Forget listings, nail the experience

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” – Cherokee Proverb

I sat in the audience at Real Estate Connect last week as the speakers for a panel titled, “Pulling Your Listings From Aggregator Sites: Who Wins?” shuffled onto the stage. I watched and listened closely for just a few minutes. Then I got up and left. I had heard this before.

Yes, while listings – which brokers own – should be handled with respect in the course of distribution across the internet, the endless debate over syndication obscures an important truth:

Brokers of the future will win on customer experience.

Customer experience: the driver of difference

It sounds trite, I know. But stick with me for a minute.

Brokerage shops around the country are quietly reinventing the real estate business one customer at a time. They’re creating manifestos by which any agent who joins them must abide. Emphasizing expertise in the local market and consistency in the experience.

Many in the industry have talked about being consumer-centric and emphasized service in their rhetoric. But here are three examples of brokerages that have adopted the approach as part of their core business and are doing some cool things in the process:

M Squared Realty

In the last several years, agents have had to master everything from lead generation to transaction management, email marketing, content marketing, photography, home staging, design, social media and even videography.

In Washington, D.C., M Squared Realty turned that model on its head and built a brokerage that takes on all marketing and technology for agents, freeing them up to truly be customer-service focused. The end consumer experience becomes more consistent across the brokerage and agents get to focus all their energy on the consumer.

It’s not about selling a bunch of stuff to the agents. It’s about taking away the burden and creating a stellar customer service system that’s efficient and consistent. It’s tech-driven, but the technology is invisible to the consumer.

Red Oak Realty

At Red Oak Realty in Oakland, Calif., the consumer experience centers around rich, local expertise. The agents live in the communities they sell – some have even grown up there.

Red Oak broker-owners also get personally involved in every transaction that comes through the brokerage – unheard of in most brokerages. But at Red Oak, the focus on putting the customer first transcends any tensions felt in typical broker-agent relationships.

It really is all about the consumer. That comes through when you read about their experiences.

Long Realty

How do you keep a real estate customer for life? Long Realty’s answer was to build a concierge service that gives consumers access to a hand-picked network of service providers they’ll need long after the closing – plumbers, electricians, restaurant owners, fitness centers and more.

This idea isn’t unique. Lots of brokerages have tried it. But Long has executed.

The company’s affiliate program has an 80-90% adoption rate from customers. Since launching about nine years ago, about 100,000 consumers are walking around Arizona with a Long Advantage Gold card, which gets them discounts and special promotions at participating local businesses.

Kevin Kaplan, Long’s VP of Marketing and Technology, says it works well because of the rigorous screening process they use with vendors and service providers and the inherent way that it adds value by connecting the community.

More than just hot air

Everyone wants to deliver a superior customer experience, but few have truly dedicated themselves to it. That seems to be changing.

It certainly works on me. Three of my favorite companies on the planet are Zappos, Amazon and a small, one-woman skincare shop in San Francisco whom I’ve only ever interacted with online. All three got me with service. The fact that they range from one gal to a multi-billion-dollar operation shows that the landscape for innovation on the service front is wide open.

Listings are important to the brokerage of the future and the outcome of the current battle will bear marked significance on the entire industry. But even as listings are important now and tomorrow, the battle for market share will be fought and won on another field entirely. I think that field is customer experience.

[Disclaimer: 1000WATT has performed work for Red Oak Realty and Long Realty in the past.]