Its not about the MLS system

by THE WAV GROUP on March 3, 2010

MLS of Choice has been with us for a while now, but has not created any landscape changes in the MLS industry.

WAV Group has had the opportunity to observe the behavior of agents in two divergent situations in California.  CARETS and CalREDD.

Hypothesis:  Agents don’t care about the MLS system.  They care about selling homes, the service they get from their MLS, and the relationships they have with the organizations offering them services.

Case 1 – CARETS Data Share – 100,000 agents in the Los Angles and points south now can freely choose from a variety of REALTOR Associations an MLS providers for their services.  They have the opportunity to shop for the MLS system they like, the Association they like, the price point they like, and compare service offerings among the variety of member benefits that different MLSs and Associations offer.

In the Board Rooms, there were many anxious Directors pondering what would happen when agents had this much choice.  Would they migrate to the neighboring MLS to reduce fees?  Would Associations dump their MLS provider and move next door?  Would the MLS who offered the most services for the lowest price suddenly absorb everything around them?  The answer to all of these questions is…….. No.

What little migration did happen was the result of PITA customers moving somewhere else.  You know, that subscriber who calls you every day to tell you what an awful job you are doing and how ‘broken’ your MLS system is.  That subscriber dumped you and moved next door.  Good Riddance!  Oddly, the view looks strangely similar on other side of the rainbow when you get there.

Case 2 – CalREDD – CalREDD is an MLS that aims to offer statewide data throughout California.  It is an initiative sponsored by funding from the members of the California Association of REALTORS.  They have been successful at launching their business and have picked up a few accounts.  Agents seem to be optimistic about the new MLS system – some like it, some are angry because they had to learn a new system.

Interestingly enough, CalREDD has also had little impact on MLS of Choice or Association of Choice.  If the system was truly breakthrough – and there was a strong demand, then Agents would move.  After all, the MLS system is the heartbeat of the American REALTOR.  Also, be mindful that the CalREDD rules allow any agent in good standing with CAR to join a participating Association offering CalREDD to take advantage of this wonderful system.  Few have chosen to do so.

Conclusion “Don’t move my cheese”

It is probably unwise for a consulting firm who specializes in Vendor Selection for MLSs to encourage MLSs to keep their vendor, but we often do.

Chasing the golden egg of the fastest, most feature rich MLS system is an empty goal that reduces subscriber satisfaction every time you switch systems.  By the time your contract expires, you run in parallel, train all of your subscribers and make the transition – the golden egg system has already been eclipsed by another golden egg.  In fact, the new release of the system you just retired is sometimes the Best System of the future.  Funny how that works.

Many of the oldest MLS systems in the country boast the highest customer satisfaction ratings in surveys performed by WAV Group on behalf of clients.  I know that because  FocusForward, Larson/Sobotka and Clareity Consulting have had similar results.  We look at prior satisfaction reports and surveys in the process of measuring change.

The reason MLS subscribers do not move is based upon simple dynamics.  They like the community and service from their MLS provider.  They do not really want to make a change unless they are forced to.

If your company is facing a contract renewal this year, consider the following.  What are you trying to fix that is broken?

Look at your help desk calls.  There are usually 10-15 items that generate 90% of the calls.  Ask your vendor how you can fix those and focus your training around these areas.

Measure your customer satisfaction feature by feature and add lots of open-ended questions.  Your customers will tell you where you have problems.  Ask your vendor how you can fix those and focus your training around these areas.

Also remember this – good things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t good.

If the relationship with your MLS vendor has broken down – fire them and get a new system.  Otherwise, work with your vendor to solve business problems and do not disturb the tranquility of your relationship with your subscribers.

 

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