Organisations are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to assist in improved and efficient business decisions, and provide timely and relevant customer support. This new era of natural language technology has ushered in the use of ‘chatbots’ or ‘bots’ for businesses. Post the introduction of Facebook’s chatbots and their efficiency, they have been looked upon as a game changer in the real estate industry too. These ‘bots’ are used as customer service interface because they operate as user interactive displays conversing with clients in real-time.
While ‘bots’ are popular and a valuable tool in the residential real estate sector, they are going on to become an equally important asset in the commercial real estate sector too.
Matt Sena from ‘Franchise Help’ reports that there were around 35,000 companies operating in the commercial brokerage and management field, generating $35 billion in revenue in 2015; and around 210,000 companies generating around $200 billion in the residential brokerage and management field in the U.S. He adds that about 30% of the industry’s total revenue comes from 50 large companies.
The real estate industry is usually bombarded with queries, and on its feet all the time handling customer queries. When queries at one time for an agent became increasingly tedious, a purposeful change was required. Introduction of ‘bots’ was an ideal solution. Acquiring new leads and turning them into clients; informing sellers on a recurrent basis; attending to new visitors by promptly and confidently searching homes; and attending to many customers simultaneously can be handled by ‘bots’, the automated office personnel. ‘Bots’ respond to inquiries arising out of mass mailing/internet ads or media ads too. While they remain introductory tools to aid real estate transactions, they have definitely eased the work of an RE agent.
Apart from answering queries on a one-on-one basis, ‘bots’ tend to gain customers’ trust and loyalty and build relationships leading to reduced errors, thereby improving the overall customer experience. Not only do they save time, they seem human and are available for answering queries over messaging applications 24/7.
‘Bots’ save costs too. Installing a phone system with many features may cost thousands of dollars, along with the need for a resource to man the desk; a ‘bot’ on the other hand usually is the first point of contact on a website, to handle initial queries and assist with the requirement.
It simply works like this: A user lands on a web page. An automatic chat box opens where a question is asked, inviting interaction. Once the user replies, the ‘bot’ furthers the conversation. During this entire interaction phase, the ‘bot’ collects the user’s information, with the possibility of turning him into a client.
Profile of the client is created, giving the real estate agent enough information about the client before even having met him or her. Also, from the customer’s point of view, the questions posed are immediately answered by this device.
Again, it saves the agent’s time as ‘bots’ evaluate the potential of a client and the agent can concentrate on those leads that are serious.
Enhanced response rates
Besides searching and suggesting customers with property options in a specific area, ‘bots’ can also aid them with other investment options, types of houses and their respective prices, further narrowing their search to ultimately finding their specific home or space for office. Further, ‘bots’ can also arrange for a property tour and get an agent to meet the client at a specified time.
Instantaneous customer services
‘Bots’ also tend to increase sales, as they are the first point of contact on websites, social profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, listing signs etc., leading to higher conversion ratios. They are interesting to interact with as they greet every buyer or seller visiting the website and provide information required immediately. They aid in setting up alerts to keep one reminded of the brand; and take messages as per requirements.
Companies are working towards creating their own, customised ‘bots’ and bringing about an effective change in their business. It is time the real estate industry uses them to maximum advantage.
(The author is CEO-Asia Pacific of Vestian, a workplace solutions firm)