By Kayla O’Brien
RISMEDIA, Feb. 15, 2008-After a year of technological innovation, Keller Williams Realty’s associates entered 2008 with an entirely new tech toolkit and outlook on the real estate industry. In addition to rebuilding and redesigning the Keller Williams’ Web presence, the technology initiatives that the company introduced over the past year rewrote the rules on ownership of listing data and Internet Data Exchange (IDX) access. Here, David Therrien, chief technology officer for Keller Williams Realty, discusses the company’s initiatives as it gears up to position its agents at the forefront of the real estate industry, with the help of technology’s greatest allies-networking and communication-to benefit all parties involved in the real estate transaction.
Real Estate magazine: Heading into 2008, how has Keller Williams Realty improved the technology it provides to its agents?
David Therrien: Keller Williams Realty is an agent-centric focused model. We recognized that there is a real need for agents to have a Web presence and capabilities as a backbone to their business, so the two most important pieces we introduced are our IDX solution and the Keller Williams Listing System (KWLS).
We launched an IDX solution for our agents with WolfNet® Technologies, which allows all MLS listings (both national and international, where allowed) to be displayed on all our agents’ Websites for buyers-which is also a value proposition for sellers. When we looked at the seller side further, we recognized that we needed a solution to get more consumer eyes on our listings, so we created the Keller Williams Listing System. The KWLS aggregates every single one of our listings and pushes them out to a huge number of partners on the Web, including Trulia, AOL and Cyberhomes. The KWLS exponentially increased the eyes on our listings, greatly improving the agents’ value proposition and marketing-helping them stand out among other agents.
RE: How, as a company, did you uncover agents’ objectives in terms of better serving the consumer? What were the deciding factors to add and transition into these new tools?
DT: We’ve been conducting research and think-tank sessions that have included some of the best minds in the industry, and what we found out was that our focus needed to be on agent tools that build stronger relationships with potential clients using the Internet. As an agent, I’m looking at establishing a relationship that will lead to future business. As a consumer, I need service and knowledge. You’re really looking for a meeting of the minds. In 2008, our direction is to build tools and services that help our agents establish this.
RE: What have the overall feelings/reactions been from your agents on these new tools?
DT: It’s huge. They’re absolutely thrilled because it has positioned them as experts in their area, provided a significant increase in the level of service they give to their clients, and increased their ability to manage business, requiring less time and effort to do the same or greater number of tasks. Technology is a huge asset that can improve your production, your services, and your sales numbers.
RE: How will these new additions help your agents to compete in today’s market? How will this make their jobs easier on a daily basis?
DT: I don’t look at it as competing; I look at it as improving services for any potential client. It’s all about service. The technology has got to provide value to the consumer-so when we look at the technology that we’ve deployed, we’ve taken our Client Relationship Management system to a new level. We did research to determine the best-in-class Websites out there and that’s what we gave to our agents and market centers at no cost. Different agents have different needs, so we give them an overarching Webpresence as an organic focal point for all tools and services.
RE: What will these new additions bring to your consumers, more specifically?
DT: If you go back to the major value propositions that the Internet offers to consumers, the two biggest things are: access to the MLS in an easy, concise, user-friendly format-that’s our IDX; and, from the seller side, how are you going to market your home and attract the greatest number of potential buyers? That’s the KWLS.
RE: Why do you feel these new upgrades are so important to the company’s future goals as a whole?
DT: Keller Williams Realty has always had the models and systems in place to have a very strong presence in the physical world, and now, the cyber world offers even more opportunities for our agents. Technology functions 24/7/365 without manpower-giving our agents leverage in their business so they can achieve more.
RE: What do you feel are the most important tools that brokerages will need to stay competitive throughout 2008?
DT: The major tools that they need to focus on are networking with other real estate professionals and communication. You often hear about one-stop shops and the bundling of services, but at the heart of it, it’s how we’re going to become better service-oriented professionals and how we are going to communicate in meaningful ways to our consumers.
RE: What will be the biggest challenge in rolling out these new types of technologies? How do you plan to overcome these as a company?
DT: The greatest challenge is making sure that our agents have the proper training to take advantage of new technology tools. Because we have always been a learning-based company, we support everything we roll out with a massive educational effort. For our technology tools, we have our Technology Masterminds events, Internet lead-generation courses, and a mix of instructor-led courses and self-led online training.
RE: What are your future plans for the technology of Keller Williams as 2008 continues? Do you have any predictions for the year in real estate technologies?
DT: We’re focused on the conversion of Internet leads to closed transactions. Keller Williams has a research and brainstorming focus, and Gary Keller recently funded the Keller Center for Residential Real Estate Research at Baylor University. Its sole purpose is to develop and grow the entire industry’s understanding of consumer behavior in the residential real estate arena. This will help us further understand what consumers are looking for and how they behave online-that will determine where we go in the future. And, of course, we’re always focused on providing the best consumer-oriented service capabilities possible that help our agents develop relationships and effectively network with others. The Internet is our greatest opportunity for improving services to the consumer and helping our agents further their business development. It’s just so cost effective. RE
For more information, visit www.kw.com.