Association MLS Service Provider Controversy

by Marilyn Wilson on March 26, 2015

WAVMASTERWAV Group is a leading provider of satisfaction research to a large number of MLSs in the United States and Canada. This type of research is often performed annually by mid-sized MLSs and quarterly by large MLSs. Our satisfaction research is unique in that we support MLSs to benchmark off of their prior performance along with benchmarks against their peer group.

WAV Group does not ever share another MLS’s data with any other MLS. But we do extract observations about what strategies are most effective at improving satisfaction in areas where MLSs are weak. As we have voiced on many occasions, the number one way to crush subscriber satisfaction with MLS services is to change MLS systems. Circumstances being what they are, switching MLS systems is a necessary tactic to serve the long term needs of agents and brokers. CoreLogic’s sunset of the MLXchange system has caused an enormous number of conversions. Since change of any type (for better or worse) causes a reduction in customer satisfaction, there is very little that any MLS can do about it. However, we have seen some do better than others.

MLSs that have the most successful conversions tend to be those who have full-time training, a full-time help desk, and direct contact with the subscriber.

MLSs that have the least successful conversions tend to be those who outsource training, the help desk, and direct contact with the subscriber to Associations of REALTORS®.

Before you have a heart attack, please appreciate that I am speaking in broad-brush strokes here. There are plenty of AORs which support system conversions, as well, and even better than some MLSs. This is not a condemnation of all Associations. But the customer satisfaction surveys say that the model of Associations providing MLS service centers is generally less effective than the model of MLS service centers.

To understand this trend, WAV Group looks carefully at individual Associations in regional MLSs that have Association service centers. We can rank the performance of service centers by indexing the customer satisfaction survey by Association. Some Associations perform better than others. The number one influencer of performance is tied to dedicated trainers and dedicated customer support staff.

This issue of dedicated resources is the root of the service provider controversy. There is rarely a minimum requirement or standard for an Association to be measured against as a service provider for the MLS. The only standard at all seems to be that you are a shareholder in the MLS. In an environment of MLS of Choice and Association of Choice, this minimum standard for quality of service seems to be in the cross hairs of competition. Moreover, the MLS cannot “fire” or cancel the contract with the Association service provider regardless of the level of performance that they provide.

The top three services that real estate professionals rely upon are MLS systems, standardized forms, and lockboxes (in most markets). Without those things, they are prevented from doing business. In many markets, the top reason why a licensed real estate professional joins an Association is to access the MLS system, standardized forms, and lockboxes.

Here is the rub. Who is to blame for dissatisfaction with the MLS? Is it the agent who did not take any of the training that was offered? Is it the Association’s service provider of MLS? Is it the regional MLS that wholesales services to the Associations? Or is it the system vendor? Low satisfaction scores with an MLS is often part and parcel to each one of these factors. Great service happens when all of the responsible parties are working together seamlessly.

As it relates to satisfaction with MLS vendor systems, the highest ratings come from agents who have been on the same system the longest. Take any two systems that have been in place for more than five years and you will find the system scores to be high and very similar. Oddly enough, the complaints are typically the same, too (poor support for mobile). In those markets, the service provider has less of an impact over satisfaction because the majorities of users do not need training or a help desk.

MLS system change exposes problems in training and help desk, regardless of who is responsible. It is vital to every organization to invest heavily in staff resources to provide the excellent support that real estate professionals deserve when you are doing a conversion. Great MLS providers know this and approach it proactively. They make an effort akin to a sales effort that touches every user of the system to ensure that they have taken the time to learn the new system and understand how to obtain support. Think in terms of No REALTOR® Left Behind and your conversion will go smoothly and your satisfaction ratings will dip, but not plummet.

Good luck. Call us if you need help.

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