If real estate is all about relationships, empathy and connecting with people, is there any room in the industry for robots?
The overwhelming evidence from the Inman Connect conference in New York says “yes.” But we’re not talking bots that look like Rosie from The Jetsons or the Robot from Lost in Space to replace the end-to-end experience of being served by an agent.
It seems counter-intuitive that bots can improve the level of human service, especially when we think of how much technology fatigue is out there. (And you can insert your own Skynet conspiracy theory here.)
But the new generation of bots will do single tasks quickly and efficiently, making delivering excellent service less frantic for agents and giving you time back to focus on relationships and strategy.
Here’s what to look out for.
Chatbots sit on your website and pop up whenever someone does something on your website that identifies them as being interested in a property or making an inquiry. They pop onto the screen as a message, introduce themselves and offer to help you.
Chatbots are programmed with artificial intelligence and keyword recognition to identify addresses and words such as “looking,” “buy” or “sell,” and they seek to assist the online user in the early stages of their inquiry and capture an email address for your database.
Good chatbots identify themselves as bots — they don’t try and pretend to be human — but if you’re a buyer with insomnia perusing properties at 3 a.m., they can provide you with answers and assistance immediately (rather than waiting for a reply many hours — or days — later).
From the agent point of view, you’ve delivered a helpful service experience immediately and the bot has helped you identify the real leads from the tyre kickers and provides you with an action to follow up when you’re awake. (Check out Holmes from Structurely.) You can also quickly build a chatbot for your Facebook page at chatfuel.com.
Virtual assistants or taskbots
If your day is full of tasks that keep you busy and suck up your time, you probably need a taskbot.
The new generation of virtual assistants are being connected to your CRM (customer relationship manager) and other data sources (such as your property data) and are able to quickly carry out automated tasks.
For example, you could train your taskbot to create a CMA (comparative market analysis) based on the address you give it, and email that report out to a prospective client. Or you could automate the sending out of marketing material to all buyers in your database interested in four-bedroom homes near a suitable property where you’re holding an open house.
This doesn’t mean it has to be bot language — you can program your bot to automate as much or as little as you wish.
Tell the bot you want to craft the message, and then instruct him or her to send it to everyone who fits the criteria on the database. Or tell the bot to extract all the people in your database who have a property anniversary, create a property valuation for those properties and then create a list for you to call them for a personal touch.
To create a killer impression, when you meet a new prospect, instruct your bot to send out pre-listing information and a property valuation to their email before they’ve even gotten back into their car with a quick text to your assistant.
Check out Aiva, which is still in beta but has been tested on the developer’s real estate mother (who was technophobic but now automates her marketing like a boss).
Voicebots are the next generation of virtual assistants. They can carry out any of the tasks of the taskbots but do this using speech recognition. This means you can ask them to do a task rather than a text and they “understand” your commands and speak back to you.
Siri is a voice activated bot. And in the U.S., Amazon has a new bot called Alexa (not available in Australia yet), which is a home service bot that turns on the lights, turns music or the television on and off, tells you the weather and so on. (She sounds glamorous, but really, she’s a tube that sits in the middle or corner of the room.)
There are some beta prototypes being built for real estate that do everything the virtual assistants do. The attraction for voice activated virtual assistants is that you don’t need to learn any new tech — you just ask the bot to do the task — and as we become more comfortable with devices such as Siri and Alexa in our lives, having them engaged with us in a business sense becomes normalized.
Check out ROOF. (ROOF stands for Realestate Office of Future).
Kylie Davis is the head of property services marketing and content at CoreLogic. Follow her @KDavisCoreLogic.