How Great Companies React To Feedback

by Victor Lund on December 13, 2013

TheFutureAgentMatch from realtor.com  was a solution that was tested in two real estate markets – Boulder, CO and Las Vegas, TX. The pilot program was developed as a service to connect consumers with agents based on performance, interests and recommendation data. Putting aside the debate about the strengths or weaknesses of this form of rating an agent, there is plenty to learn from how it was rolled out, how feedback was generated, and how the company reacted to the feedback.

Pre-roll Out Decisions

With any new service, the first question should be opt-in or opt-out. WAV Group has always recommended that the default on any consumer facing solution should be opt-in unless there are powerful mitigating reasons that support opt-out. In this test, realtor.com worked closely with both MLSs to be sure all were in agreement with how the data would be displayed.

Pre-roll Out Communication

Some companies have mandated classes on product roll-outs. WAV Group is not a big fan of this. Rather, offer the class or training online. Record it. Do not enable the service until the broker has either waived or attended the training. Getting the acknowledgement is really important. It is absurd to think that you will be able to reasonably solicit some form of acknowledgement from every broker – but make sure you get acknowledgement from most brokers. Schedule meetings face to face with your 10 largest brokers and phone conferences with 11-50. Again here, I applaud realtor.com for organizing local, executive and broker advisory boards during the development of this pilot.

Pilot Testing

New product roll-outs are never perfect. Indeed, the mantra for innovation is “fail fast and fail often.” What RDC did by putting the product out into the wild was aggressive. I know they worked closely with, and solicited feedback from, agents before AgentMatch was publically displayed. But they still got a pile of new feedback in the early days of the pilot.

React to Feedback

AgentMatch was taken offline today. In a statement, realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson said “The AgentMatch pilot has concluded, but the larger project remains: We intend to create the most accurate and complete resource for consumers looking for a Realtor online, and to continue moving the industry forward with innovative solutions.” What makes the company stronger in the eyes of their customers is that they were comfortable with embracing feedback and taking action to resolve important issues before moving any further ahead. It happens more than you think. WAV Group has seen MLS systems cut over and cut back. Showing solutions cut over and cut back. Broker websites cut over and cut back. Having the courage to accept that plans fail is the display of valor.

Communicate Your Plans

If you need to pull a product off the shelf or recall it for repair, do that. And, communicate your plans effectively to your customers. In the case of realtor.com, they communicated openly every step of the way.  I applaud that.

Here is the full statement from Errol Samuelson:

 

Innovation, AgentMatch and the Future

By Errol Samuelson, President, realtor.com

Realtor.com is a business with an industry mandate to position Realtors for success in a rapidly changing digital environment.

While we are a for-profit enterprise (no Realtor dues dollars are used to support realtor.com), we have an ironclad commitment to the interests of real estate professionals.

This requires us to innovate, experiment and take measured risks.

Innovation is in some ways like exercise: we accept a short-term discomfort for long-term gain. We strain, sweat, push — and occasionally stumble.

But we are almost always better for having made the effort.

This was the spirit behind AgentMatch, a pilot program, an experiment we’ve been conducting in two markets since July. AgentMatch came to be because we were (and remain) certain that the number of consumers that go online to research and find Realtors will continue to increase.

Yes, referrals will always be the lifeblood of many Realtors, and there are many marketing strategies that will always produce results.

But in an age of reviews, ratings, big expectations and small attention spans, we wanted to create a service that would place facts, and Realtors, front and center.

So, while we will continue to embrace that spirit, it is clear that we must resolve some important issues before moving any further ahead. We heard your feedback and intend to act on it. AgentMatch, in its current form, is being taken offline as we formulate, with your input, a better approach.

Let me share some of the things we have learned in this process. We learned that using an algorithm to “match” consumers with Realtors is misguided. Our next generation of software will eliminate the idea of “matching” or ranking agents.  A computer cannot find the best Realtor for someone, just like a computer cannot place an accurate value on a home.

We also learned that metrics like days on market or list price to sale price ratio, while useful within a real estate brokerage, could be confusing or even misleading to consumers. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story, either.

And yes, metrics matter, but we need to expand the ways that Realtors can highlight their other dimensions, many of which cannot be neatly captured by a number.

This AgentMatch pilot has concluded, but the larger project remains: We intend to create the most accurate and complete resource for consumers looking for a Realtor online, and to continue moving the industry forward with innovative solutions.

Realtor.com exists to connect consumers with Realtors. We do this in many ways. Some – like our SocialBios product, or our new FiveStreet lead application – will be embraced immediately. Others will be questioned, challenged and ultimately improved upon. We have a talented group of developers and remain committed to this process.

If you would like to help us shape the next phase of our effort, please email me and the realtor.com product team at AgentSearch@realtor.com.

Errol Samuelson
President
realtor.com

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