Guest Post by Nick Kljaic, Fouder of Apartment Ocean
One major factor of running a successful real estate business is instant and accurate delivery of information. In our hyper-contacted global market, consumers no longer want to wait 24 hours or even a few hours for answers. They know they can either search for them online or head over to your competition. Today's real estate market is customer-driven and marked by low customer loyalty.
This is why it is critical to provide outstanding customer service and effective engagement. According to Zendesk, 62 percent of B2B and 42 percent of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience. Yet, what if you need to cut costs? Can you afford to hire enough customer service agents to cover a 24/7 shift? This is where chat bots can come to rescue. They can offer actionable, personalized and automatic responses. Let's explore how chatbots can change the real estate industry.
Major real estate trends
The idea of home ownership is experiencing a major shift. Before the Great Recession, rates were at around 70 percent. By the second quarter of 2015, that had dropped to 63.5 percent. In addition, there is an increased demand for rental housing and micro housing.
Consumers want to get more for less. Office space is shrinking a bit too. In 2000, the average square foot per worker was 253. That number is expected to shrink to 138 by 2020. Plus, the rise of coworking has driven redevelopment of existing spaces.
Since many larger banks are constrained by recent regulations, consumers and builders are looking to smaller banks and community lenders. They are helping to change the lending landscape. With all these evolving trends, consumers will have questions. It is up to the real estate industry to offer answers in a timely and relevant manner.
Decrease telephony costs
Installing a full-featured phone system at your office can cost thousands of dollars. Plus, it costs money to have someone answer phone calls. This is why it is imperative to have a chatbot as the first point of contact. There are many customers that often have similar questions.
Your chatbot can segment them out and answer them individually, with speed and accuracy. This leaves your customer service agents time to handle more complex questions that get sent their way. A live agent does not have to answer every single question.
Instant customer service
With a chatbot, you never have to worry about consistency, downtime or illness. They can perform all the time, and they are fully scalable. Plus, they can be accessed through any device. With more chatbots, the real estate industry can count on enhanced engagement and a higher number of leads.
Improve response rates to property listing inquiries
If you have hundreds or thousands of listings, you could spend every minute answering customer questions and still not have enough time to do anything else. Imagine a chatbot fielding all of those inquiries for you. Hundreds of customers can get their questions answered in just a few minutes. Once they realize your company is invested in customer service, they start to become more trusting of giving you their business.
Real estate agents need support
A business needs leads to survive. Why? Leads can become sales, which drives profits. The only way to get leads is to reach out and be available. One of the biggest reasons real estate agents fail is because they don't answer requests. A real estate business is all about building relationships. You can't build relationships if you are not interacting with consumers in one form or another.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client. Would you spend six figures, or 2,000 on rent with a company that does not value your time? Instead of sifting through the potential for each inquiry, a chatbot can answer them all. Customers have a long memory, don't leave a bad impression.
Customers prefer chatbots for basic issues or questions
Chatbots can see every step of your customer's journey on your website. Consistently available chatbots make this process much easier. Moreover, for simple requests, customers would rather interact with a chatbot. This is especially true if they are still in the research stage. They are worried a real estate agent will prompt them to buy when they're not ready.
On the other hand, they are looking at properties and a chatbot feels more relevant to their current buying stage. They don't have to answer any hard questions about when they are planning to move or their budget. It's a win/win all around.
When your company is roaring on all cylinders, that means it can show, lease, rent and sell more properties. Around 90 percent of an agents' time is spent prospecting--this can include sending emails, working the phones, meeting with clients and showing listings.
Why not save several hours per week--which can equate to weeks each year--by having a chatbot field common questions? That way, you can spend your time talking to more qualified leads and showing more listings.
Lower labor costs
According to McKinsey, around 29 percent of customer service positions in the U.S. could be automated through chatbots. Simple questions could be, "Where can I find furnished homes in Austin?" or "Can I qualify for a loan with bad credit?" These are questions asked repeatedly.
A more complex question might be, "Can you find me a house in Nashville, that will accept a full cash offer, is close to downtown and has a rooftop garden?" For real estate startups, the deployment of chatbots can offer significant savings in order to help the business succeed for the long term.
Facebook implemented a mobile first strategy, and everyone else followed suit. More people access the Internet now through their smartphones than through their PCs. With regard to mobile marketing, chatbots offer a reliable service. Customers can ask questions, any time of day, through their smartphones. At times, people just want something to bounce ideas off of.
A chatbot can guide them in the right direction. Plus, a Pelorus research survey found that 74 percent of contact center managers felt that improved customer service agent technology can decrease error rates and improve the customer experience.
The text-first generation prefers a self-service and digital-first interaction. That is why chatbots will be a game changer for the real estate industry. Deploying a chatbot shows that you are relating to and offering services that resonate with the modern consumer. It also shows that your company values customer service--something that can go a long way in terms of building trust and brand loyalty. In fact, Facebook has over 30,000 chatbots on Messenger. This is just a beginning for chatbot technology and it is not going away anytime soon.
Nick Kljaic is a co-founder of Apartment Ocean. He has been involved in real estate tech for many years, working with real estate companies and helping them to improve the residential rental sector. Passionate about real estate and technology, he is always looking to connect with real estate professionals. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org