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It's time to embrace technology, but remember, the customer is the priority

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If the last ten years have taught us anything about online, it's how fast it turns our idea of normal on its head. High street retail, airlines, taxis, music- the list is so long, it's a genuine surprise when you stumble on an industry still doing business as if smartphones were just for chatting on.

Which is pretty much where estate agency is. And which is why there's a new wave of online estate agents looking to drag the industry into the modern world we all live in, except when we're buying, selling, renting or letting a property.

The new wave

As one of this breed, when we look around, there's a sense of camaraderie with a lot of our apparent competitors- all those online agents who share the same fundamental guiding mission of changing the game for our customers- stripping away the layers of complication around pricing and services that often disguise deep and expensive inefficiencies.

But recently, there's also been the nagging sense that technology for its own sake can become a distraction from this goal we share. Just as with every industry mentioned, technology is only truly disruptive when it's serving a genuine need better than the current system.

Estate agency is after all still a service industry. The amazing thing is that so many traditional high street agents seem to have forgotten this. After all, it's their primary asset. But it's not a mistake online agents should make either. Sure, we're online, we're modern, agile, more competitive, harnessing the mobile revolution. But these are only good things if it makes the customer's life better.

Look at the customer

It's what we think about every day at Rent My Home and Sell My Home. It influences every decision we make. And in some way, it's the hardest challenge: how to keep that essential human warmth and willingness to serve when you strive to make your business as efficient as possible.

For us, it's about the details. Making sure we've thought through and tested every step of the process through a customer's eyes. Only adding technology when it really changes the game- like with Virtual Walkthrough- a premium quality service that gives buyers a proper sense of which properties are going to be worth them taking the time to visit in person, eliminating a huge amount of time and disappointment.

So, why are we the only online agent to offer it? Because we've made choices about where technology has the most impact for the customer right now. Sure, it's an expense for us, and sure it'll be cheaper to include once it's an industry standard. But it makes a real difference right now. And it demonstrates better than almost anything we know why the future for estate agents is online, with our customer's needs right at the heart.

Looking to rent your home instead? Try RentMyHome.co.uk