As the world continues to reopen and in-person activities resume, MLSs and REALTOR® associations, which largely suspended all face-to-face training in the wake of the COVID pandemic, are considering strategies for reintroducing in-person training sessions.
With the Delta variant surging in parts of the U.S., and people at varying levels of comfort with in-person activities, real estate organizations are looking at hybrid methods of training.
To better understand how organizations are adapting, we turned to two MLSs that switched vendors mid-pandemic—and one technology company trainer—for an inside look at today’s shifting training landscape.
Training in the ‘Before’ Times
“Before COVID, there was a lot of hands-on training,” says Nikki Morgan, sales executive and product expert at CRS Data, creators of the public records/tax platform MLS Tax Suite. “I’d be the first person to scream and yell, ‘I want to be in-person!’ even if that meant getting on a plane for a 15-minute demo.”
Before the pandemic, “it was all about launching and being live, and we were one of the only vendors who did it that way,” says Morgan.
But when the first shutdowns began in early 2020, CRS Data had to pivot to a new way of training and connecting with their client base.
The Show Goes On: Training in the COVID Era
“Refreshingly Human” isn’t just the name of CRS Data’s podcast series. The phrase is also part of their brand identity. Pre-pandemic, the company relied, in part, on in-person training to express this value to their customers. The challenge during the pandemic was to still show their human side to clients—but from a distance.
“It was difficult,” says Morgan. “When it came to virtual, we had to adjust early and do a better job to show that we branded ourselves the same way. We needed to get them some face-time the best way we knew how, so we would start out a launch training virtually, with our customers still able to visually see us.”
Conducting a training session from home wasn’t without its challenges, but CRS Data’s MLS Tax Suite team took those challenges as an opportunity to express their humanity.
“Whether it be making sure they knew that we might have an animal in the house or a cat that might pop up during a session, they were reminded that we were going through the same thing they were,” says Morgan.
The key to CRS Data’s training success during the pandemic was asking their clients for plenty of feedback.
“There were some accounts that went live during COVID where I said to them, ‘I’m new at this, and we’re going to do this together,'” says Morgan. “I didn’t want them to feel like I just threw a water hose on them. I wanted them to tell me, ‘Stop. I’ve had enough. I need you to slow down, break it down into smaller bites.'”
In the end, CRS Data decided on 30-minute virtual training sessions.
“People could learn, walk away, apply and practice, and be ready to come back and add on later or the next day,” says Morgan. “They started off with a foundation, and they built from there. We continue to do the same thing today, repeating with smaller, very specific session type training. And it’s gone really, really well.”
Triangle MLS is one of the organizations that transitioned to the MLS Tax Suite during the pandemic. They were also one of the first to experience CRS Data’s virtual launch training sessions.
“CRS made the transition very smooth and easy,” says Allan Nielsen, vice president of MLS Systems at Triangle MLS. “By the time we began the training, our members had already gotten used to attending training sessions virtually. We have received positive feedback on the training and appreciate Nikki’s willingness to conduct a significant amount of training sessions for us. It allowed for members to take the class more than once, and it gave our own trainer, Lynne Brid, a chance to get up to speed with the product faster.”
North Carolina Regional MLS (NCRMLS) also switched to CRS Data’s platform mid-COVID.
“The MLS Tax Suite team offered flexible training to our members through a custom webinar training program,” says Daniel Jones, NCRMLS CEO. “Working with the knowledgeable and friendly support team at CRS Data was not only delightful, but an essential part of making the start-up process a success.”
A Hybrid Approach to Post-COVID Training
With increasing vaccination rates, many MLSs are feeling optimistic about restarting in-person training. In fact, Triangle MLS resumed in-person training in September.
For CRS Data, in-person training is “still on the horizon.”
Morgan, who recently visited the Pacific Northwest to meet the leadership team of a local MLS, predicts that we’re going to see more organizations resume in-person training within the coming months.
“I’m going to offer those who didn’t experience me live the opportunity to get on the schedule first and let me pop by and do a class here or there, just to meet those people I only had the opportunity to meet online previously,” says Morgan.
But CRS Data—and their MLS Tax Suite clients—are not strictly “going back” to how things were before.
“We’re going to continue to offer a hybrid-type approach or an approach that says, ‘We welcome you. We want to see you, but if it makes more sense for you, I’d much rather give you the opportunity to log on and be part of the room without having to be in the room,'” says Morgan.
NCRMLS, for one, welcomes this approach.
“The period of COVID left a deep impression on the benefits and efficiencies of virtual learning,” says Jones. “Online courses began as an excellent way to keep everyone safe. They also allowed REALTORS® who are extremely busy to do classes on their schedule through live or recorded training so that they could focus on their business. We think virtual is more efficient and here to stay in a hybrid model.”
The hybrid approach is something that Morgan doesn’t see fading away even if the pandemic ends completely. And that’s a good thing. She plans to make permanent changes to the GO Live and Launch Training sessions, and will continue to evolve the company’s training approach holistically. The team will create various options to address the needs of customers and keep the company top-of-mind—even from a distance.
To learn more about CRS Data’s MLS Tax Suite, visit CRSData.com.