What’s the key to incredible customer service? According to Ed Forman, President of Watson Realty Corp., one of the most important things is quality information. “Agents must provide the information the consumer is looking for while making a good first impression by establishing themselves as the expert for the area,” explains Forman. Read the following interview for more winning real estate advice.
Years in real estate: 42
Number of offices: 41, with our 42nd set to open in the next 30 days (at press time)
Number of agents: 1,200
You have 41 residential sales offices. There aren’t many independent companies of this size. How has the organization continued to flourish since 1965?
Bill Watson, who founded the company, took pride in providing legendary quality service, and that has served us well over the years. Whether it’s providing top-notch service to consumers, sales associates or our team, Watson laid the foundation by creating a culture that’s centered around treating people well. We’ve been able to retain these values that have served us well in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
Has technology been a big part of your success?
Absolutely. We’re continuing to invest in technology and marketing so that our agents have the tools they need to stay competitive in today’s market. One example is our interactive Watson Digital Presentation product that helps agents create CMAs jointly with the consumer. When it comes to technology, we’re always looking to provide our agents with tools that give them the flexibility to no longer have to be tied to the office.
How do you get traffic to your own site? Do you have your own capacity to manage Search Engine Monetization?
We have a team of dedicated staff assigned to driving traffic to our website in addition to third-party companies who analyze our website and make recommendations regarding SEO enhancements. Another source of traffic is Google AdWords, and our dedicated staff spends hours every day analyzing traffic patterns and adjusting our campaigns. Our marketing department does an outstanding job advertising our website on social media sites and in local print media. Our TV and radio advertisements also go a long way toward driving traffic to our corporate site.
What about tying the big lead systems into your organization. Have you found a way to manage high lead volume?
We have a lead system that not only handles all leads coming from the broker site as well as sites that feature our listings, it also sends out status update requests on each and every lead. While our goal is to provide legendary service to clients, when it comes to follow-up, agents must reply to a lead within 15 minutes, or it’s passed along to someone else.
Are you considering tools that’ll allow agents to follow-up more easily while out of the office?
Yes, we’re currently looking at adding a CRM package that will allow agents to work on any device.
What are the best practices for agents to be successful with online leads?
Finding success in this area is all about responding to leads quickly because consumers will move on to the next agent if they don’t get a quick response. Agents must provide the information the consumer is looking for while making a good first impression by establishing themselves as the expert for the area.
Let’s use realtor.com® as an example. Do your agents get training on how to manage Web listings and leads?
We just completed a two-month live webinar series customized to Watson agents. The goal for this training was to improve the ways realtor.com® can help our agents get more leads, and at the same time, agents learned how to improve the quality of the listings posted on realtor.com®. We also provide monthly training classes, conducted by our e-business manager, on how to work Internet leads.
Would you consider yourself “agent-centric?”
We’re as agent-centric as you can get. In fact, two years ago, I made the decision to remove the company contact button on our listings on realtor.com® so that only the agent’s information is displayed, driving business directly to them. We also encourage our agents to partner with us—to buy zip codes and do some personal marketing on realtor.com®— since we enhance all the listings.
You mentioned you are considering Top Producer?
We’re in the evaluation phase with this product, but one of the reasons we like the Top Producer system so much is because of a new system they have that bubbles up five fresh people each day to make contact within your database so you know who to talk to and what to say. Not only will it help agents stay in touch with clients, it’ll also enable them to spend more time with those who are closer to purchasing or selling.
What’s your next big idea?
Continuing to grow and ensuring we have the best leaders and sales associates in place. Not only did we add two offices this year, we’re focused on bringing in additional sales associates and attracting the best talent in the country. Dedicated to being the best we can at everything we do, we’re staying abreast of things we can do to position ourselves for success moving forward.
For more information, please visit www.marketing.realtor.com.