- The reality is that little changes for the consumer in our attempts to improve the consumer experience.
- If you don't clearly understand the party you intend to impact, it's tough to improve anything.
- Improving customer experience is a wide-open field because there are a million ways to work in this business.
Months ago I wrote for Inman about something I named the “CX,” the consumer experience. I’m not talking about the user interface (UI) or the user experience (UX), but this elusive thing called the CX.
It seems like forever that we as an industry have talked about what has become the improved CX in residential real estate.
The consumer experience is the next big thing — it has always been the big thing — but the reality is that little changes for the consumer in improving the consumer experience.
What happened to CX?
Why is this? If the improved CX is the next big thing, why has it been neglected for so long?
I think the industry is stuck in a big quandary. This quandary involves confusion about who is in the center of the transaction and who serves whom in the brokerage business.
If you don’t clearly understand the party you intend to impact, it’s tough to improve anything.
Brokers strive to please their agents while agents strive to please the consumer while the franchises try to please their franchisees while NAR (the National Association of Realtors) strives to please members and the MLS strives to please its subscribers and on and on.
Lots of pleasing is going on, but little of it is delivered in an organized way to the consumer. Just ask consumers, and they will tell you.
But I think this year — who is genuinely helping the customer will rise to the forefront.
For the past 10-plus years, the brokerage industry has, however painfully, learned one critical lesson: whoever improves the experience for the consumer usually wins big.
Big winners who are not brokers include Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com. These companies saw the need to improve the search experience and the display of properties for sale to the consumer, and they simply did it. We could not organize to do it. They did it and won.
Back at the brokerage company we watched, we gasped, and we shook our heads in disgust. So my question is, why couldn’t that have been us?
For most of the past 10 years, we have argued, cried, complained, protested and swore that we would never let this happen again. And not much has happened other than the same companies we make all the noise about continue to surprise and delight the consumer.
And the consumer still much prefers what these companies offer to the industry’s idea of search and websites.
Some brokers will deliver an experience, and brands in real estate will finally stand for something in 2016. And what they will deliver will be focused on the transaction.
It will be more than a name with some degree of awareness; brokerage companies will design and deliver some degree of the elusive predictable experience I wrote about early last year. Improvement in the real estate CX will actually begin to happen.
Why now? In an odd way, the barrage of startup companies that have fully intended to improve the consumer real estate experience with a new offering — and to disrupt the industry from day one — have awakened the brokerage community that has been doing business the same old way for decades.
I believe this is the catalyst for such change; 2016 will be the year of the fully awakened brokerage company.
We talk a lot about standards in this industry, but I think we are finally evolving to define new standards to be set for the real estate experience.
Over time, a brokerage company will stand for a more predictable, improved experience for the consumer. Maybe one day this will even span industry-wide.
Improving the consumer experience in real estate is a wide-open field. It is wide open because today there are 1.2 million ways to do anything in this business.
You’ll find a different way with each agent you meet. No two agents practice in the same way, and we cite the independent contractor status of the agent for that ongoing situation. But I think that mindset is slowly dissipating with brokers as well.
Imagine the potential of tens of thousands of agents with millions of consumers in their spheres — and brokerage companies with dominant local brands in their markets all aligning to offer something of greater value to their customers.
Think of ways to improve the transaction such as a digital document storage platform for every transaction, fully automated transaction management on each closing, a guaranteed comprehensive marketing program for every listing, inclusion in an extraordinary consumer engagement platform and more.
The next big things are all about monitoring trends and then imagining the potential power of change. For the real estate brokerage industry, and for obvious reasons, I sincerely hope that an improved consumer experience is on the industry’s to-do list soon.
Kenneth Jenny is an expert in the residential real estate brokerage industry and real estate marketing.