Jack Miller of the GoodLife Team in Austin Texas

by Victor Lund on August 16, 2011

Jack Miller of the GoodLife Team in Austin, Texas was featured in an article by RE Technology this week for his outstanding industry leadership.  All of the members of the GoodLife team have been supportive and outspoken about the best practices for agent and brokers. These REALTORS really give back to our industry and help make it better.

Millers’ industry leadership comes from illustrating what great customer services means to real estate brokers today. I think that he also, perhaps unknowingly arrived at a new way to search for property. Put in the amount you can afford and view properties that qualify. Nobody has built that yet.

From RE Technology interview with Emily Williams

Sure, we all know that responsive customer service can help build relationships. But today’s “Follow the Leader” looked deeper and realized that communicating with customers could do something else – provide valuable insights to help guide decisions about technology. Jack Miller, Chief of Customer Experience and Senior Associate at the GoodLife Team brokerage in Austin, Texas, spent and entire year responding to each and every customer contact for his company. Why? To ensure that the technology solutions his company offered truly served customers’ needs.

Crazy…Like a Fox

As I broach the subject, Mr. Miller laughs. “When you say it, I realize that it sounds a little crazy,” he explains. “But it really was a very reasonable thing to do. If you want to be sure that your technology works for your target audience – you’ve got to go right to the source to find out. I developed a set of questions and then I listened.”

When we talk about every customer contact, who are we talking about? “These are people who have sent us some inquiry over the web or have called the office,” says Mr. Miller. “They’re usually interested in learning more about a property they’ve seen or they ask more general questions about finding a home in the area. We also get contacted about blogs we’ve written or videos on our YouTube channel. We offer a lot of coaching, advice, and how-to’s on our website – for example, how to appeal property taxes – and have many people contact us because of those.”

When speaking with customer, Mr. Miller generally asked several questions:

  • How did you find us?
  • What information are you looking for?
  • Were you able to find the information you wanted on the website?
  • What did you feel was missing from the online resources?
  • What additional questions do you have?

The answers to these questions helped him to fine-tune the model for follow-up emails and design for the new GoodLifeTeam.com website. This website was designed with 1ParkPlace on their variation of WordPress (called SmartPress), assembling many of the industry’s best WordPress plugins.

Mr. Miller provided an excellent example ho how his year of communicating with customers helped improve the company’s tech offerings. “A great example is people who are relocating – they tend to have a lot of really excellent questions. We learned that there are basically two classes of relocating customers: people who are thinking about it (they tend to have the broadest set of questions) and the people who have already made the decision to move (they have more specific and time-sensitive questions.)”

Mr. Miller explains that, whether they’re in the early stages of considering a move or in the final stages of finding a home, relocating homebuyers usually have 3 types of questions:

  1. Jobs. What is the job market like? Are there any major companies in the area that are hiring? What are the big industries in the area? How do I network to find a job? In talking to these people and hearing their questions, Mr. Miller discovered that there wasn’t really a place to go to get a good sense of what was happening in the Austin job market. So the GoodLife Team added a set of job resources for people moving to the area to the new website.
  2. Lifestyle. Where are the places I can walk my dog? What are top spots for hiking/biking/running? What are the most kid-friendly neighborhoods? Based on these questions, the GoodLife Team developed a set of content on the new website about lifestyle factors and neighborhoods.
  3. The local real estate market. How much home can I buy for my budget? What neighborhood has a particular style of home? Based on questions of this sort, the GoodLife Team added market data and statistics to the new website.

Partners for Success

Taking the data from Mr. Miller’s year of research and using it to inform technology and business strategy was one thing, but the GoodLife Team needed a partner for the technology itself. They choose 1ParkPlace and the new SmartPress platform. They integrated the Wolfnet MapTracks product for IDX property Search.

“The team at 1ParkPlace has been able to create a very flexible property search solution for us,” Mr. Miller explains. “They’ve designed it so that we can go in and map what we know from experience are the true neighborhoods. We’ve gone through the city of Austin and mapped almost 200 neighborhoods. But these custom maps aren’t just for property search; they’re also used for the neighborhood/lifestyle resources on our website.”

In addition to 1ParkPlace for Web design, The GoodLife Team is also working with Altos Research and Top Producer’s Market Sanpshot for market data.

Industry Response

Marilyn Wilson, Founding partner of WAV Group, recently met with Mr. Miller. “This is a great lesson for any broker or agent _ truly listening to the needs of the people that actually buy and sell real estate. I wish that each and every broker would take the job of staying close to the needs of their customers as seriously as the GoodLife Team does. I believe one of the key weaknesses of the real estate industry is its obsession with worrying about retaining agents at the expense of focusing on the needs of those that actually buy and sell real estate.”

“In my days at Fisher-Price, we learned the hard way that if you focus too much on those who sell products and not enough on those who buy products, you get in big trouble,” Ms. Wilson continues. “We had a period when we focused on what Walmart wanted more than what children and parents wanted; our toys became boring and predictable and we lost a lot of market share in the process. Successful companies listen intently to their customers and , importantly, act on their needs better than their competition.”

About Jack Miller

Jack is responsible for online customer experience and technology for the GoodLife Team, a fantastic challenge that he meets with his trusty MacBook Pro and a strong espresso (or four). When he’s not wrangling with a custom database query or misbehaving WordPress website, you can find Jack running the “hike and bike trail” or serving as the token man at yoga on Fridays at the GoodLIfe team offices. Jack comes to the GoodLife team after developing software for a national franchise company and leading a real estate technology consulting organization. Jack has two sons (Ian and Craig), a beautiful wife (Sarah), and is a native of Austin, Texas.

 

 

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