Jack Barnett, Director of Rent North East, shares his top tips for running a successful agency

Definitely make sure your software integrates and communicates with other software.

If you're using an old legacy system, you're going to struggle to automate things as time goes along. If you use something with a good API you can automate and integrate and you won't have to even lift a finger to do a lot of different tasks.

We have just switched to a new system and I've just been setting up all the automations. For example, if the rent is three days late landlords can get automated, I can even set that up as a push notification via an app, so that we don't need to call them up and let them know over the phone. I've also just set up an automation so that as soon as tenancy arrears are over a certain amount the eviction process is automatically initiated depending on the circumstances. At the moment our accounts manager is getting a pop-up on her screen to take one of several steps, but in the future this will automatically send the right letter for that tenant.

It's really incredible - you can get it down to specifics, for example, Landlord A can be notified if Tenant A is in rent arrears when the arrears hit a certain amount. Plus he can be notified in the way that he wants to be notified, even if that means pushing the information into his own excel spreadsheet. Because all the software is communicating via webhooks and APIs, the possibilities are endless.

We're also in the process setting up an integration with Experian, where they can add the tenant rental payment history into the tenant credit report. This is great for both the landlord and the tenant; tenants are rewarded for prompt rent payments by building up their credit score, and obviously late payments have a negative effect on their credit score.

Be good!

I went to view a property to buy myself recently and there were fleas in the property. I don't know if you've ever had any experience with fleas, but once they're in your house you have to get your house fumigated. Everywhere you look they're there, and there's a line of them on you where your clothes meet your skin. It’s awful. After I left the property I called the agent to ask him why he hadn’t informed us of the issue when he noticed it, and he said he didn't know what I was talking about. However, I called him again on his mobile a few days later and he told me that he was covered in them too. He lied to me because he didn't want to take responsibility for it.

Then, last week we had the same situation happen at Rent North East. We had checked this particular property a couple of weeks earlier with no issues, but then a negotiator showed a prospective tenant around and later found bites on himself. We called the viewer straight away and offered to pay for fumigation and cleaning. We also advised them to get changed ahead of going to their own home.

We actually used to have a £100 compensation allowance in our monthly budget; thankfully we don't need to really use it much these days due to constantly making changes when feedback is received.

Every client needs to be treated first as a human being and not just as another potential source of income.

Be proactive about getting good feedback online

This is really important. Most of our landlords and at least 50% of our tenants come from reviews they have read online. Often the tenants don't even come to us with a property in mind, but they just want to rent from us because of the reviews that they have read online.

In line with the software tip I mentioned, we are in the process of building review automation into our workflows, so that when a tenant starts a tenancy or one of our contractors completes a job quickly the client automatically get an invitation to leave a review.

Reviews serve a good purpose, incentivising us to provide a great service. Just make sure that people reading reviews of your company get a sense of the overwhelming customer sentiment; if most of your clients are delighted then make sure that this is reflected in reviews seen by potential clients.

To win over landlords, give them 24 hour access to information about their property

We have many international clients, in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Dubai, and even a couple of landlords in Australia. They want to be able to log in online in their own time, look at their statements, and approve or comment on a maintenance request. This is one of the key benefits that will attract landlords to your agency along with good customer service and good online reviews. Whichever software we have used, we've always made sure landlords can log into the system any time and know everything that's going on with their property.