In this week’s edition of the Feefo Spotlight, we’re delighted to talk with Gemma Schmid, Head of Brand and Communications at Purplebricks, about how they’re using customer insight to create innovative ways to buy and sell properties in what has been a challenging year for the market. We also delve into the Feefo Trusted Service awards and the many ways they have helped Purplebricks to stand out and increase trust in their brand.
You can listen to the full episode here, or read on to find out more!
Hi Gemma, we’re really pleased you could join us today. Do you want to talk a little bit about who Purplebricks are and your relationship with Feefo?
Yes, sure! I’m Gemma Schmid, and I look after all things brand related for Purplebricks. I’ve worked for Purplebricks since January 2019, which has been a very busy couple of years – particularly this year, which I’m sure we’ll go into later! We’re a technology led estate agent, so essentially we give our customers the best of both worlds, so you get the support of our local property experts (for those of you who don’t know what these are, they’re estate agents that support you through the entire process), and also you get great technology with our mobile app. We’re also set up a little differently to the high street agents – as you might know, we don’t have high street offices. This doesn’t mean we don’t give the support, though. Our local experts still work in the local community, and it means they’re less constrained by having office opening hours so we and can be available for our customers when they need us. Obviously, some of the savings we’re then able to pass onto our customers – with Purplebricks you pay a flat, fixed fee, so we’re incredibly good value. We also have our mobile app, which is fantastic. It allows customers to see much more of the process, from managing their viewing appointments to reviewing their property performance stats – they can even accept offers at the click of a button.
For us, the fact that we’ve got local reviews integrated into our experience is really important, so we can start to provide reassurance to customers of the quality of service that we’re delivering in their local area.
That sounds great, because there are so many estate agents that we’ve all probably had interactions with that have lost our trust, and there are so many aspects to your model that are completely different to the kinds of estate agents that customers might be used to. How do you think customer feedback helps with your model?
You’ve touched on the fact that our model is slightly different, but our approach to giving really good customer service to local communities isn’t that different. Having localised reviews for our customers is really, really important to us. To give you a bit of background on the brand, we’re quite new – Purplebricks has only been around for six years. If you think about how often you sell a property, you generally only sell a house every seven to eight years, so a lot of people will be using Purplebricks for the first time. Often as part of that process you’ll be doing a lot of research on who’s the best brand for you, and because Purplebricks is a new player, people have certain misconceptions about our brand – thinking that we’re just an online estate agent, and maybe people didn’t know that we have local experts in their areas. For us, the fact that we’ve got local reviews integrated into our experience is really important, so we can start to provide reassurance to customers of the quality of service that we’re delivering in their local area.
Interestingly, you use two different review platforms to collect customer feedback, with Feefo being implemented in 2017. Can you expand a bit as to why you added Feefo to your offering?
Sure, it’s probably worth taking a few steps back here and talking about the whole home-selling process in general. If you think about the decision to move house, it’s possibly up there as one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make outside of deciding to get married or have children. When you’re going into the process of moving home, what we can see that consumers do a lot of research. They need that reassurance of who’s the best bet, because they might be moving to a new area, for example. They’re putting a lot of trust in you essentially, by letting you look after their biggest asset in their life, so they want to find a provider that meets all of their expectations. For us, because it’s such a big decision, it’s really important to us that we cover multiple touchpoints. People online are looking over multiple review platforms, so they’re looking at the likes of Feefo, but they’re also going to social media reviews, for example. We need to make sure that we’re covering all of those touchpoints that our consumers are going to as they go through that process.
The fact that we’ve integrated Feefo into our platform just provides that extra level of transparency and gives that level of credibility to our customers.
That makes complete sense, customers are everywhere, so it’s important that you listen to them wherever they are. Some of the tools that Feefo have expand further than just a reviews platform – we offer insight-led products which enable our customers to learn more about their customers and their business. Purplebricks make some great use of our AI tools – how do you use the insight that you get from your customer feedback?
One of the ways we use that customer insight is to highlight their experiences on our website to provide reassurance for future customers. When you visit the Purplebricks website, like a lot of people do when they’re going through that research process and starting to work out what Purplebricks are all about, we’ve got a whole area that’s dedicated to our local property experts. Within that area on our website, you can then search for who the local property experts are that cover your local region. If I’m looking for a property in Sutton Coldfield, for example, I can see my local property expert is a lady called Claire. I can then learn a little bit about Claire’s background on her profile, but more importantly, because of what we’ve been able to integrate – the great thing about Feefo – I can then start to isolate the reviews down to that local level. It’s great to see reviews and see the stars, but what I want to really see is how that resonates in my local area. So, what I can see with Claire’s profile, is all of her most recent local customer reviews. The fact that we’ve integrated that into our platform just provides that extra level of transparency and gives that level of credibility to our customers.
We’re able to review the end-to-end experience and constantly learn, and make sure we’re tweaking things along the way. Having that feedback throughout that process means that we can look at where we can refine and bring in improvements moving forward.
You’ve already touched on this, but obviously there are multiple points in the buying and selling process. Do you leverage feedback at different points within the customer journey?
As a brand, we’re constantly learning, and we can be quite agile in the way that we approach things. We’re able to review the end-to-end experience and constantly learn, and make sure we’re tweaking things along the way. Having that feedback throughout that process means that we can look at where we can refine and bring in improvements moving forward.
Are there points in the journey when customers like to leave more feedback than others?
It’s such a personal experience. You’re bringing someone into your home and where we see it most is at that relationship level. So, once someone’s been into the property, generally that’s one of the points that people like to give feedback because they’ve just interacted with someone. That’s usually when we see the most engagement.
So, changing topics slightly, we absolutely love catching your TV ads with its mention of your Feefo Trusted Service award! I’d love to find out how else you include Feefo in your marketing campaigns. Do you ever use the feedback itself to guide your marketing?
First of all, thank you! I’m glad you really like our adverts – it was a labour of love working on that campaign! For those that aren’t aware, we had some adverts that we recorded earlier on this year where we worked with Team GB. The advert you’re referring to is one starring a very famous Olympian called Laura Kenny where we highlighted our Feefo Gold Trusted Service awards by comparing it to her gold medals, and the reaction was fantastic – we had some really great consumer feedback on that.
TV has been such a lynchpin for our brand and it will continue to be moving forward, but one of the things we’ve started to do over the course of the last couple of years is really start to diversify our marketing mix. That all translates into the consumer journey, because customers are watching TV, they’re online and looking at all forms of social media. We started talking about using Feefo in other areas of our marketing, so functional things like PPC ad copy – that last bit of reassurance you get before you’re clicking onto our site, and we’ve integrated it into all of our paid social campaigns.
We do quite a lot of social media retargeting, so for those that are engaging with the process but still have some questions, adding that reassurance of the Trusted Service award is a great validation of our brand.
Historically we’ve used the Feefo reviews themselves on the London Underground tube card panels, calling out specific Feefo reviews so they could really resonate at that local level, and who best to talk about it than the customers themselves?
And to answer your question about using Feefo to guide our marketing, we’re in a category that’s fuelled by social advocacy and we can see how important a recommendation is to our customers though that process, and that has really started to form quite a big part of our marketing approach in the past 18 months. That feedback is hugely translated into a lot of the activity that we’re doing through the line from a marketing perspective.
Obviously the Trusted Service Awards are coming up again, we’re all thinking about them a lot here at Feefo. How important is it for you to receive that Gold Trusted Service award each year? Would you encourage other brands to take advantage of the win and shout about it?
Yes, 100%! There are two elements to this. Obviously, it works from a customer perspective because it acts as a great validation of your brand, but I think there’s also another point on this in that it’s great as an internal rallying tool.
At the start of this year when you shared with us the great news that you’d given us the Gold Trusted Service award, that was a great motivation tool internally for our people to say ‘look at all the hard work you’ve achieved over the past year, and that’s paid dividends externally’. It’s also then a motivating tool to keep it up!
Once you’ve got that Gold award, it’s how you continue to leverage that moving forward and make sure you’re continuing to deliver on that service.
And we hear that so much, I’m really pleased you’ve touched on that because so many of our customers just think of it from an external perspective, but actually, it can really raise morale, and in no greater time than this year!
Thinking about this year, it’s been a really challenging one for everyone. What would you say have been the biggest challenges that have been presented to Purplebricks, or the property industry as a whole?
Well, it’s been a year like no other! One of the biggest challenges came at the very start of the pandemic back at the end of March when the property market wasn’t 100% closed down, but we weren’t able to then go into people’s living rooms any more, which is obviously a big part of the way we engage with people. We had to quickly pivot our approach from a comms perspective, but also operationally. I think we were in a better position that most because we don’t have high street offices so our estate agents already worked remotely, and our head office colleagues were able to work remotely as well. But also, because of our model, we’d already been doing virtual activity before, so people would expect that as a technology led estate agent that we’d be in a better position than most. We started to really up the dial on our virtual offering throughout the spring period, and even when the measures lifted. I think the next challenge was that the government didn’t really give us much notice when the housing market opened back up again in the middle of May. It was about eight hours’ notice that we had! We’d already been planning about how we’d come back, and safety was 100% paramount – people were really concerned about safety measures which we’ve been really clear about in terms of our internal communications, and then of course talking to our customers about how we’re making sure everything is Covid secure. But I think, when we think back to our virtual offering, the fact we’ve been able to offer in-home and virtual viewings throughout the summer, even with all of the regional restrictions in place and peoples personal preferences on shielding, etc. has been really great.
One thing to build on from a Feefo point-of-view, is when we flipped in the spring to virtual services we needed to reassure our customers of what that really means for them, because so many people had never bought or sold their home in this way before.
So, through Feefo we started to see people giving feedback around their experiences of remote viewings and valuations, and then were able to easily surface these reviews and share them across out social media communications. This really helped us to add that extra layer of reassurance and a social proof element to show that this is a really great way for you to engage with Purplebricks.
It’s been all about finding ways to get creative this year, which I’m sure a lot of brands have had to think about too.
Yeah of course, it has been a tricky time for so many. As you said, however, being leaders in adopting new technologies in the property space you guys have been able to stand out, which is great to see.
Moving forward, how do you think things will change? Will you continue to do a lot more stuff virtually or do you think we’ll return to a more traditional pre-Covid approach?
This is where it all comes down to the customers really and the choices that they’re comfortable with. We’ve continued to offer, during the latest lockdown, in-home valuations, but for some they’re still wanting the virtual experience. So, for us, it’s to continue to offer both options to people, so that whatever they’re comfortable with moving forward, we’ve got both of them on the table for them. What we’ve seen through our digital experience as well is, as I’m sure you’ll know from just browsing at properties online, we’ve seen a lot people using our video tools, which has helped sellers have more serious buyers come into their property. What will happen is some people will do those virtual tours and be happy enough to put in an offer, but for many it works as a filtering process, which means that when someone does come into your home to do a walk around, they’re already bought into it and it acts as more of a rubber seal.
Virtual viewings are making that buying process even easier, so moving forward I imagine it’s going to be combination of both working in harmony.
That’s great, as you say it appeals far more to genuine buyers and sellers as a method of doing business.
Do you see the customer feedback you collect through Feefo continuing to play a big part in your marketing moving forward?
Yes, 100%! I‘ve touched on this earlier, but the kind of brand that we are, it means we can be quite agile and continue to flex our approach. Also we’re constantly listening and learning from our customers. For me, the feedback loop is incredibly important to delivering a great customer experience. So, starting with the why - why are we doing it in the first place? Listening to customer feedback about what they want – what’s working well for them, and what’s working less well? Then delivering products and services that meet these expectation so that they have an amazing experience. Then going back to it afterwards to make sure we’re constantly reviewing the feedback on the new innovations that we’re bringing to market - what do people like about it?
We do a lot of pilots and product testing and getting feedback during that process is key so that we can make sure that our propositions and services our tailored to what our customers really want.
It’s great to hear how the insight that Feefo can provide is so embedded in your marketing activity.
One last thing before you go, we ask every one of our spotlight gusts to share a tip with our listeners – What would you tell people about Feefo that they might not already know?
Well I might’ve hinted already about this after working with Feefo over a number of years. So, one thing people might now know about Feefo is the addition of your Feefo Platinum Trusted Service award, which for me is a great thing for brands to be able to strive for. Because the Platinum award is a culmination of three consecutive years of achieving the Feefo Gold Trusted Service award, it’s a great motivational tool for the people within your organisation to keep striving towards. So, not only is it great from an external point of you for you to be able to showcase the quality of your service over an extended period of time, but also as an internal thing to look forward to.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Gemma. It’s so great to see how you’ve used your Feefo feedback and your Trusted Service awards to improve your customer experience and adapt during this challenging period.
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