By Nick Caruso
RISMEDIA, June 15, 2011—The current state of the real estate industry is contingent upon an improved consumer experience, according to experts and panelists, including several members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), at RISMedia’s 2011 Achieve! Conference held in Rye, N.Y. on May 24 and 25. As a result of the days’ many educational sessions and networking, the conference proved that plenty of opportunities still exist for progressive and forward-thinking brokerages that are focused on its consumers.
“Recovery doesn’t just happen, you make it happen. You have to take advantage of opportunities in your respective marketplaces,” says John Featherston, president & CEO of RISMedia.
With eco-boomers steadily rising as some of the industry’s mainstay consumers, according to Rick Gregory, vice president of Business Development & Operations for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, we need to focus on the ways consumers want to be talked to. “It is always about the consumer–has been and always will be,” he says. “Social media is how buyers are communicating today. We need to fit their wants and needs.”
Although many agreed about the power of social media, RREIN member L.P. Finn, COO of Coach REALTORS®, called it “a double-edged sword.” “So many aren’t locking in their spheres of influence and are letting social media steal their client base,” he says. “Make sure your agents understand the mode of communication that their sphere wants to speak in.”
Finn recommends LinkedIn to his colleagues, noting that it has the highest average household income of any networking site and that users can export contacts, enabling them to lock down their spheres.
“One thing our industry doesn’t do is test our products ourselves to see what’s relevant in the eyes of our consumers,” says Peter Hunt, chairman & CEO of Hunt Real Estate. “It’s important to talk to the consumer and ask, ‘What do you want in terms of service from a real estate professional today?’”
Hunt Real Estate hired secret shoppers to interview agents in order to get the point of views of potential younger clientele. “You cannot be a 100-year-young firm without changing with the times; but not all change is necessarily good, nor is all change from technology good to adopt too early in the process,” says Hunt.
“The biggest problem in the industry right now is the clients,” says Joe Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. “The clients’ standards aren’t high enough and because of that the industry doesn’t raise its standards.”
Rand then urged attendees to adhere to these higher standards and impose higher expectations on agents. “Our job as brokers is to help you identify the best practices of the industry,” he says. By setting up systems to automate best practices and executing them consistently, brokers can ensure that agents have all the tools they need to guarantee success.
“McDonald’s fries are the same everywhere you go–no company in this industry has the same experience no matter where you go,” he adds.
Todd Sumney, vice president of Marketing for Realty Executives Intl., echoed Rand’s thoughts. “That’s what being a franchise is–you need to teach or have the same customer experience no matter where your customers are,” he says.
Sumney also stressed the importance of “a culture of excellence.” “How many have golfed with a really good golfer? Did you golf better? Create a culture of excellence with agents on track to having more transactions per year. Fill an office with people like that and you’ll attract even more like that. You’ll have a good consumer experience,” he says.
In order to expand and move forward, brokerages need to think about their consumers in order to nurture organic growth in their businesses. As Ed Krafchow, chairman of the board for Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Real Estate states: “Grow your company, grow your brand, grow your clientele, grow your agents in character and competence, grow yourselves. If you’re not growing, the organization won’t either. People who want to grow aren’t going to be surrounded with people who don’t.”
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