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Opinion: Why your real estate agents aren’t adopting your technology

From tentative steps towards Excel spreadsheets from hard paper notes in the early 80s through the unveiling of first online marketing platforms like Trulia, Zillow, and Zoopla in the early 90s, the technology journey for real estate brokerages has never been easy.

And even more so for large brokerages that are even more reluctant to abandon old but still working legacy systems and put the stability of the status quo at stake.

The recent study by EY sheds light on the main technology adoption constraints and challenges that barrier innovation in real estate:

Let’s look into them one by one and come up with actionable solutions to knock these challenges down and, hopefully, dispel real estate leaders’ uncertainty around the sensitive matter of technology.

Challenge #1: Other priorities are more important

I am not the right person to question real estate brokerages’ business objectives and plans, but what I can do is educate them about the ultimate gains from technology adoption using the fact language.

Studies from Deilotte show that a Customer Relationship Management system can increase:

  • Lead conversion by up to +30%
  • Sales by up to +30%
  • Sales productivity by up to +30%
  • Customer Satisfaction by up to +35%
  • Faster decision-making by up to +38%
  • Revenue by up to +25%

These estimates are justified by the real-life transformation story of Pyramid Brokerage Cushman & Wakefield among a few whose leaders have stopped using Excel in favor of a modern CRM platform.

Multiply this by the number of numerous other success stories from real estate brokers embracing technology, and you’ll get a sufficient reason why it’s now your turn to step in.

Challenge #2: New systems don’t integrate easily

And they never will — unless you start by creating a transformation management office headed by a technology leader (a CTO) and populated by technology engineers with the deep expertise in real estate processes and integration methods.

Once you have this department in place, start by:

Conducting a thorough audit of the old way of doing things. This step helps you pinpoint the gaps in your current systems’ productivity and usability and define how those can be fixed with new software. Gathering your brokers’ feedback is much valued at this stage.

Cleaning your data. Dropping your data the way it is into the new systems can spoil even the most meticulously-thought-out technology adoption plan. There are tools and methods to help clean up the data, from low-tech apps like Excel to more advanced data grooming tools like those within Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce CRM.

Integrating legacy systems with new software. The most labor and cost-intensive step, this task should be orchestrated by skilled technicians who would be intimate with real estate processes enough to bridge different systems together and build workflows with multiple data touch points. If you don’t have technical personnel in house, proceed to challenge #3 below.

Performing User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Don’t postpone this step until after you go live. Perform frequent system tests with actual business users until you’re sure everything works fine.

Challenge #3: Lack in-house talent

While some large-scale brokerage firms might have technical departments, many reach out to third-party technology enablement firms — and there’s nothing wrong with this. Instead, such symbiotic cooperation results in multiple gains for a real estate brokerage, like:

  • Access to the latest tech stack and skills
  • Reduced costs on talent training and onboarding
  • And even more so, ability to learn from your tech partner’s previous experience with other brokerages who might have had similar challenges.

The key criterion to watch out for when selecting a tech partner is whether they have real estate specific expertise. Otherwise, the benefits listed above easily evaporate.

Challenge #4: Existing culture is not open to change

“It’s people, not technology, that limits the growth of proptech ideas,” said a Hong Kong fund manager.

As the leader of a technology enablement firm helping real estate firms adopt technologies, I, like nobody else, can justify how important it is to win your staff members’ trust to the new systems and their output.

To do so, I usually recommend my clients to have an actionable change management plan in place prior to the actual technology implementation. It should involve at least these three steps:

  • Tell your brokers and agents about how the upcoming changes will improve the company’s daily activities.
  • Educate your teams. Simple “end-user training” sessions are not enough. To proactively communicate and promote the benefits of your new system, a well-documented onboarding is needed.
  • You may also appoint a change manager who will oversee can facilitate personnel buy-in and ultimately enhance value.

The last thing to remember when innovating your brokerage operational processes is that technology adoption is a journey, not a sprint. Nothing will come quickly, and this is absolutely normal. But once you’re past these adoption challenges, new systems and architectures are set to bring efficiency and revenue growth for years to come.

Wes Snow is co-founder and managing partner of Ascendix Technologies with 25 years of CRM consulting experience.

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