Tech Enabled Business Processes or People?

Great article is attached authored by my former client and friend, Pete Flint.  Pete gets it because since day one, he has been focused on applying tech toward the objective of improving the consumer experience.

Now for some observations about the future of applied tech and our industry.

One of the most significant debates set-up by Gary Keller at Inman Connect SF this year was this one.

Will the future of real estate be determined by the agent enabled by tech or tech enabling the agent?

While these two instances sound alike, they are very different.  One assumes the agent, and the ways they do things, will be enabled by tech and the others suggests the tech will lead in new ways to do things and the agent will be added into the equation.  Of course, Gary asserted that it was the agents that would decide the tech to use and that they would prevail in doing so which, understanding his customer is the agent, was predictable.  But he was not alone in making this declaration.

Huge banners displayed by Compass at the conference asserted the exact same thing.  They read, “the agent is the future of real estate.”

So what do I think about all this?  I have this to offer you for consideration.

I was in New York City in September.  Due to airport construction, I decided to avoid trying to get the the ride share pick-up location and took a cab with a friend.  If you have ever taken a ride in a cab, you will relate to what I am about the describe.  I rode in a cramped, old, vehicle with sticky rubber floors, driven by a driver that could hardly speak English and who had rigged a dryer hose that extended from an AC vent in the driver’s compartment over the front seat and was taped to the pass through in the dirty plastic window that separated me from the driver.  Truth.

The driver was comfortable - cool and had great leg room - but the comfort of the passengers who were paying for the ride was at best an afterthought.  And ironically, in the cab was an ad that informed me that I could use the cab company’s new “cab app" to order more rides like this one while staying in the City.  

Really?

This was the best analogy I could have imagined to illustrate what we are faced with today in our industry.  What I had experienced was the “cab enabled with tech.”  Imagine what I thought as I rode in that cab to the hotel.  Why in the world would anyone waste their time making this horrible consumer experience more readily available using new tech?

And then there is this “tech enabled transportation” model.

So along came Uber and Lyft.  Those companies defined a new experience enabled by tech and then offered it only to those drivers that agreed to participate under their rules.  How could the cab industry have missed the glaring fact that the cab experience sucked and served as the very reason Uber and Lyft succeeded so quickly?  Uber and Lyft used tech to enable a greatly improved consumer experience.  They did not use tech to automate an exisitng bad one.

So now back to real estate.

If we believe for even a minute that what the random, independent agents in this business are doing should simply be automated, we have all missed the point.  Completely.

Adding consistency and efficiencies to a random experience is counter productive and will not “move the needle” in terms of improving the consumer experience.  And that is a fact.
So what will?

Tech enabled formatted real estate business processes that can be made more efficient, consistent and predictable will lead the way.  And the industry participants will ultimately serve to simply fill the necessary gaps.  Just like what Opendoor has announced this week.  They are “inviting the industry” to co-list properties that they have procured and are now marketing within the controls of a very controlled business process environment.

You can bet that Opendoor will lead the way with how they market those properties for sale - and the tech they intend to integrate into that process - every single time.

"In a real sense, Opendoor is the tile and the industry is now the grout.”  They simply won the consumer’s business by enabling the consumer with an offer that allowed the consumer to avoid the "root canal real estate experience" offered by the brokerage industry.  And once they control the asset - the property - they can extend that control of the experience to the listing side of the transaction,.

Scary?  Not if you are the consumer.  But certainly scary if you own a brokerage firm that intends to continue to simply throw tech at the random experiences being offered up to the consumer by 1.3 million independent agents.  The same agents that are being told that they will continue to control the future of the business.

So the decision is now yours.  Are you willing to bet your company’s future on a consumer experience that is designed by your agents and enabled with tech “only as needed” by those agents?  Or should you be designing a new experience powered by tech-enabled, formatted processes that define a new experience that is delivered by only those agents who agree to play by your rules?

If nothing "kept you awake a night" before, that one question surely should tonight.

Have a great day.