Paul McNeive: ‘Independent awards will win a firm more business’

SO, YOU’RE in the service industry, providing a property related service-and you’re in competition with many other firms. By definition, the firms that provide the best service to their clients, will become the most successful over time, as clients return again and again and recommend you to their contacts. Thus your market share grows and your reputation allows you to charge higher fees than most of your competitors -and still win more business.

Perfect! Pretty simple so far, but the hard part is actually knowing how well you are doing compared to your competitors. One measure could be comparing your accounts with those of your competitors, over time. But that’s a very blunt instrument and there are too many variables at play. Indeed, you could go broke providing the very best level of service if you don’t get the balance right, and teach your staff there are crucial stages at which to make the extra effort, to maximise the impact on your clients.

One relatively easy way to measure how you’re doing is simply to ask your clients. Some firms routinely do this by sending clients a questionnaire after the job is completed, asking them to score you under various headings. Measuring these over time, gives a good picture of which departments are improving or disimproving – and what the problems are. But “questionnaire fatigue” sets in quite quickly, especially with repeat clients.

Another way of measuring and promoting quality is to gain accreditation to a service quality standard such as ISO 9000 – essential now for State sector work and many private clients.

But, in fact, the people who know best who provides the best quality of service are the relatively small number of people who routinely use a selection of firms in your area of the market. These important clients very quickly realise who the very best are and your managing director should be meeting your own clients in that group, regularly, to discuss service issues only. You will soon find out how you compare with others.

For those key individuals who are not already clients, you must find a way of getting close to them. That’s another day’s work.

Another great differentiator is to be recognised by your industry peers as providing an outstanding level of service. There have been award schemes over the years, but there was some scepticism about them as the firms sponsoring the awards usually seemed to win one.

That’s one of the main reasons the KPMG/Irish Independent Property Industry Excellence Awards have taken such an important role in the market.

The first rule of the competition is that sponsors cannot win awards and that alone gives the competition enormous credibility. The second important point is that the awards are endorsed by every professional body in the industry, including the SCSI, IPAV, CIF and the RIAI. The judges are among the most experienced stakeholders and professionals in the sector, and to be recognised by this group as outstanding in your area is an enormous achievement.

It’s entirely appropriate to recognise and reward those who have set the very highest standards but one of the great benefits, both for those firms short-listed and the overall winners, is this independent endorsement of your work can be used with pride in your pitches for business and greatly strengthens your brand.

The awards can be entered by community groups, agents, architects, contractors, fund and property managers, planners, those working in energy efficiency and others. A new category this year will reward innovation in property technology – a fast-moving area of the business.

I encourage everyone to enter their best work. You’ve already done the work, so why not make an application and reap the benefits? Clients love being reminded they are working with the best.