The following is a guest post written by Chris Clark, well known for her site CREOutsider and CRE App Review Advisory Board member.
Years ago at a RealComm convention, I was walking in front of two 20-something agents who were talking loudly about their newest phone. Cell phones weren’t yet fully smart, but they knew more was coming and enthusiastically talked about the future – about the day they could do everything on their phone. Fast forward to today. Duke Long’s comment, “If you can’t do it on your phone, you don’t need it”, makes it clear the thrill isn’t gone.
Most agent tech issues center on their phone. How can I get my CRM-related info on it? Can I access all my files from my phone? I want to see ALL my emails on my phone – not just some. Why can’t you forward voicemails to my cell? How can I automatically keep everything in sync?
Unfortunately agents - and brokerages - often have everything everyone wants on their phone in older systems that make that kind of access difficult. Desktop CRM apps, office file servers and older phone systems held hostage by out of date building infrastructure. POP email is still prevalent instead of the “see the same thing everywhere” IMAP email. And synching? Forget about it!
So, agents look for solutions on their own. And, when they have a problem, talking with them is more like marriage counseling than tech support. Everyone’s relationship is different and they always want to know whether they should break up, or if there’s some way they can make it work. Nine times out of ten, they stick with what they have, but maybe patch things up with an app that might make it better.
In the meantime, brokerages end up behind the curve deploying remote file, CRM or email solutions too long after agent DIY methods have become entrenched. Or, instead of bothering, brokerages subscribe to “bring your own device”/”do it your own way” thinking. But, the problem with that open-mindedness is that the brokerage and agents lose the opportunity to gain any value from consolidating data and systems.
It’s no surprise that CRE developers, who are often agents, take an agent-centric approach - which means lots of single purpose mobile apps. And, while they all entertain the goal of signing up a brokerage, their apps are rarely developed to meet their needs.
I’ve written a lot about how CRE developers aren’t thinking about brokerages when they create “solutions.” And, it’s too easy to sell the idea to VC's that the CRE industry is so far behind on the tech front that anything that appears to drag it into the 21st century is a winner. It gives many developers a false sense of the viability of what they’re building.
But, all this development has revealed one important thing. No matter what you develop, it has to be phone friendly. Because that’s what agents want. Now if only innovators would also develop with the brokerage in mind.