We talked to Hesseltje van Goor of SearchSmartly about the new way to find a flat in London and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hesseltje van Goor: We’ve been relatively lucky, I think. My partner and I can both work from home while our son is still at the nursery. I really feel for parents with older children who are struggling to juggle work, school, and childcare at this time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined SearchSmartly.
Hesseltje van Goor: I joined SearchSmartly on the strength of its consumer product. Taha really wants to push the boundaries of the property search experience for consumers, and we both feel that now is the time to do that. Traditional platforms were designed as ‘catch-all’ solutions that treat everyone the same way. In reality, the property requirements of an 18-year old University student and a 35-year old mother-of-two are totally different. We’re building a business that reflects that.
Prior to joining SearchSmartly, I led Product at Eigen Technologies.
How does SearchSmartly innovate?
Hesseltje van Goor: We’re building a product-led culture that relies heavily on data and experimentation. There are a few components to this:
1) Building basic product “ops” so that our squads have the data they need to make decisions effectively,
2) Simplifying our OKRs at the top-level so that every department can clearly see what it needs to do and how their work intersects with the rest of the business,
3) Permitting flexibility within squad structures so that experts from adjacent functions can contribute as and when needed,
4) Embedding a culture of structured experimentation across the whole business (not just product) so that everyone has an opportunity to innovate,
5) Repeatedly reinforcing with the team that data and evidence (not intuition and executive opinion) are kings when it comes to decision making.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Hesseltje van Goor: We’ve done fairly well in this regard. The pandemic has forced businesses to transact online, which is helpful when you’re a tech company.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Hesseltje van Goor: We made some difficult cuts at the start of the pandemic when it was still unclear how our business and finances would be impacted. That led to some difficult conversations with the team, who were ultimately very supportive. In hindsight, I am glad we took this approach – as it gave us enough buffer to weather the storm and make strategic investments later.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Hesseltje van Goor: This has been two-fold:
Online, we’ve seen a boost in web traffic. While this has been great for business, it’s also tied up with the team in repeat work. This means less time for 1-1 customer interaction, which is something that consumers value and our people excel at. We have selectively automated the more generic parts of our process to address this problem.
Offline, agents are having a harder time running property viewings. Current restrictions have led to access issues, especially for tenanted properties, and greater expectations from consumers when it comes to property marketing. We’ve released a tool, ViewSmartly, to help address these issues for our partners.
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