by Bob Scarff

Last time I highlighted how the long standing sentiment “first impressions count” still stood, but how this digital age has changed the way that this all important first impression is achieved.

My example this time has nothing to do with tech (or does it). It’s come about as a result of the far more relaxed attitude to certain things in business over recent years…’s all the fault of those millennials. Watch out next time for my piece about how the work place has changed since equality laws came in.

Branch Visits

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting branches of Farrell Heyworth with one of their area managers (Hi Andy Collins). We were discussing the appearance of one of his staff. Andy came out with that old saying “you’ll never offend anyone by looking smart, but you just might if you don’t”. This is (was) the basic mantra followed by estate agents for as many years as I can remember.

Everything rests on not putting any “barrier” between the customer and your personality. As I always used to tell my lot - any time that the customer spends looking at you and thinking about whether or not they feel they can trust you is time not spent on engaging with you. Why take the risk?


So in every estate agents office across the land you would see - no excessive jewellery, no visible piercings, no “unconventional” hairstyles or colours, no visible tattoos and certainly no beards!! What you would see is men and women dressed in business suits - the girls with smart blouses/shirts and the boys with shirts and ties.

In 2017 though, it’s all different. These things appear not to matter so much, there are beards, facial jewellery and tattoos everywhere you look….and far fewer ties !!

What’s changed? Some say that it’s an inevitable consequence of the fact that far fewer customers visit our branches. Some say it reflects a less “uptight” culture that we apparently now have - Silicon Valley if you will. Others say that the market is more segmented now and it’s easier for an agent to “target” their appearance to match their customer expectations (no doubt inspired by Apple Stores or Lush Cosmetics).

For my part, the only change I see is that most customers are now prepared to accept that you just might be someone that they can trust, even though you don’t look like it.

What you look like is now less of an immediate distraction to them whilst they hear and see your personality and experience. You might now have a couple of minutes when in the past, it was seconds. Even so, I’d still say why take the risk? Yes, I suppose it is the case that nowadays you could offend someone by looking smart. But it’s still far more likely that you’ll offend them by not.

It’s just like customer emails - I suppose there might be some customers who would be offended if you respond too quickly, but there are far more customers who will be offended if you don’t.

That gives me an idea……….

Bob Scarff

Written by
Bob Scarff

Bob Scarff ran the UK’s largest and most successful firm of estate agents, having worked his way up from a trainee negotiator in 1978. Now bringing his passion for customer service and organisational discipline to other companies and sectors, he saw quickly the benefits that Callwell can provide and co-founded PropTech Solutions in 2016 to relaunch it into the market.


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Simon Hill

05 Oct 2017 07:57:49

Nice to see you’ve cut your hair Bob!!


05 Oct 2017 18:57:12

Always right Mr Scarff


05 Oct 2017 18:57:15

Always right Mr Scarff

Dave McKirk

11 Oct 2017 05:16:05

Well said, would have been better if there was a picture of a smartly dressed bob at the bottom of the blog. I must say if I didn’t know better I wouldn’t have trusted one word in this blog.

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