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4 tech troubles brokers and agents need to fix right now

The mortgage market could use this help

July 29, 2014
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Albert Einstein said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

The technology Einstein was talking about is certainly different than the technology we use in our everyday lives, but the concept still rings true. We are often so focused on having the latest and greatest that we lose the balance between taking advantage of new technology and focusing on the most important aspect of our day-to-day lives, which is humanity.

Getting that caught up in technology can also be dangerous if we don’t leverage it correctly, which is a waste of time and money. From agents approaching going mobile with the wrong priorities to brokers not using available data that could give great insight into their business to anyone not understanding the value of online ratings — there are many ways real estate professionals aren’t getting the most out of their technology.

Where can we find opportunities to do it right? I think it comes down to priorities.

Up until recently, I would attend a conference around real estate technology and the question always was “How can technology empower the agent?” That’s important, obviously, but only if we make sure helping our customers is front and center. Without considering that, we’re forgetting our humanity. Instead, we should ask, “How can technology make our customers happier?” For major real estate brands, technology must be a tool not just to empower agents and brokers, but also to make the lives of homebuyers and sellers better.

Here are four common opportunities agents and brokers often overlook when it comes to technology, and solutions for seeing the bigger picture.

It's time to correct these tech troubles right now:

1. Finding the Mobile Balance

To some extent, mobile is played out as a topic of discussion. Everyone knows you have to be mobile — that’s old news. We’ve been texting, tweeting and emailing from our mobile devices for years.

The mistake: Not balancing mobility with a personal touch.

The solution: The Who sang about the joy of “Going Mobile,” basically the concept of not having a physical home base, but having a mobile home and being able to travel on the open road. This concept is familiar to today’s real estate agent who can’t be tied to a physical desk. But, the idea of wandering around the open road with no home base isn’t practical either. What agents need is a healthy balance between working on the go and nurturing face-to-face communication, because both are necessary.

My friends at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Realty in White Plains, New York, have found the mobile balance beautifully. Their close to 1000 agents are all mobile — able to move through an entire deal from showing to closing, on their mobile device. Yet at the same time, they have a gorgeous new open-concept office where they can hold face-to-face meetings when they’re necessary. This balance allows agents to provide the convenience of mobility to their customers, while also allowing for those important in-person meetings in an ultra-modern and comfortable setting.

They’re clearly doing something right. BHG Rand Realty now operates 26 offices throughout Westchester County, the Greater Hudson Valley and Northern New Jersey and were recently ranked the 88th largest real estate firm in the United States. Their balance between mobile and adding a personal touch is just one example of their ability to run a solid business.

2. Leveraging Data

As a real estate agent, it’s important to go beyond just bringing clients to listings and walking them through a transaction. You have to understand them. What are their goals? What are they really looking for? Are they telling you everything they want? In most cases, these answers won’t be apparent and asking the client directly doesn’t always work. You have access to more information than you think by simply accessing data on your website.

The mistake: Not leveraging data to understand your customers.

The solution: You can keep tabs on what your clients are telling you through their online activity on your website. Then, you can use that to make more personalized recommendations. A client may tell you they want to be city-dwellers, but you know they’re searching for larger homes in the suburbs. So, why not show them suburban homes? It just makes business sense.

Our friends at Keller Williams provide a good example. Cary Williams, Keller Williams’ VP of technology, innovation and communication, and her team, make sure brokers and agents are taking advantage of big data tools to make smarter business decisions. One of the tools they recommend, in addition to our own product, is Google Analytics because it’s easy to use and we all have access to it. You can find valuable data on there such as click-through rates, goal-setting alerts, sales numbers and website traffic conversions.

3. Collaborating Online

This is a no-brainer. Homebuyers and sellers are already using cloud-based services in their personal lives, and likely as a vehicle to get their jobs done, so shouldn’t the real estate transaction process be the same? This is more than PDFs sent over email or basic e-signature tools. I mean the entire process, in an online space, so people can work with each other wherever they are.

The mistake: Piecing together solutions versus using a comprehensive, unified solution built with the real estate process in mind.

The solution: You’ve likely heard of, read about, and maybe even used Evernote and many other online collaboration tools like Dropbox, Box, and Egnyte. It’s likely most of your clients are already using at least one of them and therefore, would be open to using a similar tool specifically designed for the real estate process.

You can find real estate-specific solutions that deliver a similar experience, but optimized for the ins and outs of a real estate transaction. We built dotloop to provide this same type of seamless experience, which allows everyone involved in a transaction to collaborate in one space. For real estate agents, the technology is an asset to delivering the best experience to clients.

Whatever you decide to use, the best test is to ask yourself “Would I enjoy using this?” “Would I use it in my personal life?” If the answer is yes, your clients will like it too. If not, keep looking.

4. Care about customer feedback

Word of mouth is one of the most effective advertising techniques. These days, word of mouth has migrated online, which means your online ratings and reviews are critical to your overall reputation as an agent. And, because everything is so easily accessible via mobile, customer feedback in the form of ratings and reviews can be posted within minutes of an interaction. It’s more important than ever that you treat every client as humanly as possible.

The mistake: Not focusing on getting positive customer feedback.

The solution: We need to embrace the fact that clients are telling our story for us through their ratings. Instead of shying away from the idea, encourage your clients to give you reviews online and to be honest when they’re doing it. Too many five-star, glowing reviews won’t look legitimate.

You can also encourage clients to rate your actual listings. They can explain why they liked a particular kitchen or what wasn’t quite right about a certain basement. That will help other potential buyers better understand each listing from a buyers’ perspective. It’ll also help you stand apart from your competition.

Bonus: It’s still people first!

Even with all the technology at our disposal, real estate is still a people business. But, how that plays out is much different today than it was 10 years ago.

Technology isn’t going anywhere, so smart professionals should understand the touchpoints their clients are using, and leverage that technology to keep that relationships strong into the digital age.

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