Dynamic content, a responsive social media presence and an all-inclusive mobile experience were all hot topics at RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum held last week at the 2014 REALTORS® Conference & Expo held in New Orleans. The panel entitled “Power Broker Strategies for Enhancing the Consumer Experience,” provided a marco level approach for empowering and servicing consumers in real estate, as some of the nation’s top brokers weighed in with some of their business’s best practices and methods of outreach.
Unsurprisingly, the real estate world has gone mobile, and companies not focused on providing mobile optimized websites will soon be left behind.
“Mobile devices are taking over. Provide the user with a comprehensive experience across all devices,” said Glenn “Chip” Gardner, special initiatives director for GARDNER REALTORS®.
In addition to providing mobile capabilities for your consumers, Gardner indicated that complete integration was just as important, stating that his company’s ultimate goal is a “universal ecosystem.” “When this ecosystem is in harmony, that’s when the consumer experience is optimized.”
GARDNER REALTORS® also aims to serve through the company’s philanthropic endeavors such as GARDNERLOVE and The Gertrude Gardner Foundation – a non-profit organization that helps support local associations to foster a sense of community in their area. It’s this selfless business acumen that has brought Gardner’s company much success and likely supported its positive image outward to its customers.
Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, stressed a positive, skilled mindset when trying to positively impact the consumer experience.
“Words and thoughts matter when you’re implementing positive client service,” he said.
Providing the “ultimate” experience is what defines John L. Scott’s legacy, according to Scott. Being “ultimate” and extraordinary is a personal expression of one’s self that allows his company and all of its team members to take their services one level further.
“We have an expression in the company that we go from good to great and great to greatness. We want to always be in the conversation of excellence,” he said. “Keep feeding yourself positive energy. It keeps you ‘ultimate.’”
Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, spoke about remaining values-driven and having passion and authentic y in everything you do.
“If you have something you stand for, it provides a great foundation for building your value proposition,” she said.
BH&G captures its audience’s attention through promotions and sweepstakes, tying in social media and collaborating with agents and brokers both inside and outside their company, in order to appeal to consumers and keep in touch with them long after the transaction ends.
Chris recommends that brokerages really think about the content they offer consumers. Make it catchy and fun. Focus on not actually selling to them, but rather, helping them through the process.
“Offer something of value to the consumer without asking for anything in return. Keep their attention before you’re doing business with them,” she said.
For many of the speakers and companies represented on the panel, offering a multitude of services in-house betters the consumer experience by default. Harold Crye, president of Crye-Leike REALTORS® expanded into the mortgage business with in-house loan officers and started a title company to lower the cost to consumers. His company also has a home services department that is chock-full of vetted vendors that new homebuyers can use in good faith. An online customer care service, that helps customers in real time, helps the company handle leads properly and better the consumer experience for everyone who lands on the company’s website. It’s an attention to detail and overall service that helps create a whole package of services for Crye and his company.
Dan Kruse, president of Century 21 Affiliated, spoke about providing ample training and education in order to provide the best customer service experience in his market. His company’s model and philosophy changed gears from agent-centric to consumer-centric about five years prior. With a close-to-instant response to leads, Kruse and his company have increased their lead conversion to over 16 percent, as they attempt to serve clientele as efficiently as possible.
“It’s really the people and culture that makes us who we are,” said Kruse, adding, “The role of the REALTOR® is more important today than in the past.”
HomeSmart International CEO and Founder Matt Widdows found a better way to conduct home searches, which he calls the foundation of his company. Having grown to over 5,000 agents in his local brokerage, he believes that although real estate is all about the people, technology is what empowers them.
Consistence is key, said Widdows, using the McDonald’s Big Mac as a prime example of consistency. “HomeSmart creates that consistent experience and uses technology to achieve it. Technology never forgets and it repeats human processes – it’s proven to work,” he said, also noting that you’ll always need good people behind a solid tech plan.
HomeSmart has implemented connected agent and consumer portals. Agents can hand home shoppers a tablet while house hunting so they can make notes or take extra photos. All of that info is then auto-saved back to their consumer portal for them to review further later, a plus for any overwhelmed perspective buyer who is taking in heaps of information.
It may seem like a given, but it bears repeating: kick your business up a notch by staying focused on the consumer experience. It may be the key to staying successful now and having an even stronger 2015.