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customer_centric_idea.jpgCentury 21 Real Estate LLC turns 45 in 2016. In an era fond of retro products and services, the venerable real estate franchisor, reported to be the largest global network in the residential real estate industry with approximately 6,900 independent offices worldwide in 78 countries and territories with more than 101,000 independent sales professionals, understands that building relationships and earning the affinity and trust of real estate consumers is as important today as it was when brokers Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher established the CENTURY 21® brand in Orange County, Calif., on July 28, 1971.

It was almost six years ago when Rick Davidson was named president and chief executive officer of Century 21 Real Estate LLC. At that time, he set out to reposition the C21®brand within the industry and to establish the organization as the brand of choice for real estate consumers and real estate professionals. Under his leadership, the results are impressive. For example, the CENTURY 21 brand ranked “Highest Overall Satisfaction for First-Time and Repeat Home Buyers and Sellers, Two Years in a Row” in the J.D. Power 2014 – 2015 Home Buyer/Seller Studies(SM). The CENTURY 21 brand swept the awards by receiving the highest numerical score among national real estate firms across all four customer satisfaction segments in the study, including First-Time Home-Buyer Satisfaction, Repeat Home-Buyer Satisfaction, First-Time Home-Seller Satisfaction and Repeat Home-Seller Satisfaction. This marks the only two times that any one real estate brand has ever swept the J.D. Power top spot across all four segments.

Davidson offered his reasoning for the brand’s latest success: “This recognition substantiates the accuracy of our long-term strategy: to focus on growing our system with the best companies in the market and, in turn, the way by which they deliver services to the consumer. Quality service, consistency, professionalism and integrity are in the DNA of our system members. The consumer and industry professionals alike recognize that and have shown they want to associate with a company that delivers on its promise. This level of recognition is not limited to our domestic footprint, but is being corroborated in markets where we operate around the globe.  In 2014, we opened 525 new offices globally, with 2015 proving to be another strong year. Our presence here in the States continues to strengthen, and we have established market-leadership in key global markets with 400 offices in Canada, nearly 900 offices in Japan, 800 offices in China and more than 800 offices in France. Around the world we have a strong market position in countries and regions including Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil, Benelux, Iberia, Australia and South Africa.  Our mission is clear and is being executed with precision and accuracy.”

In an effort to dig further into the “new” Century 21 Real Estate, we decided to mark the brand’s 45th anniversary by introducing you to a handful of the global franchisor’s SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER.® independent brokers. We asked them about the impact of today’s empowered consumer on the real estate industry, and the reasons why each of them has taken the extra step of an office redesign.

Edward J. Berenbaum, CENTURY 21 Redwood Realty, Washington, D.C./Va. metro

Juan Martinez, CENTURY 21 Martinez & Associates, Las Vegas, Nev.

Ricardo Sousa, International Franchisor, CENTURY 21 Spain/Portugal

Joy Triglia, CENTURY 21 Universal Luxury, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Stephen Votino, CENTURY 21 Triangle Group, Raleigh, N.C.

Paige Tepping: Please give us your thoughts on the impact of the empowered consumer.

Joy Triglia: The constant change, competitiveness and increasing power of consumers all serve to make this a pivotal time for the future of our company, for the CENTURY 21 brand, and for the real estate industry as a whole. While real estate success is often driven by the number of transactions closed, ultimately, we know that we are in the relationship business.

The key is to understand consumer motivation. There is no singular path to being a homeowner, and there is also no set homeowner personality. Real estate consumers have different—often multiple—personality profiles, and we need to make certain that our services are equal to the task. Within that mindset, we are constantly rethinking the real estate brokerage business model in order to build sustainable success. Giving consumers more control is one powerful way we are shifting away from the status quo to this “always-on” shared economy we all operate under. We feel there’s no better recipe for growing a brokerage that is able to withstand market fluctuations and earn long-term success than to leverage buyer and seller profiles and make consumers feel like they are a part of the process every step of the way.

Stephen Votino: While the Internet and the technology boom have certainly changed the home search, the overall transaction hasn’t necessarily become easier. Finding time to research and prepare for the home-buying process is a logistical challenge for many consumers. Improving on this inefficient process is fundamental to our success. Herein lies the importance of having affiliated sales associates who have the skill sets necessary to assist consumers in finding the right property and better understanding this complicated process. For us, in our efforts to remain at the center of the transaction and relevant to the customer, we must impact the experience in a positive manner. Building customer loyalty and enhancing brand preference will help deliver leadership positioning in the markets that we serve. This is a competitive industry, and to beat our competition, we have to anticipate the future, deliver consumer-centric services and products, and ensure that our affiliated sales associates are equipped with the products and services they need to “wow” their clients and exceed expectations.

Edward Berenbaum: The availability of online listings through syndication sites like realtor.com®and franchisor and brokerage offerings like century21.com and c21redwood.com have forever transformed real estate brokerage. The brokerage’s value no longer lies solely in our access to listing information, but rather, in our ability to present and interpret data in a manner that allows customers to make better-informed decisions. Data analytics and having access to technologies and systems that filter, distribute and apply information in ways that better define who our consumers are and at what phase of the home-buying and -selling lifecycle they currently reside, help us to create competitive differentiation and to deliver an unequalled experience to our clients. For example, by blending listing data with unique local-area information that highlights the expertise of our affiliated agents, our websites serve to engage and educate consumers. Agents that view their client relationships as partnerships can add significant value throughout the home-buying and -selling process.

Ricardo Sousa: Differentiation for us, as an international franchisor of the CENTURY 21 brand, can be summed up in one word: disruption. For example, back in 2011 we started talking with other international master franchisors from around the world about the trend of global investors being increasingly interested in buying properties abroad. We recognized the niche that global transactions could present if we were able to position the brand in the path of this market opportunity and take advantage of the unique CENTURY 21 global footprint. In 2013, after much discussion, we launched a global website at century21global.com that today features home listing feeds of 250,000-plus from 30 primary global markets in 16 language translations and 36 currency conversions. CENTURY 21 Real Estate is miles ahead of our competitors in this space because we thought like a disrupter.

Looking ahead, our goal is to connect our vast network of System members not only 24/7 from cities like Madrid, London, Tokyo, Paris, Beijing and Toronto with those from New York, Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago, but also those who are from our well-represented secondary and tertiary international and domestic markets.

We currently have proprietary software to help our System close these international transactions more seamlessly and confidently. For example, our Global Connector not only allows C21® System members to send and receive referrals, it also helps to provide their clients with other pertinent transaction and location knowledge. In the future, as property transactions occur from country to country and continent to continent more frequently, we are hoping to enhance the process by making it more efficient and shareable on multiple platforms, positioning approximately 6,900 worldwide CENTURY 21 offices to collaborate, connect and engage buyers, sellers and investors around the world.

Juan Martinez: Let me offer another response to this question, notwithstanding that technology has forever changed our business and has undeniably created empowered and more knowledgeable consumers. Unquestionably, this is a very good thing for all parties involved in a real estate transaction.

For me, equally important is our ability as a brand to anticipate and stay ahead of the changing customer base for home-buying and -selling services. This is an area that we excel in. In fact, I would argue that there are no other real estate brands more loyal to multiculturalism than the CENTURY 21 brand. We have made a conscious and dedicated effort to ensure that our logos, marketing, communications and innovative technology solutions be delivered in a cross-cultural manner. For example, we have a completely revamped Spanish language website at century21espanol.com, designed to connect Spanish-speaking customers with Spanish-speaking C21 sales associates and offices. We also have a specialized listing presentation in Spanish. We will continue championing the work being done with the industry’s diversity associations, including NAHREP, AREAA, NAGLREP, NAREB and others, all in an effort to help our System members understand how to impact diverse communities and to better serve America’s ever-changing populace.

PT: Tell us what led to the redesign of your offices.

Stephen Votino: The redesign of our office space is helping us re-create a culture that positions us with consumers as a leader in the market, while also serving as a recruitment tool for the type of affiliated sales associates we are looking for—self-motivated, innovative talent that can help our company grow. We wanted to re-think having to be “in the office” to increase productivity and transaction volume, and accommodate a virtual community that redefines where and when work is completed. The results, to-date, have been amazing. We are absolutely more efficient, and there is a marked increase in communication and collaboration with those in the office, customers and clients, and the other transaction players we deal with on a regular basis.

Edward Berenbaum: We are creating a more flexible and social work environment to meet the changing needs of today’s time-pressed consumer, as well as the C21 sales associate. The modern office honors form, function and location and does so in a sustainable manner to ensure that the successful recruiting of agents does not automatically necessitate expansion.

We accomplish this through the utilization of two concepts: “hoteling” and “benching.” Benching provides an area for our people to sit together with their managers and/or brokers and share ideas on how best to meet consumer expectations and grow the company. Hoteling ensures that our sales associates have access to private space when needed, though this space is not permanently assigned.

A great example of these concepts can be found in our new Ashburn, Va., office space. The front of this office is all about the client experience, with a small waiting room boasting modern décor and three spacious conference rooms designed with the customer experience in mind. Glass interior walls and floor-to-ceiling exterior windows provide ample lighting and create a private, yet connected feel. Beyond the client space, a swinging door leads to the agent space, which is inclusive of an office for our managing broker, 10 private agent-meeting spaces, an agent lounge, agent café and large fishbowl.

Joy Triglia: With our redesign, we have built productive space, independent of size, for our affiliated sales associates and the buyers and sellers they work with every day. We also made sure that the building minimizes our overall environmental footprint. Lastly, the space leverages and provides for the latest in technology to lower costs and maximize per-person productivity. Our sales associates appreciate having access to resources that help better serve the needs of today’s homebuyers and sellers, who in turn, become third-party brand ambassadors. The results are incredibly helpful and absolutely help to increase the overall growth of our affiliated agents and our company.

Ricardo Sousa: In addition to what many of my colleagues indicated here, we also stressed the importance of having office spaces that encourage health and well-being, with a focus on indoor air quality, green cleaning products, choosing ENERGY STAR®- compliant products, and also providing a quiet room for relaxation and meditation. It is our belief that designing for healthy behaviors is a win-win for anyone who utilizes the office space.

Juan Martinez: I feel the idea to redesign our office space was originally born from the desire to incorporate sustainability into our professional lives as a means of being better stewards of the communities in which we live and work, social responsibility to ensure the products we are purchasing come from reputable companies, and integrated technology that helps to enhance worker efficiency, keep energy costs down and open the door to greater security features. What we have here is an atmosphere that provides for teamwork and cooperation, and a more community-centric approach to working.

Zap Data: A ‘Real’ Differentiator for the CENTURY 21 System

“As an independent office under the CENTURY 21® umbrella, it’s critical that I am able to provide access to the tools and technologies my affiliated agents need to engage and connect with today’s well-informed consumers at the moments when property buying and selling decisions are made. That way, I’m helping to ensure that our sales associates have a better chance of influencing consumer decisions. That’s the beauty of ZapTM. It’s a real differentiator for us. Zap delivers actionable data and allows the office to better understand when consumers want passive or active interaction, to “map out” customer journeys and to direct engagement efforts for maximum influence. As a result, with Zap, we no longer have to rely on a “hunch.” The science of Zap is in its ability to track a consumer’s online activity across all media and devices. With prospective homebuyers, for example, the Zap algorithm distills data from multiple online sources like website visits, mobile app usage and automated marketing campaigns into a single number—the ZapScoreTM. As a consumer’s demand intensifies, so too, does the ZapScore—a strong indication for our affiliated agents to act because consumers are getting ready to transact. All in all, Zap is yet another way the C21® brand, and Realogy, helps to separate us from the competition.”

– Jeffrey C. Lewis, President
CENTURY 21 Paramount, Houston, Texas

For more information, visit www.Century21.com.

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