As I'm sure you've heard, GDPR arrived on May 25th of this year (2018). It's shaken up every industry, but how will it affect you? GDPR stands for 'General Data Protection Regulation' and was brought in to help protect consumers against the abuse of their personal data, and how companies share and use it. Have you taken the appropriate actions to become GDPR compliant yet? Many companies still believe it doesn't affect them, but you don't want to get caught out with a nasty fine, right?! Check out our tips on GDPR, how it affects you, and how to make sure your business can still survive in this new, increasingly regulated, online world!To say it shook things up would be somewhat of an understatement. There has been a seismic shift to the way all businesses handle their customers' data, while email marketing has also felt the impact. If you didn’t get the A-OK from your customers (those who opted in; not just neglected to opt out), say sayōnara to contacting them via their personal email addresses! It's off-limits now!
But what does this all mean for lettings agents? Well, for one thing, that handy black book of landlord emails you've been collecting for the past 25 years isn’t of much use anymore.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. We’ve put together this in-depth guide on how GDPR will affect your business, how you can get ahead of the curve, and continue to build on your portfolio of landlords in the process.
Why did GDPR come into play?
With so many companies holding personal information on their customers, the EU decided it was time to act and protect the consumer, which we think is great - and well overdue. For too long, companies were abusing personal data, sending a flood of (mostly spam) emails, and even selling on customer contact details to other organisations - most of which came without consent. Bad times ☹️
The old data protection rules are outdated, and just can't keep up with the rapid technological changes we see every day. In fact, the speed in which technology evolves means that legislation struggles to keep up, and leaves consumers vulnerable.
The creation of GDPR isn’t something that has popped up overnight, either. It was first discussed as far back as 2010, when people still wore bootcut jeans 🤯 Eight years later, and we’re at the point where it is now implemented and in full swing, and no one wears bootcut jeans - phew!
What is GDPR and how does it relate to lettings agents?
GDPR can sound like a fair amount of jargon, and, granted, it’s not the most exciting subject. But it’s important for agents to be clear and understand what they can and cannot do in this GDPR world we now inhabit.
After 25th May, all personal data was required to be processed lawfully, transparently and for a specific purpose. All personal information should be deleted once that purpose has been fulfilled. It relates to your past customers and is predominantly centred around sending emails.
To give a specific example, let's think about your new customers (renters) who get in touch with you about a property they're interested in that you've got online. The process for many agents would involve:
Asking for personal contact details such as phone number, email address, full name and sometimes even current address
Taking more details about the renter's search requirements
Adding this information to a central CRM system in the agency
Sharing this personal information with other branches
This was all well and good back in the day, but according to GDPR, one crucial step is missing from this process. You must ensure that the customer actively opts in to receive any ongoing contact from you.
So what happens now?! What steps must be taken?
If your past customers (this could be renters or landlords) did not opt-in:
- You cannot contact them with emails anymore
- You cannot contact them via their personal phone number anymore
- You must delete all of their personal data from all your databases
Yes, that's right! You can't continue to send new property alert emails, or company newsletters if you didn’t get consent prior to May 25th.
There are heavy fines in place too. Anyone who breaks GDPR rules will be liable to pay a fine amounting to four percent of annual global turnover or 20-million Euros. Ouch 😫
Read on to find out how to amend your process for incoming enquiries in the future, to ensure you can legally contact new customers...!
What's the difference between opt-out and opt-in?
Many businesses will get caught out on this one, and this is the important bit to understand to ensure your process going forward is GDPR compliant. Here's a guide of the old way (what not to do!), and the new way!
Don't confuse the customer so they opt-in by accident
"Please do not tick this box if you don't want to not miss out on receiving emails from us and our mailing partners! To find out more, read our 78 page Terms & Conditions."
- This box might be pre-ticked - NOT allowed anymore
- The terms and conditions are too long (and probably complicated) for anyone to bother to read, and hidden behind a link - pretty shady if you ask us
- The writing is confusing so people might choose the wrong option by accident - being deceptive on purpose is bad
Do explain in plain english what you'll do with the customer's data
"Tick here if you'd like to receive ongoing communications from us in the future! These may include marketing emails about new properties, phone calls, competitions and other offers from our agency."
- Easy to understand for any customer
- Un-ticked by default, so the customer really does want to hear from you if they tick the box
- Simple description of how the personal data will be used,
How has GDPR impacted other businesses?
It’s entirely down to you to make sure you take the required steps to be GDPR compliant. Many large companies ran huge email campaigns running up to the deadline, to ask customers if they'd still like to receive emails from them in the future. I'm sure you received some, I certainly remember a fair few! But even if you did your best to get consent from your old customers before the deadline, it’s unlikely that every single one opted back in.
To clear the hurdles created by GDPR, you need to embrace the changes and show customers that you are making a genuine attempt to improve consumer rights. But what about all those wonderful customers you’ve lost because they didn't opt in?
Mr Landlord enquiry from 2014 is gone, and he ain't coming back. The couple looking for a 2 bed in central London are gone too. They didn't opt in, and even when you tried to re-engage them, they still didn't opt in. Why did certain people in decide not to opt back in? Is it because they can’t stand the sight of your agency or was it simply because your GDPR email got lost in a barrage of emails from other companies sending pretty much the same thing?
We’re willing to hedge our bets on the latter. Everyone had a bit of a panic about GDPR, but it’s over now, and the time has come to pick up the pieces. While there are plenty of headaches involved with GDPR, it’s also a chance to maximise opportunities.
Once consent is given, you will have greater control of, and access to, data. The result means more effective marketing campaigns and better overall outreach to customers who are genuinely interested in hearing from you. Good times 😀
But landlords are like a business right?
Wrong. Landlords don't often create business email addresses for the purpose of contacting you guys, and if it's not a dedicated business email address or phone number, then it has to be deleted from your list. Let's make it super clear who you need to delete, with an example of personal vs business contact details:
Mrs Landlord: 123 Home Address, Home Town, NW3 9PY. Personal Mobile Phone Number: 07890123456, Personal Email Address: email@example.com
Mr Landlord: 3rd Floor, Office Address, Office Building in London, N1 9PY. Work Phone Number: 0207 123 4567, Work Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
So what should letting agents do now?
As lettings agents, you need to look at ways of finding new customers. Now is the time for creativity - perhaps you could run a competition on social media, asking people to sign up for your mailing list, dangling the carrot of a shiny prize for anyone who signs up. Get involved in local activities and events, or ask friends and family contacts to spread the word!
Most agents still have a high-street presence, which means your outreach doesn’t need to be rooted to online communications. Use that shop window to get your customers to sign up while in store, using the same prize-offering tactics as you would on social media.
Back to the online world now and, in particular, your website. Try implementing a pop-up when people go on your site, asking them to sign up again for your newsletter. You can do it on your property page or even the blog page. If they’re already reading your content, there’s a good chance they would like to hear from you.
And, most importantly, if you haven’t already, shift your mindset. The dynamic of renters is changing, thanks to technological advancements and a changing lifestyle.
How to amend your process for GDPR
Ask for the minimum amount of personal details - only the stuff you really need "for a specific purpose". You should be able to explain to customers (or the ICO) why you need this data and what you'll do with it
Find out what you need to know about the renter's search requirements
Get consent from the customer about the personal data you'll store, explain why you need it, and what you intend to do with the data
Only add the customer's data to your central CRM system if consent is given
Only contact customers who have actively opted in to hear from you
The new-age renters
Renting is all about communication - the relationship agents have with landlords and renters is vital. The traditional 9-5 structure has been swept aside, and busy, working renters just don’t have time to speak to agents, write long emails and go on viewings during working hours.
Landlords need to see that agents have a constant line of communication with good-quality tenants. Flexible, available agents are more likely to let properties at a faster rate, which is music to a landlord’s ears, as it will increase demand for properties. They're also more likely to find the right renter, and this is super important to landlords.
How can Movebubble help?
With the Movebubble Partner app, you can build your reputation and interact with renters anytime, anywhere. The simple and intuitive platform makes dialogue between your and your prospective renters seamless. By delivering an amazing service to renters via the Movebubble app, you can build your agent reputation and work your way to the top of our leaderboard!
It reveals the best letting agents in London and helps you improve your company’s brand reputation as well as your personal one as an agent. Our leaderboard allows landlords to browse and contact the very best of London's agents, to instruct them to help rent their property. Agents at the top end of the leaderboard will appeal more to landlords, who will feel confident they can trust the agent, that they'll always get a response and that ultimately they'll be the best candidate to find the right renter for their property.
If they see that you have a good reputation with renters, they'll feel more comfortable knowing their property won't be left empty, and they'll be likely to achieve the monthly rent they want.
Get started with Movebubble today
The relationships you create with renters and landlords goes a long way toward increasing business. By showing GDPR compliance, you’re helping to build trust. And with apps like Movebubble, that trust is ramped up a notch too. Our platform provides a 24/7 service that shows renters that you understand their needs, and really care about helping them find a new home.
If you have any thoughts about GDPR, we’d love to hear what you have to say. Be part of the discussion and leave a comment below. And don’t forget to download the Movebubble app now and build your reputation as the go-to agent in London.