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RISMEDIA, March 15, 2010—Transparency is talked about by many in the real estate industry. But what exactly is transparency and is it really important to consumers? Does transparency provide any benefit to brokerages? Reviewing case studies in other industries provides us with some answers that will seem obvious and others that won’t.

Transparency: 2d: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

With the prevalence of the Internet and mobile computing, today’s consumer of any service expects on-demand access to real-time information. Consider banking 10 years ago. To monitor your balance fluctuations, you waited until the end-of the-month statement. To make a payment, you wrote a check, put it in an envelope and paid for a stamp to mail it. To delay a payment, you put a stop-payment on a check and started over. Access to services was rigid and access to information was slow. Banking was complicated.

In 2010, all banks provide online account access enabling you with perfect and real-time information about the services they provide. You check your balance online or from your phone. You make a payment to anyone with a few clicks of a mouse and a couple of key-strokes. You change the date of a future payment by calling up the transaction and changing the delivery date. You have on-demand, real-time access to your banking information and servicing options. Banking is easy. Banking is transparent.

Banks offer online services because it has become a standard in the industry. In the late 1990s, the service was emerging. Banks realized that customers would demand it as a standard service, but they also realized that moving customers to online banking was in their best interest. With transparency, customers wrote fewer checks. With transparency, customers made fewer trips to the branch. With transparency, customers opted out of paper statements. Transparency provided better service at a lower cost.

For real estate agencies, the year is 1996 with regards to transparency for the services provided. Delighting listing customers with transparency is the opportunity. Listing clients pay agencies to match their home to a buyer. To do this, agencies invest in an office, administrative staff, marketing personnel, print ads, online syndication, showings software/services, text lead generation, voice lead generation, and of course a best-in-class buyer-generating website. Your agents also send emails, prospect by phone, receive feedback and countless other tasks. Telling your listing client you will do those things is no longer enough. Consumers in 2010 want “visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning your business practices.” Consumers want transparency.

To differentiate yourself from other agencies, you must organize the information that only you control. Systems are emerging that centralize showings, print ads, online presence, Web activity, leads, and other activities performed by your business. By organizing this data you can provide on-demand, real-time information to your customers about the services provided by your company. Similar to banking, unexpected benefits are realized when you harness all the data within your business. Customers using online communications with Realtors don’t expect weekly mailings. They better understand the need for price changes and they don’t switch Realtors due to “perceived” inactivity.

Your clients will appreciate your commitment to transparency and will reward you by sharing their experience with their sphere of influence. Don’t forget, according to the 2008 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 72% of listing customers use an agent to whom they were referred or whom they’ve used before. Satisfied customers will provide you with new business.

Not all real estate agencies are transparent today. But not all banks were offering online banking in 1996 either. Lead the market.

About the author
Brian Friemel is President of Pulse Realty Software which has developed one of the only comprehensive management systems for full-service real estate brokerages. Pulse organizes all critical data and activities along the entire customer lifecycle of a real estate transaction.

For more information, visit