Service first. It’s a business philosophy that’s stood the test of time for real estate brokers—serve your agents, serve your clients.
Your agents now, however, have more brokerage models to choose from than ever—and your clients, as well, are more knowledgeable than the most seasoned on your team. How can you put service first for both when it seems they don’t even really need it at all?
“We’ve made a decision in our company to go deep as opposed to wide,” shared Robin Dickson, executive vice president of J. Rockcliff Realtors, as a panelist at RISMedia’s Power Broker Forum, held Nov. 4 at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. “It’s really important to make sure that the people we have aren’t forgotten, and we’re providing them what they need.”
Dickson was joined on the Forum’s panel by Craig Beggins, president and CEO, CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises; Pete Galbraith, president, Coldwell Banker Select Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Marti Hampton, broker/owner, RE/MAX One Realty; Matt Widdows, founder and CEO, HomeSmart International; and moderators Rei Mesa, president, Florida Real Estate Services, president and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty; and John Featherston, founder and CEO of RISMedia.
Meeting the needs of agents and clients, the panel agreed, requires expanding your capacity for service, be it building out your affiliate businesses, hiring an administrative staff, moving into new markets, offering an unmatched office culture, or supporting teams.
“The first thing I did was diversify, because the markets are hyper-local,” relayed Beggins. “I’ve got some markets in which when we list a house, we get 40 showings and 10 contracts in one day—but I’ve got other markets where there’s a 20-month supply of homes. No area goes up or goes down at the same time.”
“Culture trumps everything,” Galbraith said. “Culture is what will keep your people—if you develop great culture, you’ll develop great agents.”
“We inspire our agents to be the best,” explained Hampton. “With a team, they’re able to be their best. If an agent’s spending their time putting something in the MLS, doing something more secretarial, more receptionist-type work to be doing, they’re not spending that time on their biggest- and highest-earning duties, which are talking to buyers and sellers. We really seed the growth of teams.”
“Your affiliate businesses have to be service-minded and service-oriented,” Widdows emphasized. “If it’s one our companies that we work with, it’s a whole lot easier for me to make sure that the consumer gets that high-quality service and experience we want them to have…It’s a huge advantage for everyone involved.”
“The broker needs to be the team leader. That’s my job—we do most of the admin for them, and then they use my mortgage and title companies,” Beggins added.
Addressed head-on by the panel was the challenge of reduced commissions—an area with direct impact on service output, warranted by demand from more informed consumers and pressure from discount brokerages.
“Consumers are empowering themselves through the internet,” Widdows noted. “We have to prepare to have a smaller role in the process. There is pressure to drive down commissions. We have to change with that. We may have to do more volume in order to continue to make the dollars we make today.”
“That’s the reality of the big brokerage today,” added Galbraith. “That’s why mid-size brokers have become an endangered species—you’ve either got to be a Target or Walmart or a Neiman Marcus or Tiffany’s. You can’t be both.”
Consumers, in addition, have become reliant on social media to access services. Engaging them through that medium, according to the panel, is paramount.
“Until they over-regulate Facebook, we will continue to use it,” Hampton said, “because we spend about $15 to $20 on each of our listings that we’re onboarding and we have four, five, six, 700 people looking for that, ready for that, once we open the doors.”
“Facebook is making a huge play on the marketing and advertising side of things,” Widdows added. “They’re not going away any time soon.”
Underscoring this perspective was the launch of RISMedia’s Automated Content Engagement platform, or ACE, which was not only topic of discussion at the Forum, but also the recipient of InternetCrusade’s annual Best Tech Product award during the conference.
“REALTORS® need to get into using social media more efficiently and that’s exactly what this tool does,” said Saul Klein, CEO of InternetCrusade. “It builds consistent engagement and allows for a cadence in the use of social media. It’s a great idea, we love the look of the product, and it takes the requirement out of having to check your calendar every day for social media and allows you to build a publishing plan where you’re releasing information to your audience over a consistent timeframe for delivery. ACE does that for you and the benefits will help you truly differentiate yourself in your marketplace.”
Still, no consumer, however social media-savvy, knows as much as about the lifestyle of a specific community than the real estate professional entrenched in it—and that, the panel agreed, is another opportunity to exceed service expectations, be it through social media or other avenues.
“You can look on the internet all day long, and Zillow, if you’re a consumer, but you cannot see the lifestyle of a particular community,” said Dickson. “Our knowledge is what we still have. We sell lifestyle in our area…There isn’t anyone who knows it better.”
The role of the broker, according to the panel, has shifted to accommodate a new breed of both agent and client, who now have access to alternative brokerage models, technology, and, in the case of the client, the MLS. To stay ahead of that shift, expanding your service capacity—while keeping your core philosophy intact—is key.
“It’s one word,” Widdows concluded. “Service. It all comes down to service.”
Stay tuned to RISMedia.com and RISMedia’s blog, Housecall, for more on this year’s Power Broker Forum, as well as the Power Broker Reception & Dinner.
Learn how RISMedia’s ACE can help you harness the power of social media at ace.rismedia.com.