Kylie Davis: Could Robots Rescue Real Estate Franchises?

The franchise model is being disrupted by technology that’s making it easier than ever for individual agents to run their own show more flexibly and efficiently. But could bots – backed by AI, automation and big data – come to the rescue and help the big real estate brands deliver new value to agents?

To explore this idea, let’s look at a typical day in the life of an agent in 2020 who works at a franchise (we’ll call it Robot Real Estate) that uses bots to delivers a wide range of automation. The strategy behind the AI support is for the franchise to empower their agents to deliver highly personalised service that puts human relationships at the heart of the data, which in turn creates unprecedented loyalty both from their agents, and the buyers and sellers they service.

Meet Tanya. She’s been an agent at Robot Real Estate for the past 10 years. About three years ago, she was considering leaving Robot Real Estate – she felt the fees were too high and locked her into technology that was out of date and clunky to use. It was a lot of money to pay for a desk and a lead database that was usually out of date.
But then Robot Real Estate introduced an end to end bot-driven infrastructure for agents. And while it took a little getting used to, Tanya now loves it. Because it takes care of all the back-end tasks that used to keep her busy, and allows her to spend her day focused on what she’s passionate about – helping people on their journeys of buying and selling property.

Here’s what Tanya’s day looks like:

Wakeup: When Tanya exercises each morning (she’s a 5am Club gal!) her Robot Real Estate assistant (an automated assistant that she fondly calls REVA) reads out her schedule for the day and outlines a list of tasks that she has preset for her bot team. At her request, REVA also reads out profile information of the people she’s going to meet that day so she’s fully informed and pumped for the day.

Breakfast: Tanya has her first client meeting with Jane a buyer. By the end of the breakfast, REVA has sent the buyer a list of suitable properties and inspection times based on their conversation and some background video information on the areas that Jane said she was interested in.

The bot has tagged the client as originating from the relationship with Tanya and assigned Jane to Tanya in their database. This means that even if another agent finds Jane a home, Tanya will receive a payment to recognise the fact that she introduced her to the agency.

The bot has also set a calendar entry for Tanya to make a follow up call a few days later. By that time, the automation at the back end will have identified if Jane has clicked on any of the properties in the information that was sent, and recognised how long she has spent on each property and if she shared any of the properties with friends or family, or returned to one or two of them.

This information will both inform the conversation that Tanya will have with Jane when she follows up and allows the bots to refine future property selections that are sent to her.

Tanya also encourages Jane to become “identity-authorised”. This will allow Jane to visit any property at the time of her choosing – not just wait for opens. It can also be – if Jane gives permission – linked to her credit approval rating which will give Jane the advantage of pre-approval for loans and a much quicker turn around on her finances when she decides to make an offer on a home.

Again, regardless of who sells Jane a home, Tanya’s introduction of Jane to the identity authorisation and credit approval process means Tanya will receive a trailing commission payment when Jane transacts.

Early Mornings: In these days of automated contact, Tanya is a big proponent of the personal touch. She uses the first hour or so of every morning to make phone calls to prospects and clients and people she’s sold to recently to see how they’re settling in. She finds people are usually happy to talk first thing or on their commute.

After each call she dictates outcomes to her REVA who annotates the client data and schedules or carries out follow up actions such as sending property reports, investment analysis, and lookbooks or contracts. She loves the Robot Real Estate Concierge Service that allows her to order thoughtful gifts for her buyers and sellers and send them to their home or office via drone in just an hour or so.

Mid Mornings: On mornings when there is no Robot Real Estate sales meeting, Tanya likes to spend her time creating videos about her local community, helpful information for buyers or sellers, or a roundup on properties that she loves.

Of course, the Robot Real Estate bots can now automatically create both report-styled or video content about her local market, but Tanya is a bit old school. She likes the personal touch, will sometimes interview people in her community and has fun being on camera.

When the videos are shot, she alerts her REVA to the new content, and the bot automatically schedules it to social media and targets it to an appropriate audience based on the latest insights from her social media pages. REVA will also tag anyone she interviewed.

REVA also inserts content into her email newsletters to keep her click-through rates high. In addition, Tanya uses this time to direct the Virtual Reality video of properties she’s selling because she cares about the details.

It’s also the time in her day when she reviews the sales collateral the bots have created for her sales listings – those bots are truly amazing in how they assemble the ads, online listings and reports, but Tanya has an experienced eye and she likes to think that it’s her attention to the personal details that makes the difference. It’s also a great way for her to familiarise herself with her listings and it boosts the quality of her data within the Robot Real Estate system which in turn improves her micropayment commissions.

Lunchtime: Tanya has an open home. Of course, they’re not as necessary now with so many people being accredited to inspect the property at a time that suits them securely, and with the availability of VR.

But Tanya likes the ceremony of an Open being held at least a few times during the sales period – it signals to the neighbourhood that a property is on the market which can often lead to surprise offers. You never know where a passive buyer might be. And it’s a great way to meet the neighbours, who in turn can become valuable sales leads to Tanya.

Everyone who does enter the property is automatically identified through their mobile phone and added to the Robot Real Estate database – that’s because Tanya is so good at making people feel at ease and learning about them. Even if they’re unlikely to buy or sell for many years, Tanya’s initial discovery is at the root of their relationship with Robot Real Estate and allows their experience with Robot Real Estate and Tanya to be truly personalised.

Afternoon: Tanya has a meeting with a potential vendor, Rebecca. Rebecca has a lovely home but wants to upgrade and there are a few small repairs that if done, would help the home get a better price.

During her visit, Tanya shoots both video and photos of each room, paying particular attention to areas that she thinks might need some work to bring up to sales presentation stage. Her REVA captures these and attaches them to the address record, and with Rebecca’s permission, sends them to Robot Real Estate’s Presentation Concierge system, which requests quotes from the appropriate trades and services.

By the end of the visit, Tanya is able to provide Rebecca with a detailed quote on the work that would need to be done to the property, the time it would take, and a schedule for the sale, including an accurate estimate of the price Rebecca can expect with Tanya’s clever marketing approach.

Rebecca’s other alternative is that Robot Real Estate buys the property outright and provide her with the funds in just 48 hours. Such an approach means a sale price that is below what was quoted, but some clients like the speed and certainty of the approach, especially if they have personal circumstances that mean they have to move by a deadline.

End work: Tanya ends her day with another round of phone calls to clients, finalising negotiations and giving contracts the once-over just to ensure she’s across the details. A couple of days a week, she has evening appointments scheduled with vendors. Tanya’s REVA gives her an update on all the reports and contacts that have been sent and actioned across the day and allows her to set any new tasks.

Sometimes she does this by reading the report, sometimes if she’s busy or in the car, she’ll ask REVA to read it out and she’ll instruct the bot verbally.

She loves the AI-assisted support that she’s offered by Robot Real Estate – it’s really changed her life by removing so much of the busy, repetitive work that used to stress her out. It allows her to focus on the human connections that are the most important part of her job at a price point and uptake level that she would never have been able to afford, or get her brain around on her own.

Robot Real Estate supports its sales teams and its AI strategy with regular training offsites and sales rallies. These provide Tanya and the Robot Real Estate team with the opportunity to learn new skills, re-energise their sales focus, and hear about new trends and the systems the franchise is trialling.

There are also always personalised intensive training times in the schedule, when Tanya is taught to become proficient in the new skills needed. Her training is tracked and is tied to her commission levels.

While the additional money that comes from doing the training is nice, Tanya feels that the value really comes from segmenting the time this way as it is extremely effective. It’s made her feel more secure about trying new things and gives her time to practice and become familiar with new systems. This makes her more confident about using the coaching tools in the system which step her through whenever she is out on the road and needs a quick refresher.

Since introducing the AI, Robot Real Estate’s profits have soared, buoyed by reduced running costs, increased agent retention and significantly improved customer loyalty and brand value awareness that has really driven their sales and revenue.

It’s also opened up new revenue streams to the franchise, which has now significantly increased its referrals revenue from mortgage brokers, financial institutions, insurance and credit score companies.

The new approach by Robot Real Estate has removed the stressful “busy-ness” from the life of Tanya and their other agents. This lets them get more done in less time, while at the same time providing a significantly higher level of personalised service to buyers and sellers that has won awards.

Agents have reported feeling significantly less stress and love that the REVA support and back-end systems allow them to genuinely switch off and focus on family time when they are home, while feeling secure that the details are being taken care of.

Could this be the future? What do you think?

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Kylie Davis

Kylie Davis is the head of content and property services marketing at CoreLogic. She spent nearly four years as Network Editor of Real Estate at News Corp Australia, creating a national desk of real estate reporters across more than 100 titles and training them in the use of data and market journalism.