Between business growth and the changing market, there is much to consider in real estate right now — but we’ve been focused on the wrong things. Here’s the real way to survive market shifts and industry changes.

The discussions are fast and furious around technology and real estate; projections, proclamations and profits have all been tossed against the wall hoping for something to stick. All the while, the ever-looming market shift is hanging over our heads.

Between business growth and the changing market, there is much to consider in real estate right now — but I think we’ve been focused on the wrong things.

We are all striving for tools that help real estate agents do a better job, make more money and serve better; it seems that many of our solutions focus on how to help agents, but what about the clients? What problems do funnels, bots, automated customer relationship managers (CRMs) and data collection solve for the homebuyer and seller?

Don’t stay a gecko

When Geico came out with online quotes, it became a Zillow-like machine. Customers wanted a quote, they wanted it cheap, and they didn’t want to wait an hour to get it — so that’s exactly what Geico gave them. Hence, the successful slogan, “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.”

This was an industry disruption.

The big observation is that the customers opting for the online path were transaction-minded — they wanted simple and fast, and Geico answered the wants of that sector to rave reviews. Does that mean they won? Maybe. Every big insurance company can quote online these days, so it definitely made an impact on that industry.

When customer service lacks

The online model worked during customer acquisition periods, but was lacking in customer retention periods. If a customer was in an accident and couldn’t get an agent on the phone or the agent who answered was on the other side of the country, it created a disconnect. The service level suffered on the back end of that catchy slogan.

While some customers rushed back to their previous traditional providers, Geico adjusted to the unforeseen hurdles, increased customer service and provided more service options to address the concerns. It was a pivot that helped them survive.

The point is that real estate is showing signs of a similar path in the near future. The disruption in insurance successfully divided the customer base into transactional and relational. You either want fast and cheap or you want thorough and personal. This is likely the result that Zillow will achieve as it moves forward.

Instead of being fearful and thinking that we, the agents, need to control more of the process to remain relevant, we must at some point ask ourselves how we can solve client-based problems better.

Be the exception

There are exceptions in every scenario we can paint around this topic: businesses that are 100-percent referral based, 50-year-old family-operated brokerages and new modern service-based brokerages are all prime examples.

We have to strive harder to be the exception. Agents who are doing the same things as everyone else in either transactional marketing or relationship building stand to blend in and become invisible over time; but the agents who are forward-thinking problem solvers for their clients will stand out as we approach a balanced market.

Could it be that simple? Only time will tell.

I see that tech-companies-turned-real-estate-brokerages may consume a lot of transactional business for a while; the big players are already showing signs of that outcome.

That leaves the strongest agent brands to nurture relationships and help people who value insight not associated with an algorithm. The clients who truly want someone to look after their best interests during a major purchase in life will stay with the best agents.

4 key points for providing next-level service

Agents talk about service and helping people, but what does that really mean? Here’s what you should be doing to keep your clients happy in his ever-changing industry:

1. Be a concierge

A concierge is a valuable resource for a hotel or resort. The person at the concierge desk has the knowledge and ability to make things happen if guests have questions, special requests or just need expert advice on the area.

This is how agents can up the service level. Consider yourself a concierge of the real estate process.

2. Make things easier for other people

If you can remove steps that other people have to take to sell real estate, do it. Things like extra phone calls, out-of-the-way key pick-up or not keeping the listing up to date are all examples of wasting time for other agents and clients.

Make the process enjoyable for other people.

3. Don’t assume bad intention

We live in a fast-paced world where it can be easy to assume that everyone is out to get us or take advantage. How we react and address inquiries must be on point with our desired service level. If we can assume good intent, we can approach clients and agents with empathy and consideration.

4. Anticipate questions, and be ready with answers

Think about possible concerns or questions that may come up and address those with thought-out and researched answers. Being a resource is one of the most important service standards we should have in real estate.

Press on

The best thing we can do as an industry is raise our value through service, expertise and relationships with our clients. Putting service at the forefront is something all major real estate companies should be focusing on in today’s world.

We need tech on the back end of that to facilitate higher service levels and help agents remain competitive. We don’t need tech to protect jobs for agents who simply want a shortcut to running a business.

As we navigate the myriad of challenges in our industry, we have to focus on one thing: giving clients what they want.

Kevin Hoover is a Realtor with eXp Realty – Myrtle Beach. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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