The Future of Agent Technology: Online Client Collaboration?

by Matt Cohen

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Online agent-client collaboration, originating inside the MLS, has mostly been stalled since 1998. In that year, MLS systems started providing an area for clients to view agent-saved searches and suggested listings, and to provide listing ratings back to the agent. Since that time, some systems have added minor enhancements, such as built-in messaging and the capability for agents to share documents with the client.

But mostly, it’s been the same story: buyers interacting with agents around listings. CRM software, outside the MLS, has emerged to help clients manage their client relationships. However, CRM has largely been unintegrated with MLS data, and certainly hasn’t been integrated with all the tools agents use every day inside the MLS. For the past few years, I’ve been advocating for technology providers to expand buy-side collaboration, and to add something for the people writing the checks that drive everything – the sellers. Of course, these vendors are all customer driven – so it’s up to the brokers and agents to drive innovation.

Collaborating With Buyers

When it comes to collaborating with buyers, agents certainly need to interact online as they do today around listings. But they also need a more robust search and search result content – otherwise, it drives the client back to the advertising portals. We need content such as neighborhood info, school info, public records info and Walk Score. We need enhancements such as neighborhood and lifestyle search. Relevant market trends and statistics for the client search areas (days on market, inventory, list to sell price ratios, etc.) would also be compelling content.

Messaging is also important. We need proper alerting options, including email, text message and phone — all are key to help ensure agents provide timely response to questions. I’m all for the collaboration portal offering a way for agents to provide documents to their clients, but those documents need to be more collaborative than they are in many systems today.

For example, financial worksheets need to be interactive and provide alerts in both agent and client directions when a new version is created by “cloning” an old version for editing. Open house visit planning, note-taking and feedback should either be built-in or deeply integrated. There’s so much more – this is just a starting point of how agents and buyers could be collaborating. In addition, all of this needs to be mobile friendly.

There could be a reverse prospecting tool with “what if” capabilities – allowing the agent and seller to explore what happens if improvements are made or the price is changed. There can be an interactive marketing plan and materials, including the location of the listing on advertising portals and metrics for advertising effectiveness. One thing I definitely would love to see is the provision of CMAs, AVMs, and associated financial worksheets that allow for easy change and new versions over time as the market and comps change over the life of the listing.

Sellers should also receive alerts as competitive properties come on the market. Again, everything the seller needs to know and all of the service the agent provides the seller needs to be accessible from one client collaboration portal.

For both buyer and seller collaboration portals, the site needs to be mobile friendly (of course!). Also, agents should be able to efficiently note in the system that they executed a specific task for a client. Then, later, the agent would be able to point to the created “timeline” and show the client all the work they were doing for them. That would help clients understand the value the agent provided, and justify things like renewing a listing agreement and, of course, the commission.



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