What Do Real Estate Customers Want From Their Call Experience?

Cold calling potential customers in real estate is quickly becoming an old and wasteful practice, discovered that only 5 – 10% of those contacted pick up the phone. To combat this trend, connecting to a fruitful market these days may require an intimate understanding of their needs.

The real estate market in Europe will see a difference in priority this year, “from real estate as a financial asset, to real estate as a product and more significantly, to real estate as a service,” according to Price Waterhouse.

With that in mind, considering the ‘industry as a service’ could mean disrupting the traditional model and aligning with customer service more than ever before, many firms are moving forward into the future by adapting this focus into emerging technologies. In some instances, even removing the need for a human agent entirely and creating a custom and seamless experience specific to a user.

Purple Bricks

London-based online platform Purple Bricks offers the full services of a regular brokerage for a flat fee of around £2300, allowing a lead to either sell, rent or buy a property from beginning to end, all online. To do this, Purplebricks offers features such as professional photography, a 3-D virtual tour, plus listing the property on all real estate websites.

This strategy goes hand in hand with the results of a recent survey conducted by CEB (Gartner) Global which discovered that 57.7% of customers want to do things themselves. Additionally, If they run into an issue that they are unable to solve and reach out to a company, 59% hate being transferred more than once by a customer service line.

A Change In Tactic

Cumulatively, it seems that what a real estate customer wants from their contact experience is a personal, yet fast process. The statistics support this, when real estate firms text their clients instead of calling them, they see 90% of those contacted both opening and responding to texts within 5 minutes.
The right software can also be a game changer, finding the right tech that can segment a database by customer demands and allow the agent (whether virtual or flesh and bone) to know precisely who they are talking to could put a dent in high call abandonment figures.

“In general, the real estate market is being disrupted by many people, and I think that many of us, as a company, we expect a lot. We are going after the same war,” PurpleBricks US competitor Reali CEO Amit Haller said to CNBC. “We want to change things for the consumer.”

Changing consumer experiences doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out the old model. It’s more about integrating new technology that can adapt to the needs of your buyer base. In this climate, what customers need more than anything is an easier route to attaining a property, with clear communication through the whole process.
Via: PWC Global, BoomTown!, CNBC, CEB(Gartner).

This Is An Online Marketplace’s Biggest Challenge

Digital marketplaces, both big and small, face a common problem – the chicken and egg quandary that comes with high demand from both buyers and sellers. Behemoths like eBay, Facebook and Fiverr each tackle their own challenges when it came to both inciting and maintaining activity on their forums. In fact, a few well-known brands even faked it till they made it.

“Services marketplaces put up fake projects to show activity. Steve Sammartino talks of how he seeded by essentially buying the initial items himself and renting them out (though he refers to it as “Inventing Demand”, when actually he was seeding supply,” writes Pipes to Platforms.

However, once the deception springs a significant audience of both buyers and sellers, segmenting and maintaining a smooth purchase process to meet revenue targets takes a certain level of finesse.

The problem with having too much of a good thing is that it is very easy to tip the scales, especially on the buyer side of the agreement. “Buyers who are unhappy with the product or service one of the sellers provides will typically direct their ire toward the marketplace, instead of the respective seller,” claims Entrepreneur.

Sometimes its the seller who causes the ripple, if a once-faithful seller leaves a marketplace, the vast buyer base they accumulated is then left aimless without a place to land.

No marketplace wants to leave their brand at the mercy of their seller’s reputation.

A Few Solutions

The common denominator in every instance usually involves balancing the ecosystem by taking a closer look at CX for both buyers and sellers. Automotive marketplace TrueCar saw a share price “nosedive from $24 in August 2014 to $4 in 2015,” due to an alienation of their sellers according to Yapstone. “Losing dealerships meant fewer choices for the consumer and higher prices for car buyers in the TrueCar network. Ultimately everyone in TrueCar’s marketplace ecosystem – buyer and seller – felt the burn.”

Fortunately, TrueCar learned from this slip-up and introduced changes to their seller relationships, including dealerships in their advertising. Their share price rose back to $21USD in 2017. 

Buyer-wise, CX is more multifaceted and involves building both trust and expectation. Both of these facets can be improved through reliable communication. If a buyer knows that their queries will be received and dealt with in a personal manner, it reflects their overall ethos which can lead to iron-clad loyalty.

Giant marketplace eBay found a way to fix this issue by igniting a 7-day call service for top buyers and sellers in 2009. According to AdAge, the brand saw an increased net promoter score and more activity from top buyers than ever.

Today, eBay has found a way to maintain expectations. “Companies like Alibaba and eBay are successful because they have been able to communicate to buyers that when a product or service defect exists, it is the factory or seller, not the platform, that is responsible,” writes Entrepreneur.

Overall, the chicken and egg problem will always be a bee in the bonnet of marketplace growth, but the evidence suggests there are innovative ways around it, sometimes all it requires is a bit of synergy.

Via: Yapstone, Pipes to PlatformsVentureBeat, AdAge, Entrepreneur.

IVR To AI: What CX Could Look Like In The Future

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates

Frankly, IVR or Interactive Voice Response has become inefficient, mostly due to a changing of the technological tides. “If a caller has a bad IVR experience, more than 80% won’t ever use that company again,” writes Conversational Receptionists. 

As customer’s standards evolve alongside technology, so does their impatience and lack of interest in waiting in call queues. Since companies are unable to sufficiently engage their callers while they wait, alternative technologies like cloud contact centre solutions are quickly replacing them. While IVR has been in the social consciousness since the seventies, can it provide what the modern customer now requires?

The answer here may entail a handover from legacy tech like IVRs to more adaptive AI and cloud systems, where there’s more potential for personalised experiences.

“Companies are finding that systems meant to last decades can’t sufficiently handle the pressures of a next-gen, digital business ecosystem. AI has opened the door to vast new CX capabilities, yet most companies struggle to realize the technology’s full potential because of a dependency on legacy hardware and hierarchical architecture,” says Avaya.

CX before Siri

Computer telephony integration hasn’t been in existence that long as it was only in the eighties that IVR hardware became affordable for most companies. In the early 1990s, CTI quickly replaced DTMF signaling. By the 2000s, it was common to expect a robotic direct, open-end or mixed response prompt at the other end of a customer service call.

Historically, one of the most prolific users of IVR has been banks, as they rely on the system for customer engagement within a 24/7 cycle. However, the wait on the phone while being blasted with music has become the bane of many banking customer’s experiences. This has led to banks enacting a move into bot-based interaction.

“For customers, chatbots are a faster, more hassle-free way to accomplish necessary banking tasks like getting account updates. For banks, chatbots reduce the number and length of customer service calls, leading to reduced customer care costs,” writes Keith Armstrong from Abe AI.


The future of CX

These days a successful customer experience is inextricably linked to increasing revenue for brands in the race for customer loyalty.

As IVRs lose their competitive edge, largely driven by their contribution to higher abandonment (more than 40%), alternatives have risen.

In a world where we speak to virtual assistants named Alex and Siri, customers and now brands expect the same level of dynamic tech elsewhere.

So what does the future look like for CX? Firstly, IVR is probably not going to make it. While it served its purpose and segmented the masses, it is unable to deliver the kind of personal touch that cloud platforms, with a bit of help from AI, can produce. These days customer data is as good as gold and brands need concise analytics to reach that quarterly goal. Features like multi-database analytics, trigger messaging and predictive routing all fall under the umbrella of cloud communication, but are far beyond the capabilities of the IVR.


As the artificial integrates into every moment of our lives, keeping up with the pack is necessary for brands to grow exponentially — no-one likes being the last one in the queue.

Via: Conversational Receptionists, Abe AI, Avaya, Forrester. 

People no longer want to be marketed to. They want to talk instead.

Your marketing technology stack increases in complexity as you seek effectiveness and scale, but how good is your communications stack?
Big, brash advertising campaigns won’t be as potent as talking directly to your customer this year.
An interesting trend was highlighted in the latest of Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer surveys.
The global PR giant confirmed last week what many of us could have guessed. The survey of 33,000 people across 28 countries revealed the lowest levels of trust on record across all institutions including business.
Within the data was a new observation about the way consumers want to speak to businesses; a shift Edelman called ‘Talk With, Not At’.
Presented with ways of receiving information from businesses and asked which they were more likely to believe, respondents squarely plumped for a conversation with a ‘spontaneous speaker’ over a ‘rehearsed speaker’.
Participants also said they were more likely to believe someone citing ‘personal experience’ over ‘data’, and said they perceived a company’s social media to be more truthful than its advertising.
Consumers’ bullshit radars start tingling at the merest hint of a big, promotional advertising campaign that can often be perceived as brash, out of touch or merely inauthentic whitewash. People today simply don’t want to feel they are being marketed to.
They do still want to buy though. They want to browse and maybe engage and ask a couple of questions. They want to get a deal. They want to be treated as an individual and they want to buy from people they trust. So they want a conversation. They want information but are wary of beginning an overlong and frustrating inquiry with you that may see them cast into an unwanted conversation with the wrong person in the wrong department.

The average website converts two out of every hundred visitors. What if you found an easy way of turning those two conversions into four?

It’s worth noting here that I’m not using the word ‘conversation’ in the same way as I might have done when I was a marketing journalist getting excited about the emergence of social media in the early 2000s. I’m talking about an actual telephone conversation.

Consider this: Only two out of every 100 online visitors convert through the average website. The rest leave without engaging in any way. The chances are a sizable chunk of those that left without making themselves visible wanted to ask you a question. In fact, our data at Freespee shows that six visitors from that same hundred try to call the company behind the website with an enquiry.
Why do they call? According to a study commissioned by Google and Ipsos these people are often driven to call because there is not enough information on the website. Other times there is something specific they want to do that can’t be done on the website. According to the study 57% of callers pick up the phone specifically because ‘they want to talk to a human’.
Whatever the reason, these people are showing clear intent to convert – they arrived at a website and are now taking time out of their busy day to call. They are itching to buy and fiddling with their credit cards as they do so.
Again, according to our own data at Freespee, 40% of these ‘nearly customers’ hang up and move on before they get through to a real person because of a poor customer experience. Typically they’ve been faced with a clunky interactive voice response system: ‘Press 1 for…, press 2 for…’ and so on.
They disappear, these ready-to-buy customers that could have doubled or tripled your online revenue overnight, forever to remain invisible to you if you have no way to see and track them. And they’re not coming back.
The marketing technology stack is increasing in complexity for good reason as companies chase greater effectiveness and scale but how good is your communications stack? How embedded are your technologies and processes that allow you to talk to real customers and get a deal done quickly on their terms?
Buying and selling have both always been about people. That remains the case. People buy from people they trust. As you put the finishing touches to your big ideas and campaigns for the year to come, how much focus are you putting on finding ways to fielding real conversations with your prospects and customers?
What if you’re missing a trick? What if you could do something easy to turn those two conversions in every 100 into four? What if, just by finding ways to have a conversation with those that want to talk you could turn it into six?
What if we really started to listen to our customers? And just by listening to them, they became less frustrated, more trusting and far more responsive? What if we were able to drive superlative customer experience simply by having a conversation directly with our customers? Anytime, anyhow, any subject?
What then?

The Quiet Swedish Company Whose Software You Probably Already Use

This is a translation of an interview with Carl Holmquist, Freespee co-founder & CEO, published by Mimi Dilling from DI Digital on 1st January, 2017
“We got off to a false start at the beginning”, Carl Holmquist, CEO and co-founder of Freespee
When Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren founded communications platform Freespee six years ago they initially met with considerable resistance. Now the company is attracting venture capital and major customers.
An ‘old’ approach to web-based customer communications saw online customers managing their own buying process with little interaction with the vendor. Freespee founders Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren saw an opportunity to make it easier for brands and consumers to communicate and drive superlative customer experience.
“We were hitting our heads against a brick wall when we started talking about this six years ago,” says Freespee’s CEO Carl Holmquist. “Back then, everyone thought the Internet was self-service, but that’s simply not true. Customers are just as loyal to online stores as they are to physical stores; the only difference is that if companies are unable to provide a good customer experience online, it’s very easy for the customer to take their business elsewhere.”
Freespee has flown somewhat under the radar so far and has even been described as an obscure Swedish company . Few people know who the founders are, despite the fact they have acquired a huge sum of SEK 143 million in venture capital. This means it is more than likely that online shoppers will have encountered their software.
Freespee’s technology sits on top of the sales systems and customer systems of client companies, handling communication between them and their customers. One of its functions is to help companies answer their customers’ queries through platforms such as live chat, email and over the phone.
Read this article (in Swedish only) for more information: Swedish Freespee brings in SEK 90 million – “We are anonymous” 
“It’s like when you’re waiting for the train and it turns out to be running late,” says Holmquist. If the train operator doesn’t let you know, you get really irritated. The train might arrive at any time, which means you can’t leave the platform. But if you’re told that it’ll be leaving in half an hour, you can go and buy a coffee or something while you’re waiting,” says Carl Holmquist.
Last autumn, the Uppsala based company obtained a total of SEK 90 million from French venture capital firm Ventech and from their current owners SunstoneCapital (NTL) and Inventure (NTL). It also landed a host of major customers, such as JLLeBayBNP ParibasLloydsBank, the Marriott hotel chain and car giant FiatChrysler.
“And whether you’re a customer waiting for a train, sitting in a telephone queue or waiting for a response to a live chat, the communication about what to expect is pivotal to a customer’s experience,” continues Carl Holmquist.
“It’s like when you decide to call up a company. Rather than the website telling you that there’s a seven minute wait, you call them and make your way through the voice prompts before being told how long you have to wait. Why didn’t they just say so straight away, you can’t help wondering. This is something that could ruin a customer’s experience.”
“The problem here is not that the company doesn’t want to talk to you. They love talking to customers. As long as they’re talking to you, they’ve won because they’ve created a customer relationship.”
According to Carl Holmquist, 98% of visitors to a company’s website leave without buying anything. This is a problem that companies are only just realising exists and want to address; assistance from Freespee is just one of the ways they are trying to deal with the issue. Thanks to this trend, the company has grown so much that it now employs 40 staff and has offices in London, Barcelona, Paris and Cologne. But Freespee was not an obvious success from the outset.
“We got off to a bit of a false start at the beginning. We thought we could solve all the problems associated with communication between our customers and their online visitors. But such problems can vary hugely from organisation to organisation, and that’s where we dropped the ball. Fortunately, we were able to remedy this when our investor Sunstone came on board in 2012.”
Aided by this autumn’s capital injection, the company will continue to develop its software by exploring artificial intelligence-based features. Freespee is also considering expanding into the United States to get closer to US customers who are already using the company’s service on the European market.
“We now know exactly what we are doing and things are really starting to take off. We’re at the heart of the ecosystem for enabling new consumer behaviours,”declares Carl Holmquist.
The original article in Swedish can be found here:

Topics: Customer Experienceinterviewceo

Why Your Customer Engagement Must Become ‘More Human’ In 2017

Successful digital transformation starts with the basics – better conversations with your customers.

I have one business prediction for 2017. Actually it’s less of a prediction and more of an opportunity.

Businesses that thrive this year will have strategies to ensure their customer engagement becomes more ‘human’.
Technology continues to drive huge impact on the ways in which we deliver great customer experience but cloud software still can’t pick up on the specific mood of a customer.
Consumers expect you to deal with them as individuals with distinct needs. For complex or big-ticket purchases they have questions that they want answered before they’re prepared to reach for their credit card. They want to know that you’re listening and treating their questions personally and as a priority.
Technology entirely unsynced from a human connection between customer and vendor will only do half the job. And doing things by halves – delivering bang-average, industry standard experiences where algorithms allow you to get it ‘almost right’ – will be the thing that renders many brands irrelevant.
Consider three separate but related statistics that tell a scary story for consumer-facing businesses.
According to a recent study by West Unified Communications poor customer experience in the UK alone costs businesses £234bn a year.
Meanwhile, Accenture contends that 66% of consumers have recently switched brands due to bad customer service. More alarming perhaps is that of that 66%, more than 80% of respondents said there was something simple their original vendor could have done to prevent them from switching.
Here’s the third statistic: the Havas Meaningful Brands survey spoke to 300,000 consumers in 34 countries in 2015 and reported that people wouldn’t care if 74% of all brands disappeared for good tomorrow.
In other words, no business has a God-given right to survive.
What’s more, if your customers, each of whom sees themselves in a segment of one according to Trendwatching’s Five Trends For 2017, can’t see you working up a sweat to perfect their personalised experience, they’re willing to put you out of business.
It’s worrying. Especially as, and this is purely my contention, most businesses haven’t defined for themselves what really good customer experience really looks like.
Many businesses who think they do know often end up finding that they haven’t been ambitious enough in defining it. Either that or businesses make the mistake of standing still while they try to figure out who should own customer experience internally and how best to execute it.
Meanwhile, customer expectations do anything but stand still. They evolve. Your customers continuously judge you against their growing expectations for what is possible. That means whatever experience you’re delivering today probably won’t be acceptable tomorrow.
All this is costing you countless revenue. If you’re anything like the industry average, 98% of your online customers leave your website without doing anything. Each one of them is a potential sale.
Why are they leaving? Why did they come to your website in the first place? What did they want to see and why didn’t they stop long enough to engage with you? Do you know?
Maybe you just didn’t make it easy enough for them to ask their particular question via your website. That question may have opened up a conversation that would have turned a visitor into your customer.
Few things are more powerful in helping chart the future of a business in such uncertain times than hearing a customer’s question.
Few things are more powerful in driving customer satisfaction than being able to respond to that question in a timely and relevant manner.
As the industry explores better customer experience there is plenty of talk about customer-centricity. Being customer-centric means building your entire business around what is best for each customer.
Most companies instead build their business processes around delivering their product as cost-effectively as possible while driving shareholder returns. Similarly their customer experience is moulded within a framework that their teams and departments find convenient to deliver.
They figure out their strategy and use technology to deliver it. This algorithm-driven customer experience is good rather than great. Such a shortfall will be enough to kill you in 2017. Consumers won’t stand for good when they’ve experienced great elsewhere.
The opportunity we all have in the coming 12 months is to make our customer experience delivery instinctive, intuitive, flexible and personal.
Successful businesses will connect with customers. Context will be everything. They’ll match each of their customer’s curiosity, commitment and concern for finding them the best deal and correcting any mistakes. In short, the best of customer experience in 2017 will feel human.
In the marketing industry we’ve spent much of the recent past years talking about digital transformation. Defining it is hard. Executing it is much, much harder.
If you don’t know where to start with your digital transformation programme then simplify.
Begin with your customers.
Go back to basics. Have more and better conversations with them. Get human.