Chatbots were a hot topic of conversations at last week’s Inman Connect New York.
This disruptive technology will not only fundamentally change how agents and their clients transact, but chatbots may ultimately make your website and mobile apps obsolete as well.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is a computer program that simulates conversation with human users over the internet using a chat interface.
There are two primary types of chatbots.
Some less sophisticated chatbots rely totally upon what has been programmed into them and respond only to commands that they have been programmed to understand.
The second category of chatbots employs artificial intelligence (AI). These chatbots understand language and become increasingly smarter as they learn from the conversations they have with users.
This short video provides a simple explanation about what chatbots are and how they work.
Amazon’s Echo is a prime example.
The Echo is a hands-free speaker controlled with your voice. It features a personal assistant called Alexa who will perform various tasks, such as playing the music you want or ordering a pizza, while simultaneously controlling the various systems in your home.
Chatbots can also be used to buy shoes, order groceries, or to handle customer service inquiries.
Meet Facebook Messenger chatbots
At the recent Facebook development conference, Facebook outlined its massive commitment to partnering with outside developers to create chatbots for Facebook Messenger.
Facebook’s vision is that chatbots will become so ubiquitous that you will use them to share information about an upcoming elementary school soccer game, curate news that you find to be interesting, as well as in hundreds of other places every day.
Right now, Trulia has a Facebook bot that will give users information about rental listings — and Inman has a bot, too, that will deliver real estate news and is powered by Carey, a Facebook bot tool that AgentPair founder Clark Giguiere also created and used to help Inman build its bot.
Another early example of this new technology is Poncho, Facebook weather’s chatbot. Its approach to the weather is fun and engaging:
“Hey, sleepyhead. We’ve got overcast skies, a high of 53°F, and a low of 51°F today.
“Some ppl aren’t affected by weather. They’re called millionaires & I hope to meet one someday!”
Real estate chatbots
Chatbots can engage consumers via a “messaging interface,” such as text or voice communication.
Real estate chatbots — like Holmes, Doss, Apartment Ocean and bots yet to be developed — will instantaneously handle client inquiries regarding price and property features; pull down market data statistics; identify which properties best fit a buyer’s search criteria; send listing data, photos, and videos; and schedule the showing for the agent.
The result will be that early adopters will be capturing leads at a rate much higher than ever.
How chatbots could severely disrupt current real estate practices
Using chatbots will cut the cost of lead conversion substantially and make the front end of the process incredibly efficient.
Nevertheless, the disruption from this new technology will be profound. Here are just a few examples:
1. Who is responsible for mistakes?
Chatbots depend upon online data, but what happens when the data itself is incorrect? Who is responsible — the developer, the agent or brokerage using the chatbot, or the person who posted the incorrect data in the first place?
We have no laws or guidance governing how this technology should operate in a real estate environment.
Moreover, because AI is constantly learning and creating its own criteria independently of the original programming, regulating what it does regarding compliance issues may be exceptionally difficult.
2. “Floor” or “up” time goes away.
Tens of thousands of agents rely on “floor” or “up” time to generate leads from sign calls and advertising.
Chatbots will finally eliminate this 1950s approach to lead generation.
3. The agent team model will be transformed.
One of the thorniest issues for agent teams is finding a qualified assistant to take incoming calls.
Chatbots are available 24-7. They don’t require a salary and benefits, time off, and definitely won’t leave you to go to work for your competition.
Furthermore, chatbots can provide a wealth of data that a human assistant could never access.
The bottom line for early adopter agents is that chatbots will decrease their overhead while also dramatically improving the percentage of leads the agent converts.
4. Chatbots will make your website and apps obsolete.
Matt Schlicht, the CEO of Octane AI, says that if “messaging apps become the no. 1 way people communicate, then every business is going to need a way to engage on these platforms. This means that every business will eventually need to have a bot.”
Because bots load instantaneously, they are faster than websites and mobile apps.
More importantly, chatbots will be the easiest technology to use because all you will have to do is talk to the bot.
It’s the Wild, Wild West
When the internet was first introduced, many people likened it to the Wild West. Hang on to your hat, because it looks as if chatbots are about to take us on a wilder ride than ever.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/