There is perhaps no more daunting task that could face an MLS than switching MLS vendors. Most MLSs opt for choosing consultants to work with staff to create communications and training programs to make the transition as sooth as possible, and run systems in parallel until a cut over is complete – but not all MLSs can afford this.
Recently we have seen a lot of feedback from some rather challenging CalRedd conversions – most notability in Fresno and subsequently in Lake County. But perhaps it is best to look outside of the industry to learn the challenges that have faced others. A classic example recently happened in the airlines industry when JetBlue and WestJet Airlines switched to the same new reservation system (Sabre). It illustrates how two companies planned their conversions differently and had different results.
When WestJet did their conversion, their website crashed repeatedly and their call center was overwhelmed. It took months to sort out the problems and undoubtedly cost them more in customer confidence than the expense to fix the problems – not to mention the loss of business. What WestJet was unprepared for was failure – no parallel system and a lack of help desk support for their customers.
By comparison, JetBlue converted to the same reservation system but supported the transition with the hiring of 500 temporary call-center workers – and had a remarkable success.
The difference between success and failure by each company was a direct result of training and support – the two key services that MLSs offer to their participants (brokers) and subscribers (agents). JetBlue also had a backup site standing by in the event of failure. In MLS parlance – the parallel system.
One last note –
MLS subscribers do not take well to change. This is the bi-product of a customer base, which is older, and less tech savvy than the average common online consumer. We repeatedly see significant drops in MLS customer satisfaction after a conversion – even when the conversion goes well and the system offers greater usability and functionality compared to the old system. We refer to this as the “Don’t Move My Cheese Syndrome.”
If you are considering a new MLS system, be sure to have a great plan for the conversion. Be sure to train everyone. Be sure to have lots of people ready to provide support (many tech savvy agents will even volunteer to help with overflow and training in their offices). Have a backup plan. And don’t forget that the conversion is really not over until your MLS satisfaction ratings are as high or higher than then before the conversion – that is a good benchmark for knowing when to cut back on training and support initiatives.
If you do not have a solid business reason for a switch – like a poor relationship with your vendor or a significant financial incentive – try to work with your current vendor to get the most out of the product you have.
Mike Audet, one of the founding partners of WAV Group has worked with hundreds of MLS conversions and can help you make your conversion as successful and painless as possible. If you need help finding the right technology or making sure that the conversion is as smooth as possible, contact us to see how we can help at mike@ wavgroup.com.