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Keeping in Touch: Prudential Locations Discovers Benefits of Handwritten E-mail

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RISMEDIA, July 20, 2007— In order to maximize the benefit of its local knowledge for clients, Prudential Locations makes implementing technology solutions a key component of its overall business strategy to assist its 280 agents in interacting with customers across the state, the mainland and internationally.

Prudential Locations prides itself in a deep knowledge of Hawaii’s real estate market. With over three decades of island experience and a wealth of personal relationships, Prudential’s knowledge is the product of a rich kama’aina tradition, a Hawaiian term that speaks to the company’s heritage as a ‘child of the islands’.

This utilization of technology will not only provide access to a wide variety of information on neighborhoods and properties, but it will also assist agents in communicating more effectively with their clients.

“We’ve always known that real estate is more than location, location, location. Real estate is first and foremost a people business. That is why we are continually looking for ways to enhance the relationships that our agents have with their clients,” said Tracy Behler, executive vice president of Client Relationship Development at Prudential Locations.

According to the company, that drive to continually improve relationships is what led Prudential to consider the Notegram messaging service, which aims to ease the hassle of sending handwritten notes, and allows agents to send more of them. The system mimics the normal writing process by letting a user handwrite a note with a special pen and paper. It then lets them easily and quickly send the note via e-mail along with links to a Web site.

“E-mail has made it much easier for our agents to stay in touch with clients, but it has reduced some of the personal interaction that has always helped build relationships. These relationships are vital to our ongoing business, they are essential in generating referrals and repeat business. In Notegram, we saw the potential to use a slick technology to combine the personal touch of a handwritten note with the convenience and efficiency of e-mail,” said Behler. “But the product was new enough that we needed more than a nice brochure before we felt we could recommend it to our agents. We needed to see it work.”

In order to test the Notegram system prior to making a decision on a larger roll out, Prudential Locations decided to conduct a pilot study. The general goals of the study were twofold:

- Evaluate client response to Notegram and determine if it had a positive effect on the agent-client relationship or provided any additional value to their business
- Assess the technology to determine technical and support issues, and how it could be integrated with their internal systems

Prudential Locations started by purchasing Notegram kits for use with the study, and then devised a pilot program that would address their goals to provide feedback on the system.

The project had the following structure and requirements:

- 11 agents and three recruiters as participants
- A duration of six weeks
- Each participant was to send at least thirty handwritten Notegrams to clients or prospects
- Each participant was to complete surveys and questionnaires throughout project

Participants within the organization were recruited based on a willingness to try the Notegram system and document their experiences. The Notegram kits were distributed to participants, who installed it themselves from the included documentation. Limited instruction was given on the actual use of the product, and the program was completed six weeks from when it was initiated.

According to the company, agents and recruiters alike saw strong benefits in using Notegram to build relationships and business. As a result, 100% of participants said they would recommend Notegram to other Prudential agents.

“We really didn’t expect to see such a universally positive response from all of the agents who participated in the pilot,” said Kevin Byrne, project manager at Prudential Locations. “Across the board, all participants found value in Notegram for building and maintaining relationships with prospects and clients.”

Survey Findings

- 93% of participants rated client responses to Notegram as favorable or highly favorable.
- 7% rated it neutral or below.
- 100% of participants rated Notegram easy to very easy to use.
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According to participants, the following were Notegram’s most compelling benefits:

- 70% claimed the ability to convey a personal touch
- 20% said it differentiated themselves from competition
- 7% liked its convenience

Participants reported they used Notegram in the following sales situations:

- 47% with open house follow up
- 40% with property showings
- 33% with MLS leads and follow-up
- 27% with recruiting outside agents
- 7% with floor or retail leads
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The study showed that Notegrams were not always used to convey cheerful messages, such as offering congratulations or saying thank you. Somewhat unexpectedly, several participants noted Notegram’s usefulness in conveying thoughtfulness after breaking bad news to a client. For instance, follow-up Notegrams were thought to be especially well received after informing a client that their offer had been rejected.

Participants suggested some areas in which they thought Notegram could be enhanced for increased use at their company. Some mentioned an interest in having Notegram better integrated with the company’s internal computer systems, while a few mentioned a desire for a larger notepad size or slightly smaller pen. A couple participants also felt they would have to concentrate on improving their handwriting for Notegram to be the most effective.

The pilot also fared well from a technical perspective. The support required was deemed minimal for a new product. The only outstanding issues that remained at the end of the pilot were related to using Notegram on the company’s shared computer network, and not with the product itself.

“We received outstanding support from the Notegram team, especially when you consider we were located five times zones away from them. All of our issues were answered quickly,” said Byrne.

As a result of the feedback and experience gained during the pilot, Prudential Locations’ management team has decided to invest in integrating Notegram more fully into their existing technology systems and will be aggressively promoting its use to all 280 of their agents.

“Based on the results of this pilot, we would like to see all of our agents using Notegram to conduct business in a more personal way. To encourage that, our company is investing in a few customizations to make the product even more convenient for our agents and fit more tightly with our CRM system.” said Tracy Behler, adding, “Relationships drive our business. We expect the return on Notegram will come in more referrals, more listings, more closings, and more repeat business.”

For more information, call 605-692-9877.

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