Gary Keller, the co-founder of Keller Williams and executive chairman of the international franchisor’s parent company KWx, acknowledged Wednesday that the company intends to pause new technology rollouts as it continues to work out bugs in its platform, adding he was “horribly sorry” for the disruption during a virtual “state of the market” speech.
Keller said the company will begin a “66-day challenge of locking down stabilization” of its core technology platform, including its artificial intelligence-powered customer relationship management tool Command.
Keller, who once declared victory in the tech platform race, said the company was, for a time, “innovating at the speed of lightning.”
“We went on this journey a couple of years ago, way before anybody else,” Keller said Wednesday at the company’s revisited virtual state of the market season.
“That speed of lightning worked for us the first year that we brought out Command because we didn’t have enough users that we couldn’t find the bug, fix the bug and it didn’t do as much so it was easy to find all that,” Keller added.
Keller Williams continued to update and fix bugs on the platform in real-time, according to Keller, using the Keller Williams Labs process to vote up what was needed in terms of fixes or next priorities.
“What we found ourselves is probably six months ago, all of the sudden looking and we started losing that war, meaning that the bugs showed up more, that whirling spilling death screen, or blank screen or whatever else,” Keller said.
Keller blamed the “speed at which we were innovating,” for all of the issues with Command, which have been well-documented in Facebook groups and by agents.
“I just want too make a promise to you that we hear you and we are horribly sorry that innovation has put us in this spot but we have now accepted our own 66-day challenge of locking down stabilization,” Keller said. “You’re not gonna see much from us in the next 66 days in terms of releases.”
It’s been three years since Keller stood on stage at Family Reunion and called Keller Williams a “technology company,” a statement that’s been echoed by plenty of other real estate competitors, including Compass, for one. But even with the company slowing the pace of rolling out new products and features, Keller Williams doesn’t plan to stop its investment in technology. Rather, the company is still working towards creating what Keller called an entire “real estate ecosystem.
As more and more companies vie to create an entire real estate ecosystem — one that takes consumers from the top of the funnel through the transaction and continues to nurture that relationship post-transaction — real estate technology vendors are going to continue to get scooped up, Keller warned. This is why Keller Williams wants to build its own proprietary solutions to protect its agents.
“Your vendor today is going to be your competitor tomorrow,” Keller said.
The starkest recent example of this was Zillow’s acquisition of ShowingTime, a tour scheduling technology used by many of the nation’s largest multiple listing services. Zillow has been clear that the acquisition was not about bypassing agents.
With Zillow now a brokerage, though, there’s a “switch that can be pulled,” where the company can now be a brokerage competitor, Keller said.
“They say they’re not going to pull that [switch],” Keller said. “I totally respect that.”
“My only statement is, you can change your mind tomorrow and so shame on me if I don’t have a backdoor solution.”
But Zillow isn’t the only example. Last week, a top Keller agent said he was talking to a Keller Williams agent who had a longtime joint mortgage venture partnership with an independent mortgage company. That mortgage company was recently acquired by a competitor.
It happened again this week with Compass’ acquisition of KVS Title. A Keller Williams agent who had a longtime relationship with KVS Title, now has a relationship with a closing services company owned by a competitor in Compass.
“It’s the reason why we’ve ventured all in on this [technology] right here,” Keller said. “There’s only one reason, to protect you, our partners.”
The company’s commitment to slow down the pace of technology rollouts comes just a week after President Josh Team’s sudden and abrupt departure from the company. Technology development had been a hallmark of Team’s tenure with the company.