of customer service is provided by Emirates Airline. As a travel brand, it has set global standards that consumers relate to and expect to experience with other brands. Last year the airline introduced the biometric self-service machine at check-in areas, enabling a seamless user experience.

Similarly, Starbucks, another great brand, has focused on customer experience, introducing their revolutionary drive-thru model for coffee lovers. The company found ways to bring the interior brand experience to the outdoor lane, making this a hugely successful initiative.

The customer experience landscape is evolving across other asset classes and geographies, including real estate. A KPMG report on “Why Brand and Customer Experience Matter in Commercial Real Estate” highlights that there has been a significant 160 per cent year-on-year increase in the use of the word ‘customer’ in annual reports of real estate companies in 2019.

Today, real estate customers are tech-savvy, cognisant of industry best practices, and acquainted with unique value propositions. They are aware of market offerings, current prices based on location, amenities provided to them, real estate laws, and regulatory requirements and even know how to evaluate future ROI.

For empowered customers, the transaction is not the end game. On the contrary, customer-centricity is the key to achieve long-term sustainable growth in real estate and is a key differentiator, which can lead to brand recognition, higher occupancy rates, and enhanced overall value generation.

The six pillars of customer experience include:

• Personalisation: This involves demonstrating an understanding of customers’ specific circumstances and adapting the experience accordingly.

• Trust and integrity: Consistent organisational behaviour demonstrates trustworthiness. For all customers, the degree to which an organisation delivers on its promises is consistently top of mind.

• Expectations: Customers have expectations about how their needs should be met. Outstanding organisations understand, deliver, and sometimes even exceed expectations.

• Time and Effort: Customers value their time very highly and increasingly look for instant gratification.

• Resolution: Things might go wrong even with the best processes and procedures in place. Therefore, customer recovery processes are highly important. And the relationship should continue post-sale. The job of realtors does not end after the transaction is over.

• Empathy: Empathetic companies demonstrate the emotional capacity to understand their customers’ feelings and then go the extra mile. We must anticipate customer needs and show what it’s like to be in their shoes. This can be done by surveying existing customers.

Post pandemic, customers expect greater accessibility and convenience than what’s been offered in the past. Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity, and companies that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers will establish a strong advantage. In the real estate market, for example, 3D virtual tours have been a great platform for customers that do not have the time or resources to physically visit a property.

For brands to achieve widespread impact and lasting value, customer experience is going to be the number-one brand differentiator in a highly competitive environment, and we must keep engaging with innovative approaches and new business models.