Customer Service

Direct Feeds to Zillow Group

by Victor Lund on March 7, 2015

MLS RETS servers are designed to deliver IDX, VOW, and Full Data feeds to brokers and their vendors. With few exceptions, they were not purpose built for sending listing syndication feeds to publishers. Syndication feeds are the domain of Listhub. With Listhub’s support of Zillow Group’s websites going away, you must act now to determine what your plans are. MLS RETS Servers are emerging with new features that blend in Syndication support for Direct Feeds to Publishers like the Zillow Group. The defining difference between Listhub and direct feeds may be complex or simple. The complex path is considered by most legal strategists to be the best practice. Complex Give brokers a dashboard that puts them in control of their data being transmitted to the Zillow Group. To imagine such a dashboard, log into Listhub. It was purpose built for this. As I write this, my understanding is that only Bridge Interactive, Corelogic, RE DataVault, FlexMLS and Listhub have such a dashboard for your RETS server. RE Data Vault and Bridge are complete. Corelogic is being rolled out. Be mindful that this Zillow Group issue is new, and has sent everyone scrambling except for FlexMLS, Bridge Interactive, and RE DataVault who have been providing this solution for years. To be clear, systems like FlexMLS, RE DataVault, Corelogic, and Bridge Interactive have a different set of features. MLSs can configure the RETS server with fields specific to that publisher. The broker can turn it on or off. Only the data authorized will be sent. There are lots of reporting tools for servicing both the broker and the publisher when things go wrong. Simple The simple solution is to provide Zillow Group with a RETS feed with all data. Broker opt-in may be handled by solutions like Clareity CDC. You may also make a modification to your listing input page in your MLS system for Syndication Yes or No. I consider this a simple solution because it allows a flag to be distributed with the RETS data indicating the preference of the agent. At least for now, the MLS would be sending all of the data, but telling the Zillow Group not to use some of it. This may not be the best strategy because you are sending data to a third party and telling them not to use it. Clareity supports broker choice, but the MLS system probably puts the decision […]


Part 2: Customer service or lip service?

by Kevin Hawkins on January 21, 2015

Last month I shared a theory that most real estate technology companies stink at customer service. I asked for people to challenge my theory, but only one person said, “You’re wrong.” Randall Standard, who heads up VoicePad, took strong exception my piece. He made several valid points in taking me to task, among which included my failure to point out that some real estate technology companies are providing good customer service. And he share this observation with me, which I think is spot on: He wrote, “A closer examination of real estate technology firms would find a mixed bag of customer support levels.  Some real estate technology companies are quite good at support.  Some provide no support at all.  It takes both money and a commitment to provide excellent customer support.” Standard is right. Money, or lack of it, really is one of the major reasons customer service fairs so poorly at any company. Commitment is the second reason, and I believe that comes from a cultural orientation that begins at the top. I think Standard actually helps me make my point. That’s because his firm is deeply committed to customer service. I know this from both the customer comments he shared with me, but also the lack of negative posts about his company and his products on the web: I couldn’t find any. When I joined Imprev as head of communication and marketing several years ago, I discovered the same thing: I Googled and Googled and could not find anyone saying anything bad about the company nor its products.  When I looked at its customer satisfaction surveys, every quarter they were north of 90 percent. If you’ve every have worked with Renwick Congdon at Imprev or Randall Standard at VoicePad, you know their management styles are remarkably different. But they both share the same DNA when it comes to customer service as they both lead by example.  They create a culture where the customer counts and doing the right thing by the customer is the same guiding principal at both firms. I believe that’s the case at every company that is known for great customer service: They invest in it and it is part of their culture, which you can almost always trace to the top. The problem I still struggle with is I have only anecdotal evidence of which real estate technology firms do a good job and […]


Every company SAYS they have good customer service, but we all know the truth – many companies believe they are customer-centric, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t always live up to the promise. I am going to use my brand relationship with my most frequently travelled airline to illustrate this point. With this unnamed airline I have had a really good year. I travelled almost exclusively with them, helping to raise my status level to the point where I travelled more in free upgraded first class seats than not. I was privy to the attention of the company’s most pleasant and experienced flight attendants. I was lucky not to experience a whole lot of unwieldy delays. I was early to board ensuring I could in fact keep my luggage as a carry-on speeding my time to my destination by eliminating the wait time for my bags at the carousel. This same airline has upgraded nearly their entire fleet to include wireless service offerings allowing me to stay connected to my clients even while in the air. All in all, I would say I was pretty darn close to becoming a raving fan! Now fast forward to 2:11 am last evening. I was trying to check in for my first flight of the year on this airline. The airline I was trying to access is in the midst of a merger so that means two archaic airline reservation and loyalty systems are kluging their way to a common solution. What does that lead to……lots of BUGS, unexplained error codes and general havoc and frustration for their most loyal customers. Bottomline, I was not able to check in online and nobody in tech support, customer support or the frequent traveller desk could understand why. System error codes don’t really mean a whole lot to a customer, especially when you can’t even explain what the error code means, why it happened or when it will be addressed.   Now make the process even worse by sending your customer to two or three departments, NONE of which can answer the question about why you can’t check-in online or even offer a way for them help to accomplish this simple task. Third, and worst of all, the supervisor I spoke with not only could not provide any solution to the problem, but elevated the conversation to defensive, offering no recourse for the […]

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Are you delivering customer service or lip service?

by Kevin Hawkins on December 17, 2014

[Part 1 of 2] I have a theory: Customer service provided by most technology companies sucks. Ask yourself when was the last time you told someone or posted something on Facebook about a great customer service experience from any technology company with a first letter other than “A” (Apple, Amazon don’t count). Better yet: When have you ever posted a rave review about your customer service experience with a real estate technology company? Or a vertical technology company for any industry? My guess is that’s as rare as rain in the Sahara. Yet how many tech firms tout publically that are “customer centric,” or they have a “customer-first culture,” or some variation on this theme? I don’t think we are getting customer service today from the vast majority of players in this industry; I believe what we are getting is a lot of lip service. Maybe my standard is too high of what I consider to be good customer service. But don’t blame me, blame my father. My dad was in the hotel business for 43 years before he retired: As a manager at the Fontainebleau Hilton on Miami Beach, the W on Michigan Ave in Chicago, and the Whittier Hotel on Lake Michigan in Detroit. He cut his teeth working at several iconic places, including a resort in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, where he ran errands for Errol Flynn, the hottest movie star of his day. Dad started his career as a bellboy at the old Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. It was in the 1930s and “land was going for $1 an acre,” he used to tell me. Before I could ask why he didn’t buy a bunch of land, he immediately followed that statement with “but I was young and dumb and didn’t know any better, or I could have made a fortune!” The one thing my dad did know more about than anyone I ever met was customer service: He lived it 24-7, from the day he put on a hotel uniform, until the day he hung up his tie. He taught me my first customer service lesson when I went to work for him as a messenger at the Fontainebleau when I was 15 years old. He said, “Son, here’s the secret to success in the hotel business: Treat everyone as if the were a King or a Queen, it’s that simple.” […]

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Are you living the life of a Customer Servant?

by Marilyn Wilson on August 25, 2014

We all know that our businesses are dependent on our customers, yet we don’t always live the dream of providing amazing customer service. It’s easy when you get tired to say “I’ll get up early and do it tomorrow”.   When the phone rings and we don’t answer it we might justify it by saying I need to focus on this CMA I am building. Or worse yet, the phone might ring and we ignore it because we’re talking to one of our friends or having a cup of coffee. While we’re all human and we have our moments of weakness, customer service is fundamental to what we provide in the real estate industry.   After all that is what we’re really selling at the end of the day – Expertise, Local Knowledge and Service.    At the end of a day if a client doesn’t feel like you care about them, you’re not going to get very far. Certainly you won’t be able to create a lifetime experience with them. I would like all of us to ask ourselves a fundamental question through a little exercise I have created.  Do you truly have the heart of a servant? Do you LOVE to help your clients achieve their goals?  Do you get up in the morning thinking about how you can delight one or more of your customers today? As a brokerage do you inspire your teams to live the life of a servant to their clients?  As an MLS do you encourage and incentivize every one in the company to do whatever it takes to help your subscribers be successful, addressing their needs quickly and completely? Do you proactively provide them tools, training and service that will go above and beyond what your members would even ask you for? Do you celebrate service excellence regularly?   Do you review areas of customer dissatisfaction and proactively train on ways to eliminate it for the future?   Do you have processes in place to objectively measure Customer Service Satisfaction? We just spent a week at the Omni Hotel in Rancho Mirage. They were living the dream of amazing customer service.  Every one on their staff was plugged into our needs. It was like they almost knew what we were thinking before we did!  We asked one of their staff about it and she showed us a card that every employee carries with them outlining their key […]