2020 will undoubtedly be a year we all remember, and one that will have lasting effects and our everyday lives and business operations. In many ways, it just fast-tracked inevitable change based on consumers demands for greater convenience.
Whilst it's been challenging, it has propelled estate agents to make change happen quickly, and suppliers too. We often criticise our industry for being slow to change, but in 2020, most estate agents stood up to the challenge. As we head into 2020, most estate agents now have a more agile and efficient business.
So, what will happen in 2021?
We caught up with Kerfuffle's technology guru, IT Director Paul Morgan, to ask what he thought the top tech trends for estate agents would be in 2021. Whilst we quipped "well, who knows after this year", Paul quickly responded with a list of trends he believes we'll see amongst estate agents and their technology supplier landscapes in 2021.
Foundations, Rezi Enterprise, Rex, MRI's upcoming API; all the platforms are racing to be more open than the other. Suddenly disjointed processes across multiple vendors are joining up, driving efficiencies. Something the industry has been screaming out for years! It's worth mentioning the rising number of agents using Salesforce as their CRM platform, giving them access to one of the world's largest app marketplaces.
2) Increased portal functionally
Many portals reduced their prices during Covid-19. At some stage, they will need to recoup this money. The portals are acutely aware of this and will look to provide tools that differentiate themselves and provide estate agents with value for money. The other driver is the new challenger, Boomin, with its MatchMaker functionality and other whizzy bits. Nothing like a new entrant to drive innovation in a market that relies on the network effect. Watch this space!
3) Changing portal costs
We all know occasionally we show people around a property, and mid-tour we discover they do not want to buy the property. We all have a tale of the couple who viewed a property only to see the kitchen because they are about to re-do their kitchen. Boomin will monetise this property-porn by identifying the products in a photo and offering to sell the products to the voyeurs. In turn, this will generate a referral commission from product sales, some of which will be shared with the agents. I don't know if this will offset the portals cost increases coming, but portal costs will change.
4) Software Vendors being held to account
A side-effect of the CRM suppliers opening up their platforms and allowing more integrations is we can track vendors and landlords from the "first touch" to "cash in the bank". The performance of third-party tools and how they help this journey will be monitorable in a scientific 'by the numbers' way, leaving nowhere for software vendors to hide.
5) Omni chat
It doesn't matter if an applicant gets in touch via email, telephone, letter, walk-in, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter SMS, Semaphore, waving flags or morse code - the ability to see all these communications in one place, and reply using the applicant's communication method of choice from one place, will make communications much easier for agents struggling with this 24-7 culture of out-of-hours multi-channel communications.
6) Automated chat
With Omni-chat comes chat automation, especially with the improved chat engines from Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. From simple short-cuts offering standard replies, if-that-then bots that simulate a conversion, through to fully automated chatbots having conversations so real that you don't know you are chatting to a bot - automated chat will improve customer service and reduce your team's workload. If you've been down this route but haven't find the right option for your business yet – watch this quickly evolving space.
7) Anywhere operations, dynamically composable
Covid-19 has seen us all work from home. We are now in a position as agents to rethink our structures and processes to support many ways of working. I expect us to keep this "work from anywhere" capability, and for businesses to dynamically readjust based on their circumstances. You might look to try out hubs for a few months while a town is in lockdown. If a member of staff needs to work from home or wants to work from home after finding it works well for them in 2020, change a few processes and the business still functions.
Combine automated chat with anywhere operations and mobile technology to create simple but effective automation. Imagine pre-valuation a "With you in 5 minutes" SMS or WhatsApp message, automatically sent based on your geolocation and diary. Imagine "Spotted you are in town, fancy a coffee and a chat about your mortgage application?" SMS or WhatsApp message sent to an Applicant who is about to go on a second viewing, based on information in your CRM but triggered by your router picking up a WIFI connection from the applicant's phone. Creepy? Not if done in the right way – it's working well in other industries. These hyper-automations are already simple to set up.
9) Distance learning
Throughout 2020 there was an abundance of educational webinars and whitepapers helping businesses work out how to communicate meaningfully with their customers and target audiences. With so much change happening in the industry and frameworks now in place to deliver this style of learning, I believe we'll see more time invested in it. And let's not forget the introduction of ROPA too.
10) Open banking
Tenancy applicants can permit referral companies to use the Open Banking API to access their online banking accounts, speeding tenancy applications and reducing delays overheads. Very simple and effective.
Need help deciding how to improve your systems in 2021?
If you'd like a consultancy session with an expert like Paul to review your existing systems and how they can be improved, get in touch.