COVID-19 has forced real estate agents and their clients to rely new communication tools but RE/MAX Australia Operations Director Josh Davoren says that shouldn’t be at the expense of good old-fashioned customer service.
COVID-19 has made us consider technology through two lenses.
It has helped us recognise and appreciate the positive influence of evolving technology and realise the limitations of relying on it too much.
So how did COVID-19 change our technology needs?
1. It forced us to be more mobile
COVID-19 pushed us to operate as effectively, if not even more effectively, outside the office as we had done inside it.
We have always been a largely mobile industry with a significant portion of our workforce operating outside a traditional office environment.
But that did not mean we were completely prepared to launch into the new world in 2020.
While many real estate businesses were well placed with systems and structures to survive and thrive in a remote working environment, there were just as many that needed to evolve.
Digital signature products, cloud-based software solutions, data security platforms, and reporting and communication tools came into their own last year.
Working remotely was nothing new, but 2020 forced us to see exactly what we had the power to implement, execute, and excel at when we were forced to.
2. It forced us to embrace new (and some not-so-new) communication channels.
For anyone who used Skype when it first launched years ago, you may remember your first conversations with friends and family as uncomfortable and unfamiliar (dodgy software and even dodgier internet speeds probably didn’t help). But that discomfort abated quickly, and we swiftly appreciated the power of video communication.
Similarly, last year many professionals jumped on Teams, Zoom, or even FaceTime for the first time to hold meetings with colleagues or clients. What may have felt uncomfortable initially soon became second nature.
In 2020 we saw an exponential increase in property transactions completed ‘sight unseen’. Some of this was due to COVID-19 movement restrictions, but it also came down to how technology facilitated an exceptional virtual property viewing experience. With 5G rolling out like it is, and delivering incredible video quality, there will be more to watch in this space.
3. It forced clients to embrace new communication channels.
Last year forced all of us to adapt, both as professionals and consumers. Our clients were no different.
We learned in 2020 that our clients are more adaptable than we sometimes give them credit for. We control the process.
Don’t be scared to try new things out of fear that your clients will not be used to them. Virtual open homes, FaceTime meetings, and digital signing tools have and do work, and they can work for you too.
4. It made us realise that all the data intelligence and AI in the world is great, but only to a point.
At some stage, in almost all real estate transactions, nothing can replace good, old-fashioned, human-to-human contact.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not excited about certain AI-based products. It is quite the opposite.
What really excites me is how technology can enable real estate professionals to spend more time on the things they value most. This means more time to manage people and build relationships.
So, what now? Where do we go in 2021?
My number one thought is that we can’t become complacent. I don’t believe in looking at things as the ‘new way of working’ or the ‘new normal’. There is no such thing as the ‘new normal’ anymore.
We operate in a highly competitive industry, with constantly evolving clients and competitors.
Our job, ultimately, is to provide an exceptional experience to our clients.
In a service industry like real estate, the reality is that there are two main factors at play:
1) What are we providing?
2) What are our clients expecting?
If the first supersedes the second, then we have done our job.
Josh Davoren is the Operations Director for RE/MAX Australia.