AgentBrokerage

It’s time to simplify tech choices for agents

Keller Williams' new chief strategy officer uses experience outside real estate to help agents

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Jonathan Berkowitz

Jonathan Berkowitz

People might have been scratching their heads this week when an unknown guy from Keller Williams stepped in to take the place of CIO Josh Team at Inman’s Hacker Connect event held at Inman Connect New York.

Team’s plane was cancelled for weather reasons, so Jonathan Berkowitz stepped in.

“It was like, ‘Welcome to Inman — you are leading a session in one hour,'” he said.

Berkowitz acquitted himself very well.

As the new chief strategy and product officer at Keller Williams, he has joined Team and CTO Steve Peterschmidt at the Austin headquarters in a newly created position.

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Berkowitz has more than 16 years of experience leading both consumer and enterprise product strategy initiatives with companies ranging from pure internet startups to the Fortune 50. By Wednesday, he had already bumped into two former colleagues at ICNY, including Zillow Group CMO Jeremy Wacksman, whom he worked with at enterprise software company Trilogy, and another old co-worker who had just started at Compass.

Prior to joining Keller Williams, Berkowitz was chief product officer at Aurea, which helps large enterprises like Disney, British Airways and Bank of America create transformative experiences for their end customers.

What agents really want in tech

He admits that, as far as real estate is concerned, he is “a newbie” — but he says he gets what real estate agents want.

“Real estate agents, like most users, are after products that are tremendously simple, that make it easy for them to do the things they love to do, and that generate value for them,” he said.

As he sees it, Keller Williams has strong ambitions to become a great a product company for its agents.

“It is a company highly committed to that, and that’s why I’m not from real estate, and Josh is not from the real estate industry. Keller Williams has been very aggressive about pursuing experience that it doesn’t already have,” he said.

“While it has tons of real estate domain experience, it is also pursuing those with other domain expertise. And the particular lens I bring is product strategy and product fit.”

Real estate tech solutions too fragmented

As an outsider looking at the current real estate tech solutions, Berkowitz sees room for improvement.

“I think that there’s lots of fragmentation and tremendous specialization in the tech alternatives available to agents at the moment,” he said, referring to productivity solutions, task management, lead generation platforms or CRMs.

“Industries go through these cycles where tech fragments and over-specializes. People then see cycles of cohesion, and that’s where I believe we are now,” he said.

“Keller Williams’ responsibility to its agent base is to say enough is enough, we don’t need to get any more micro-focused.”

Part of the problem of over-specialization is running into cases where the company’s lens on the industry isn’t broad enough, added Berkowitz — but at the same time, people get locked into using platforms, and that ultimately affects the level of customer experience.

“We’ve got to create a world-class user experience for agents. In the Keller Williams tech platform, there are lots of strides we can make on that front. Some we will be laying out at the [company] family reunion, and there are lots more to make,” he said.

“At end of the day, we want to ask the question: What do we want our customers to become? What do our agents want to become?”

Some Keller Williams’ agents will want to build empires, he says, while others will be happy with something smaller.

“You are going to get wildly different answers, but a good product strategy will distill that.”

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