February 2010

Disneyland and MLS

by THE WAV GROUP on February 28, 2010

mickey_minnie_disneyland

A few weeks ago we took an RE Technology staff member to Disneyland for her birthday.  She is in her 30s and had never been.  We all had a blast, even in the cold and the rain. As a consultant and entrepreneur, I take note of excellence.  Everything we touched and everywhere we went, and everybody we encountered from Disney was excellent.  The trip to Disneyland was as much about learning how to provide awesome service as it was about celebrating a team member’s birthday.  I am sure that there are a thousand books about doing business the “Disney Way,” but I must discourage you from reading them, or even taking my word for it. Pack up your team and head to Los Angles or Orlando.  It will cost you a small fortune, but you will gain an even larger fortune in fun while you learn a lot about customer service.  Be sure that a person or two in your group requests a button for “First Time at Disney” and “It’s my birthday.”  Another person should buy a necklace of Disney pins and begin trading with the staff. You will realize that the workers at Disney are not just playing nice.  They are authentic.  They have reached a new plateau with confidence.  They understand that no matter how bad things are at home, with the economy, the rain, or anything – that there is abundant freedom in letting all of that go and treating people nicely.  They realize that being customer-centric is the most fulfilling and rich reward you will ever experience. How can and MLS or Association leverage this experience? There are many examples, but I am not sure that they are written down anywhere.  I believe that someone should write a white paper or have a conference that is all about tactical processes for being customer centric.  I pick them up along the way when we do strategic planning.  For example, at an MLS in Southern California they do not track their call center for number of rings or average call duration.  Instead, every staff member is trained to pick up the phone.  Yep!  Staff are answering the phones and talking to customers all day long.  They dumped the “departmental” notion of customer service and decided that every person in the company is responsible for taking care of customers.  Furthermore, if you work there, you should be prepared […]

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Facebook use by MLS

by THE WAV GROUP on February 25, 2010

Metrolist_facebook

WAV Group has worked with many of the Nation’s MLSs to develop their social media strategy.  I tend to follow a bunch of REALTOR Association and MLS fan pages to see examples of using social media to stay connected to members/subscribers (lets call them customers).  Now I celebrate whenever I see an MLS or Association using Facebook correctly. In general, the principal business component of a social media strategy is to publish information that connects with customers and redirects them to information that enhances the provider-supplier relationship.  The principal social component is to listen to your customers to better understand what is going on in thier professional and personal lives. As a communication tool, Facebook allows you to create a catalog or blog of activities and announcements about your service offerings.  Examples may include invitations to webinars, links to video how-to’s, event invitations, system announcements, new service offerings, and the like.  Facebook is also a great way to reinforce to your customers that you are offering a lot of services to customers everyday that they would benefit from taking better advantage of.  Moreover, you can discover a lot about how you are communicating by looking at the number of people who thumb up a post or leave a comment.  Posts to your Facebook page that get no response are either not communicated well, or meaningless to your customers.  Either way, you get the feedback. Where Facebook gets touchy for Associations and MLS is when it gets personal.  How do you block or de-friend a customer who is disturbing the tranquility of your Facebook fan page?  You all know the customer I am talking about.  The critic who only looks at the negative angle of anything.  One strategy is to let your raving fans take care of it.  Simply send a number of direct messages to fans and ask them if the critic is right?  They will defend you with love and over time and the baseless critic will realize that she is not getting anywhere.  Be careful where you pick your battles.  If you reach out to your fans and learn that the critic is not far off, then you need to be prepared to face your issue head on.  This can have a disasterous effect if it pulls your business away from its long term strategic goals.  For example, launching a data share could be delayed while you are […]

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Palm may face obsolesce

by THE WAV GROUP on February 25, 2010

palm-pre

WAV Group has been following the story of Palm Inc, the makers of the most popular handset among real estate professionals.  Palm raised private equity last year from a group led by U2 singer Bono in an effort to launch their competitor to the iPhone, Google Android, and the popular Blackberry devices that have taken significant market share away from the smartphone handset pioneer.  If you are considering a mobile phone today and a new two year contract, choosing a Palm may be a mistake. Palm rolled out its new Pre and Pixi phones in an attempt to regain lost ground, but announced today that the new smart phones aren’t selling well.   Although orders from mobile service providers like Verizon were strong, consumers have been shy to embrace the new device.  Indeed, Verizon recently launched “buy on, get one free.” Today, the adoption of the GE Lockboxes has driven wide adoption of the Palm products as they are the only handset maker that offered an infrared interface to open the GE lockbox.  This feature was so strong that it forced competitor Blackberry to work with GE to develop a piece of custom hardware that allows Blackberry owners to pair their handset with an infrared device to open the lockbox.  Executives from GE and Blackberry did not comment on the success of this product, but have mentioned before that the solution works great. GE has hung on to the IR functionality in their lock boxes despite criticism about the security of IR.  Now that IR is facing obsolescence, this could cause GE to make a move to move in a new direction and possibly force millions of lockboxes to be replaced.  This could be a strong opportunity for competitors to gain market share if a conversion is forced.  

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Who will tie the data together in the MLS world?

by THE WAV GROUP on February 24, 2010

If you have worked in the MLS world as long as I have you know how many moving parts there are in terms of technology to run the organization effectively.  With the creation of RETS, the so called “standard”, the use of multiple modules to provide services has increased even more.  What has been obvious to me for many years looking at the industry’s technology, however, is that no one has done a good job of pulling all of the important data points together for the MLSs so they can run their organizations more effectively. Today, MLS systems do a great job of helping brokers and agents look and use property data. Accounting and membership systems manage member information and allow for billing while call tracking systems, if in place, allow MLSs to track user interactions.  MLS websites reach out to consumers and may provide valuable analytics on search behavior.  But, with few exceptions, these systems and products really don’t share data.  Yes, accounting systems can push some data over to the MLS system and there are other examples of simple data sharing but it is really not being done the way it should be. Imagine this….   What if the person on the MLS call desk, upon receiving a phone call from a member, could access their “integrated MLS CRM system” and pull up the user’s record, while on the call and see:   Every call the member ever made to the MLS The resolution of each call What courses the member had taken How long they had been in business Statistics on their MLS function use Time on the system Number of listings/sales Agent ranking information How many leads they have received from the MLS consumer website Office history information Billing information Etc.   Today, no system exists that ties all of these important data points together.  To start with, most MLS systems today do not provide the MLS detailed data on member system use by function today.  This was actually a very standard system metric back in the early MLS system days.  On systems like Ultrapro and Stellar account managers could look at an office or user’s computer usage, for example, and see exactly what offices and members were using on the system.  This information could then be used to drive training agendas as well as development efforts.  Wouldn’t it be a great tool for every MLS […]

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A possible real estate mapping feature for MLS.

by THE WAV GROUP on February 23, 2010

Earth

A new clue emerged today about the future of real estate mapping. The University of Washington and Cornell University are working together to build mathematical models that will use photos to dynamically build three-dimensional renderings of buildings, neighborhoods and potentially entire cities.  The name for this project is called PhotoCity. PhotoCity is a process whereby multiple two-dimensional photos are combined to generate mathematical scale to buildings.  Microsoft has commercialized this process with a product they call Photosynth.  Microsoft has failed in scaling their Photosynth service to cover any significant geographic region. PhotoCity has a plan that may be prime for adoption.  They have created student games and are crowd-sourcing images to expand the footprint.  If REALTORS were to collaborate in the project with the millions of photos at their disposal, it would seem that PhotoCity could realize their goal of having an extensive footprint rapidly. If anyone wants to play, there is a website called PhotoCityGame.com.  Anyone who wants to be a “custodian” of a particular building or place can begin by uploading pictures of the site.  To maintain control, you will need to be part of the group that contributes the most photos, in a capture-the-flag-like competition. Someday, this virtualization of community data could have rich value in MLS systems that can be made available to practitioners. If you want to play, build a team and begin capturing some flags.  You may learn something about future technology, crowd sourcing, and even have some fun.  

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Is your team working hard or just burning out?

by THE WAV GROUP on February 18, 2010

Ellie Mirman from Ellie Mirman.com posted a great article about the rules for maximizing productivity of work teams.  I think there are some great lessons to be learned from a presentation from a blog called The Chief Happiness Officer. Working more than 40 hours leads to decreased productivity. You can get a short-term boost by working more hours, but the team will require a recovery period that counteracts the seeming short-term productivity boost.  Working on Sundays and evenings can be helpful in the short-term to provide support to a potential client, but the team will required to recover from long hours can actually be longer than the short-term increases in productivity.  For agents that consistently work long hours, burnout can be faster and potentially more severe. Productivity of “knowledge workers” (vs. factory workers) declines after 35 hours (not 40 hours). Ellie says when creative workers are forced to work longer hours and get less sleep, the quality of their output goes down dramatically.  While it may look like agents are working harder, they may actually be depleting themselves of the energy and creativity they need to effectively market properties. Teams that work overtime think they are doing more but actually accomplish less.During crunch times, perceived productivity remains much higher than actual productivity.   Agents might be really busy, but are they really using their time to its fullest – are they spending the time to learn new technologies, for example?  MLSs around the country offer a ton of free services that go unused by most agents out there today, for example.  Agents may be spending unnecessary time processing paperwork, manually, for example, when they could be using document management technologies to save them time and money. Teams of 4-8 people have higher productivity. This number seems to line up with the average size of real estate teams so that’s good news for our industry. Seating the team together in a shared room increases productivity. This makes sense, since these are the people you communicate with the most.  While many real estate teams are now virtual, having the team together on a regular basis can improve communication and build team trust. Cross-functional teams also increase creativity and productivity. Having a team consisting of people with different perspectives also helps reduce groupthink and helps increase breakthrough solutions. Interestingly, having members of these teams part time rather than full time results in a 15% drop in efficiency.  […]

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AT&T announced a new program today to encourage better collaboration for building new generation mobile and wired broadband application. There could be interesting opportunities for the real estate industry to become part of building and deploying leading edge mobile technologies for real estate consumers. AT&T Announces Plans to Open Innovation Centers to Spur Development of New-Generation Mobile and Wired Broadband Applications, Devices Facilities to Support AT&T LTE Trials and Testing Beginning Later this Year AT&T Inc.* today announced plans to establish AT&T Innovation Centers to drive development of next-generation devices, applications and equipment that expand the capabilities of mobile and wired broadband. Plans call for AT&T Innovation Centers to be opened in at least three locations later this year, including two locations in the U.S. and one international facility. The centers will be designed to enable AT&T scientists and engineers to work directly with device makers, application developers and network equipment providers to expedite development of an ecosystem of mobile and wired broadband services and capabilities for consumers and business users. Third-party developers will have access to a full range of AT&T services and network capabilities to facilitate development of new applications. “Collaborative innovation is at the heart of broadband today, and it will be even more critical in the years to come as we work to ensure that customers get the most out of mobile broadband platforms like LTE and service platforms like U-verse IPTV,” said John Donovan, AT&T’s chief technology officer. “We envision these AT&T Innovation Centers as a crossroads for the industry to drive new capabilities crossing networks, devices and applications. They will provide an opportunity for AT&T experts to work directly with others in the industry to develop, evaluate and perfect new apps and services as broadband networks continue to evolve in the years to come.” The facilities will complement AT&T’s strategy to continually enhance and expand mobile broadband capabilities over the next several years. In 2010 and 2011, AT&T will work to further increase speeds on the nation’s fastest 3G network by deploying fiber-optic backhaul connections and HSPA 7.2 technology. With 10 HSPA 7.2-compatible devices available today, millions of AT&T customers will be able to immediately take advantage of faster 3G speeds as expanded backhaul is deployed in markets. At the same time, AT&T this year plans to begin field trials of LTE, the next generation of the existing GSM/UMTS mobile broadband technology platform that […]

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Should MLSs change their business model and sell to google

by THE WAV GROUP on February 12, 2010

Every now and then, you see a company get acquired for an absurd amount of money and wonder why.  In this case, we know very little, but let me frame something. According to the WSJ, vark was founded in late 2007 by two former Google employees and raised $7.5 million in venture capital.  The company has about 90,000 subscribers (think MRIS, MRED and MLSListings). It lets users create their networks by importing contacts from their email accounts and social profiles like facebook.  It says its search engine considers people’s profiles, connections, people’s favorite things and location when matching questions with respondents.  The company generates revenue by charging some users to serve as specialists (REALTORS) in particular fields and provide “sponsored answers”  It also takes a cut on transactions recommended by and acted on through its services. Rumor is that Google may have given them $50 Million for their efforts.  

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MLS Tesseract Post – MLS CEO Opinion on RPR

by THE WAV GROUP on February 11, 2010

Our good friend Brian Larson posted an excellent piece yesterday, on RPR,  that shared the insights of a MLS CEO. I highly recommend you read this and add it to your growing list of information and questions about RPR.

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Bendoverbackwards

The law offices of Larson/Sobotka have written a very good article on their blog about the NAR policy that limits the actions of an MLS to redistribute or repurpose broker (participant) data without the consent of the broker.   Larson writes: “If your MLS is affiliated with NAR and subject to NAR policy, it is bound by NAR Statement of MLS Policy 7.85: Use of listings and listing information by MLSs for purposes other than the defined purposes of MLS requires participants consent. Such consent cannot be required as a condition of obtaining or maintaining MLS participatory rights. MLSs may presume such consent provided that listing brokers are given adequate prior notice of any intended use unrelated to the defined purpose of MLS, and given the opportunity to affirmatively withhold consent for that use.”  View the entire post here Perhaps this is just a matter of paperwork to provide adequate prior notice to the brokers – but what if they say no? There are a variety of disruptive new business developments in our industry that challenge the custody of listing data which is stored in the MLS.  Listing Syndication is one, selling or sharing active listing data is another.  I am sure there are more. Perhaps NAR needs to modify their policy to allow MLSs and their boards of directors make decisions without the full consent of each participant.  Alternatively, MLS vendors may want to chart a course to provide brokers with the opportunity to opt-in or out of these types of programs. i imagine that brokers will be pretty stoked about getting paid for their listing data from third party relationships that are facilitated by their MLS for their consideration.  It would seem that without local or NAR policy change, or a new way to manage broker consent, progress in our industry may be dampened.

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Sneak Peek of RE Technology in MRIS

by THE WAV GROUP on February 8, 2010

As you may know from the August Press Release, RE Technology will soon be launching in MRIS, MRED and MLSListings.com.  RE Technology was created to allow an MLS to deliver a directory of technology vendors, product reviews, and product news to keep their members informed about the best tools and services available today. If you are a technology vendor, be sure to join the more than 400 companies who have registered for the free directory here. If you are an MLS or REALTOR Association – you may offer RE Technology subscriptions to your members too.  Just send a note or call.

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real trends logo

It is time once again for the annual REAL Trends 500 Survey.  If your brokerage firm closed more than 500 transaction sides in 2009, you qualify to participate in this year’s ranking.  Making this prestigious list can be a great marketing tool for your firm.  It’s a great honor to be featured with the most progressive and successful firms in the industry. The REAL TRENDS 500 Survey highlights the companies that sold the most homes and the most dollar volume in the past 12 months. The deadline to submit an application is FEBRUARY 28th, 2010 so don’t miss out! All firms which participated in last year’s survey will automatically receive via e-mail a direct link to your survey. If you have not received a link or if this is the first year your firm has participated please visit us at www.realtrends.com and click on the large “Submit REAL Trends 500 Survey” button located in the upper left corner of the home page or contact Amy Broset at abroset@realtrends.com or 303.741.1000. Good luck!  We hope you make it to the top 500!

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Job Available: If you know saleforce, apply now at LPS

by THE WAV GROUP on February 4, 2010

LPS Logo

Vendor Alley is opening a jobs board, but until that is live, we are teaming together with other bloggers to announce job openings in our industry.  There has never been a better time to attract talent into real estate technology.  If you know anyone that is looking for work who knows saleforce.com – be sure to send them over to LPS for a confidential interview. Description The LPS Real Estate Group is looking for a Senior Customer Relationship Management Evangelist to join a dynamic technology organization.  This key position will involve working closely with senior management and technology staff in the design and implementation of an enterprise CRM program.   Requirements 5+ years of CRM program management experience 3+ years of Saleforce.com experience Energetic individual able to gather, develop, and implement business requirements Ability to develop analytical reports and dashboards Excellent written and verbal skills Independent self-starter   Desired Qualifications BS in Information Systems Real Estate industry and or software company experience Support systems design and implementation experience Epicor Clientele experience   At LPS, we recognize people as our most valuable asset. You will join a friendly and collaborative team containing all levels of development experience. The company offers a unique environment that fosters individual growth and rewards performance. The culture is truly collaborative and everyones input is valued. All team members are encouraged to suggest improvements, participate in weekly team meetings, and share knowledge throughout the team. LPS offers competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits to include medical, dental, 401K and ESPP. To learn more about us, go to http://www.lpsreg.com   Contact:  Carmen.Mohan@lpsvcs.com  

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More Great Questions on RPR for MLSs!

by THE WAV GROUP on February 2, 2010

Brian Larson commented on another set of great questions yesterday from John Rees on MLS Tesseract, that John posted on his Strategic MLS blog that look at legal considerations to consider when evaluating the RPR opportunity. We encourage all MLSs to read John’s questions and to include them in their discussions and evaluations. Click to see the entire  article from John Rees Another question that came up as a result of my RPR Report from Ron Stephen, Executive Vice President of RealtyWEB.NET MLS in Jacksonville, FL was the potential impact RPR

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MarketLinx provides online auction solution

by THE WAV GROUP on February 1, 2010

MarketLinx, Inc.,  provider of information technology to the residential real estate industry and a member of The First American Corporation (NYSE: FAF) family of companies, announced today that it has partnered with RealtyBid.com to offer an integrated online real estate auction tool to its MLXchangeTM, TEMPO® and InnoViaTM multiple listing service (MLS) customers.  Through the agreement, MarketLinx MLS users can easily upload listing data and photos to RealtyBid.com and start an online auction with just a few mouse clicks.

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RPR – To Join or Not to Join is Not the Only Question!

by THE WAV GROUP on February 1, 2010

rpr logo

Since the announcement made by NAR on the formation of RPR and their public rollout at the NAR conference in San Diego, RPR and their proposed business model has been a major topic of conversation in MLSs across the U.S.  Some MLSs seem to think this is an idea long overdue while others have expressed “no interest” while most seem to be somewhere in between with a “wait and see” attitude. c planning session we facilitated for a major MLS the topic of RPR participation was, of course, discussed.  Our approach to the discussion, as with any business issue, is to try to take the hype and emotion out of the discussion to look at it for what it is, a business decision.  To that end, we believe there are several points each MLS might consider as they decide whether RPR makes sense for them or not.  This is not intended to serve as a full review of the RPR opportunity but we hope it at least presents some questions to stimulate your MLS discussions. Click on the following link to download the paper. Download RPR – Paper

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