When Keller Williams first started asking its more than 190,000 associates what tech tools they needed, many of the people who responded said that they just wanted a password reminder.
But the company’s tech designers thought there might be something more going on, so they kept digging. They learned that agents felt like they were on the road all the time and, thus, unable to get to their devices, according to Keller Williams Director of Innovation Adi Pavlovic, who spoke during a Monday morning panel session at the Inman Connect New York 2019 real estate conference.
“It would be really cool if you could build a Siri for real estate,” Pavlovic recalled Realtors telling him — a voice-activated, hands-free personal assistant whom you talk to and ask for a contact’s phone number, address or other information.
From those conversations, Keller Williams ended up building Kelle, an award-winning, voice-activated personal assistant app that is available to all of the company’s agents.
Pavlovic said Monday that, for people hoping to build innovative tech products, there is a clear take away from this process: “Continue to dig deep until you find what the core problem is.”
Lucie Fortier, who was moderating the Inman Connect session Monday, responded by pointing out that if Henry Ford had just addressed his customers’ superficial needs he would have worked on creating a “faster horse” — her point being that innovating requires going beyond customers’ superficial needs.
Today, Kelle has been downloaded more than 150,000 times, according to Svetlana Nuernberg, a Keller Williams product manager who also spoke at Monday morning’s Hacker Connect session.
The virtual assistant — which is exclusive to Keller Williams agents — has also sent 50,000 referrals and been involved in millions of interactions, Nuernberg said.
Nuernberg said that Kelle can now help agents with contact management, maps, goals, listings, calendars and an array of other tasks.
But it wasn’t always that way. Nuernberg pointed out that early versions of Kelle were much more simple, and that it made mistakes. Agents were encouraged to think of the app as a “2-year-old,” Nuernberg said, with the idea that “by asking a lot of questions to Kelle, Kelle would learn.”
The process largely worked, which illustrated another principle behind building tech tools that the Keller Williams duo shared Monday: Distribute a product as soon as you can and then refine it based on how people respond.
“At some point you just have to release it and get feedback,” Pavlovic said. “The earlier you get a product out there the better feed back you’ll get.”
Pavlovic advised would-be innovators to ask potential users what works and what doesn’t work in a tool, and refine it based on those responses. He also said that when the Keller Williams team was designing Kelle, they asked prospective users to draw the product that they ultimately wanted to see.
“The goal for them isn’t to design the end product,” Pavlovic explained. “The goal is to see how they want to interact with it.”