Century 21 Real Estate: Customer Experience with Data and Analytics (CXOtalk #264)

Century 21 Real Estate: Customer Experience with Data and Analytics (CXOtalk #264)


Real estate, it is changing! Today, on Episode #264 of CxOTalk, we are
speaking with Nick Bailey, who is the CEO of Century 21. Hey, Nick. How are you? Thank you so much for taking the time to be
here today. Thanks, Michael. Glad to be here. Appreciate it. Nick, tell us about Century 21. Well, you said it best. An iconic brand around the globe, this is
an organization that has been a world leader in real estate, spanning nearly 80 countries,
nearly 7,500 locations, and 115,000 sales professionals worldwide that are helping buyers
and sellers every single day. This is an organization that, over its 46
years in existence, has grown to [be] know [as] the best brand between buyers and sellers
on the entire planet. You’re CEO of Century 21. Maybe it’s an obvious question, but what does
that mean? What do you do? [Laughter]
[Laughter] I like the question. Yeah, what do I do? Well, first and foremost, as a leader in the
real estate franchise and organization within the industry, it’s all about helping entrepreneurs
grow their business. That comes in two ways. One is we help individuals that want to start
their own real estate business and their own office. That’s about attracting real estate professionals. My main job is to help those entrepreneurs
grow their business. Then the second part of my job is to help
real estate professionals capture buyers and sellers, and help them with the all American
dream of owning real estate. Now, real estate is undergoing tremendous
change. Maybe you can set the stage for us by describing
what’s going on in the market that’s shaping real estate today. There is a lot of talk about what’s changing
in real estate. I think it comes down to one thing, which
is, we are in a consumer-driven movement. What I mean by that, it’s not just specific
to real estate, but it’s also just how consumers are engaging with products and services. We can point to many companies that have been
at the forefront of this movement, companies like Amazon, like Netflix, like Uber. Via the mediums of technology, consumers are
able to make things easier, faster, or take anxiety out of the process. How that translates to real estate today is,
the home search process is very popular. People jump online. They jump on their mobile device looking for
property, dreaming about property in certain vacation areas, and they get very involved. Real estate is a hot topic. Look at television shows about remodeling
your home, or should I stay in it or buy something else? It’s just something that’s become at the forefront
of consumers and excitement. With that, though, comes a great deal of opportunity,
which is, if anyone has bought or sold real estate lately, they know that the home search
part of it can be fun and exciting. But as soon as you go into the next steps
of the home shopping and going into actually purchasing a property, the process of how
you go from purchasing that property to moving into it has a lot of room to be improved. Unfortunately, you ask many people that have
bought a home recently if they’d like to do it again soon and, generally, they say no
because the process to get there is so complex. That’s where having a real estate professional
to help with that process is crucial. I saw a recent study that said there are,
on average, 181 steps from the time you start looking for a property to moving in. That creates a lot of complexity, and so we
have to help solve for that. Consumers are demanding better experiences
with lower levels of anxiety, and we have the opportunity, as an organization and as
a brand, to help make that process better. The consumer experience dimension, can we
say that’s your special sauce, or is that your focus? How would you characterize that? As you mentioned, with a lot of change that’s
going on in the industry from what does home search mean, how do consumers engage with
their real estate professional, and how do all those components come together, here’s
what I know. The real estate professional is still the
most important part of a real estate transaction for someone wanting to buy or sell. There is no level of data or analytics that
can do the job of what a knowledgeable professional can do to help someone make what is generally
the biggest financial decision of their life. It’s still very emotional. If you look at all the data and analytics
behind price depreciation and comparables within a neighborhood, still you walk into
a home and it’s a very emotional process of, do I want to live here; do I want to raise
my family here? Here’s where the memories and the holidays
take place. There’s a balance between that emotional need
and then the financial analytical side. When we look at it as an organization, we
have to balance both of them, which we’re dealing, at Century 21, with entrepreneurs
that want to build their business and help people buy and sell. We’re also dealing with consumers that are
buying and selling and saying, “I am demanding a better process.” We have to, as leaders, be able to bring those
two constituents together to create a better result for both. Popularly, this notion of data and just being
able to cut out the middleman seems to be very important. Where does that fit into the scheme of things? Let’s start with this. When you talk about cutting out the middleman,
I’m going to translate that as maybe thinking cutting out the agent. [Laughter] If that’s a fair assessment. [Laughter]
You’ll look. Just two weeks ago there was data released
that for sale by owners are at the lowest level that they’ve ever been in history. They keep declining. The question is, why? One is because the transaction continues to
get complex, more complex than it ever has been. You look at what’s happened with financing. We’re approaching the ten-year anniversary
of the decline that we started to see in 2007. As a result of that, financing created more
regulation, more complexity for the average homebuyer, and they need someone to help navigate
it. It’s not just about data. It’s about knowing how to go into the property,
what’s happening with the neighborhood. An agent knowing that, for example, the city
council just approved that there are train tracks that, next year, are going to be going
through the backyard. There’s that community type of knowledge that
a certain level of data will never be able to provide to someone that’s making a huge,
huge investment. Here’s where data can be really good, though,
is in the education process. Especially for first-time homebuyers, you
look at 47% of transactions last year were done by first-time homebuyers. Of that, 53% of them were under the age of
35. They are using online data and analytics to
help educate themselves on what they should be looking for in the process. But, once you go into the actual process of
buying, there are so many areas where the transaction can go wrong, from financing,
the appraisal, the inspection, [and] all those negotiation pieces that have nothing to do
with data, but have everything to do with getting to the closing table. The issue then from your perspective is the
appropriate use of that data, knowing where to plug that data into the process, that complicated
process you were describing, and simplifying the process with that data, I suppose. Yeah, and I would say there are two things
from that comment. One is, here’s where data can be so useful,
like I mentioned, the education process and the home search process. Where do I want to live? Where does my family need to be? What’s happening in the neighborhood with
pricing on homes? Are the values going up? Are they going down? Are they staying the same? Creating that level of data, of empowering
people to be able to see what’s on the market, see what’s not on the market, and do their
homework on certain neighborhoods. I’m doing this myself right now. I happen to be going through a relocation,
and so I’m using an immense amount of data in looking at neighborhoods and comparables
on properties to find exactly the right area. At the same time, when I visit the area that
I’m looking to move, my agent is so critical of how he’s helping create lifestyle for my
family. My wife is a huge outdoor enthusiast, and
I have young children, and so schools, sports, and community is really important. The data doesn’t show that. That’s where I think that you can couple data
in your home search process for what house, what neighborhood, what’s right for the financial
side of it, what do I qualify for? Then you combine that with the community knowledge
of a professional to figure out lifestyle of where you want to live. The role of a professional then is to help
aggregate that data, but combine it with an understanding of your emotional and psychological
needs, family needs and so forth. That’s right. They have to know the needs. I’ll give you a great example. When I called and interviewed my agent, I
said I was moving from Colorado to New Jersey. His first assessment was, “Do you happen to
be outdoorsy?” I said, “Interesting you mention that. My wife rides her road bike 60 to 80 miles
a day in good weather, my boys love to ski, and we play golf.” He was translating this to, “Okay, we need
to find you access to outdoor activities. He asked if we had ever lived on the East
Coast, do we have family friends [there]? We said no. He immediately said, “We have to find you
a community where you can meet people.” Those are all those components of what’s really
important for my family for lifestyle that the data can’t complete. I think the same holds true for every single
person looking to buy a home. Where do I want to live? Where am I going to feel comfortable raising
my family? And, does it fit my lifestyle? That’s where, to me, the agent is so crucial
in the real estate transaction. How do you plot a course considering the technology,
considering the data, considering all of these things? What are the steps that you need to take as
you plot the course for Century 21 going forward into the further reaches of the 21st Century? Love that question. That you for that. It comes, in my mind, in two buckets. One is serving consumers, buyers and sellers,
and the other bucket is serving real estate professionals. As the leader of the Century 21 organization,
we have to figure out, from a technology perspective, how to satisfy both of those constituents. When you look at the consumer side of it,
we just talked moments ago about how they want to see properties online. They want to see big, beautiful photos. They want to see every type of information
they can on as many properties as they can. We’re in a low inventory market nationwide,
and so the need for looking at accurate data quickly from a consumer perspective is really
important. What’s new on the market? What does it look like? Is it in the neighborhood I’m looking? From a technology perspective, we want to
make sure that we’re serving up the absolute best, most timely information about real estate
listings to consumers as we can. That will help create engagement with our
system. Then when you look over on the other side
of it, the other bucket that I mentioned, which is for real estate professionals, our
job is to help them be productive and simplify their life. We know that, with consumers and agents alike,
mobile is where everyone is. Very few people are sitting behind a desktop,
fewer and fewer people all the time sitting behind a desk doing searches and spending
time. They are driven through their mobile device
of their interactions. From a technology platform, what I want to
see within our organization is to create a mobile-first platform that helps connect buyers
and sellers with our real estate professionals and helps them take their buyers and sellers
from search to close because that process can be rocky. If we can make that process easy for our agents,
which in turn makes it easy and transparent for consumers, that to me is a winning formula. Nick, how do you transform the organization
to adopt these changes that you’re describing? First off, I mean the beautiful part, I told
you the magnitude of this organization globally, which we have an incredible foundation with
the number of associates, the number of offices, the number of transactions and the buyers
and sellers that we help on a regular basis. Awesome foundation to catapult some of these
initiatives, these forward-thinking initiatives from. At the same time, whenever you have a large
organization at scale like this, any type of innovation that comes to market, it takes
a lot of energy to get the entire system to adopt and move. That’s just the responsibility that we have
as an organization. If we’re making the right decisions for our
agents, and we’re making the right decisions for consumers, in making this process of buying
and selling real estate easier, then they’ll be quick to adopt. If we’re serving up exactly the right things,
they will be coming and saying, “We’re going to carry the load of adoption for you.” If we don’t, and we miss that mark, then it
is very difficult to turn. But, I would rather start with the foundation
and the global presence that we have as an organization than start from scratch with
no one and no countries, no transactions. Startups are very difficult. We don’t have that challenge. We just have the challenge of saying, “We
have a 46-year-old killer organization. How do we now take 46 years of brand equity
and make it relevant to the future and for the next generation? We can do that. How do you do that? As you said, it’s an enormous, large organization. How do you take that brand equity and use
it as the energy to bring forth that innovation and move that entire organization? It seems like a big challenge to do that for
any company. We have a big advantage. What that advantage is, is having when I talked
about nearly 7,500 locations. Those are independently owned and operated
locations, which means we have nearly 7,500 entrepreneurs out there that have partnered
with us that have said, “We want to partner and be part of that innovation with you.” It’s not as if we’re looking at an organization
of, say, 115,000 employees that you’re trying to steer a ship, but you have business owners
that have a vested interest in their success as a business owner and have partnered with
us. Because of that inherent nature of the relationship,
they are saying be leaders, be innovative, provide it to us, and we will be super excited
to take it to market. When you have that many entrepreneurs on the
ground level and on the forefront saying, “We’re here to carry that load for you,” it
does make it a lot easier to create a very quick initiative or momentum on innovation. We have some good questions from Twitter. Bob Latigona–and I hope I pronounced his
name correctly–says, “It’s time to change your image from your grandfather’s real estate
company to a new, updated image. What’s the plan?” I hear that a lot. This also comes in two buckets. Thanks for the question, Bob. Consumers, when it comes to the Century 21
brand, they love it; they know it; they trust it. It always ranks highest in every survey of
brand name awareness in real estate. The terms are synonymous. When you think real estate, people think Century
21. When they think Century 21, they think real
estate. That’s great for consumers. We also know and are not naïve to the fact
that, within the industry, when you take an organization and a brand that’s been around
for 46 years, we have to blow the dust off of it. What I mean by that is we have to reinvest
in a complete overhaul of brand image within the industry. We started that work this summer. Even before I came onboard, the team started
working on it, and we are moving at an incredible pace on this. What does that mean, brand image? Let me give you an example. I think Apple is a great example that I think
a lot of consumers can relate to. I remember in elementary school going in on
the Apple IIe, and you had to swipe your hand under the keyboard so you didn’t shock the
system. As they evolved, if you think of them today,
think of when you see a commercial; when you visit their website; when you receive one
of their products, what the packaging looks like; when you walk through the mall and you
see what one of their stores looks like. There’s a cohesive nature about their brand
image that has a very innovative, forward-thinking feel. We can do the exact same thing with our brand,
which is, what are consumers demanding and wanting and, at the same time, what are agents
demanding and wanting? We’ve already received that feedback, so now
it’s up to us to deliver on it. From everything we do, from consumer-facing
marketing, from collateral and tools and services that we provide to our agents, from our actual
image, from our logo, for example, all of that we can work on and evolve it to make
sure that it looks like today and in the future. That work is well underway, and we have a
very aggressive timeline, early next year, for starting to bring this to light not only
in the industry, but for consumers as well. That is the reason I’m here with this position
that I recently accepted and why I’m most excited about the organization because, essentially,
we’re making the Century 21 brand the very first challenger brand in the real estate
space. A challenger brand is all about the relentless
pursuit of innovation and forward thinking. In fact, we already have a new mission statement. It is to defy mediocrity and create extraordinary
experiences because–let’s face it–as long as the National Association of Realtors, which
is our membership system, is all about numbers, we have low barriers of entry to getting a
real estate license. We will always have this huge spectrum of
people that dabble in real estate, and we also have the other spectrum of wicked, amazing
professionals that completely raise the bar. That’s just what we’re dealing with in our
industry is everything in between. We as an organization say we have to be innovative,
be the place that people want to be. We have to show it, demonstrate it, and make
sure to bring all of this to life and not settle for anything less. That’s the new charge of the Century 21 system. When you couple that mission with what will
be, months away, the new look and feel of the organization, I think it’s going to be
a powerhouse. Nick, you’ve just been talking about innovation
and brand image, ensuring those two match up. We have a bunch of other questions from Twitter,
and here’s an interesting one from … (indiscernible, 00:19:43) account, which is asking, “How does
Century 21 deal with digital platforms like Zillow, with A.I., artificial intelligence,
big data, and all of that?” You alluded to that earlier, but maybe if
you can touch on that more directly. Sure. Yeah. I’m glad you asked that Zillow question because,
prior to coming to this role, I actually spent some time at Zillow. A wonderful company, and I think that they’ve
done amazing things for the consumer experience within home search. Here’s what I know. You’re using Zillow as an example. There are several other companies that do
something similar. They have done a great job in looking at what
are consumers wanting in their home search process. They’ve done a great deal of work in this
home search area. As soon as homebuyers and sellers move into,
say, home shopping to close, which is the main part of a transaction, that’s where the
shift happens. And so, they are a great example of consumers
demanding; saying, “I want insight. I want information, more that’s readily available
to me about neighborhoods, housing, prices, and lending.” Zillow has served that up to the consumers. Now, still, the consumer then goes and actually
starts the home shopping process. Once they go under contract, it’s almost as
if we shut the lights out on the consumer. Then they have to work with their agent. Is the appraisal done? Did I get approved on a loan? Do we have inspection issues? There’s this constant back and forth that
creates a lot of anxiety for a homebuyer. That’s where we still have to solve for. Now, in terms of big data, there are so many
things that can be done when you look at, for example, some of our technology today
at Century 21. We are able to allow an agent to work with
their sphere of influence. If their sphere, if their buyers start to
go online, are looking at properties, and start to engage in that process, our technology
alerts our agents to say, “Hey, one of your clients is looking at real estate and may
want to get involved with you.” We try to connect those dots. I think, moving forward, though, there’s going
to be a lot of interesting dynamics around predictive analytics for home sellers. Look around a neighborhood. Can we use technology and big data to figure
out who is going to list their home for sale, say, in the next six months? I think we’re going to hear a lot more about
that. We’re already engaging with a company to look
at what those opportunities are because, how great would it be for our real estate agents
to be able to serve up, via technology, some data of showing people that may have a need
to move so that we can be right there to help them through that process. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that
on the seller side, but we absolutely can use data to help consumers and agents alike. Okay. We have a bunch of questions from Twitter. Let’s jump into those. Again, I apologize for my audio. Fortunately, everybody is here to hear Nick,
and so his audio is good. Arsalan Khan, on the subject of agents, makes
the comment that agents come with biases like everybody else. How do you tackle those biases in the home
advisory phase that you described earlier? In terms of biases, did they give a specific
example? How does the agent ensure that the buyer is
getting what they want as opposed to the agent projecting their emotions onto the type of
potential purchase? Sure. Let me answer this kind of from a broad level,
which is, right now what we’re dealing with within the industry and consumers is somewhat
of a clash. Here’s what I mean by that. When you rewind the clock even 20 years ago
within the real estate industry, agents had full control of all of the data. When I say data, it was what homes are for
sale; where are they? That was driven through even hard copies of
books, MLS books. It was a scenario where you’d invite a consumer
in, and the only avenue of figuring out detailed information on what’s for sale in the market
was via the agent. You still have a number of agents within the
industry that were so used to their value proposition being a conduit or someone that
delivers the data that now all of a sudden we’ve moved way past that. The data conversation, to me, we’re on the
back nine. All of that information is public. It’s out there. You can find it. It’s easy. Now it’s about creating value of an exceptional
experience, which, as I mentioned, we know it can be a rocky experience. We’re really in the customer service game,
not the data game. What happens is, you have agents that are
still used to providing that level of data or wanting to control that consumer experience
where the consumers are over here saying, “I’ve done my research, Mr. and Mrs. Agent. Here are the three houses I’d like to see.” That data exchange in terms of how the information
is served between the two has flipped, and some agents are having a hard time responding
to it. You look at, for example, on some of the platforms
that have automated valuation calculators that you can go on and see what homes are
worth. That can drive agents crazy. They say, “No, I’m the expert on pricing. These websites shouldn’t be telling buyers
and sellers what these properties are worth.” You get this collision of agents saying, “I
should have that job.” Consumers saying, “Yeah, but I want to search
that out on my own.” That’s where I think we have to bring clarity
between agents and consumers to say, “If consumers are demanding this information, we have to
serve it up to them because they’re going to find it one way or another. Then we have to be there to help them through
a very complex process. That to me goes back to somewhat of a bias
is, “Hey, I controlled that data before, and I still want to as a real estate agent.” But the reality of it is, those days are behind
us, and so we need to be thinking ahead saying, “What does the consumer want?” and we need
to be delivering a better experience to their wants and needs versus what we think they
want and need, as an agent. You mention that you are in the customer service
business. Therefore, can we take away that the role
of the agent becomes, as we were saying earlier, the lever point for pulling together the data,
the psychological demographic information, the family goals of that buyer in order to
create as easy a process as possible in this very complex and difficult environment, which
is buying real estate? A good agent will make it look like it’s easy. Put it that way. They are the collection point of all these
different components, not only data, but also the potholes that exist. Good agents can anticipate things, essentially
anticipate the unexpected needs of what could go wrong with a transaction. They can help keep it on course. I see it all the time. I see people go into purchasing a property,
and there are going to be bumps along the road. When you have an agent that can help navigate
those, whether that be with the financing, whether it be with the appraisal, whether
it be with the home inspection, there are all those different components that come into
play along the process before you move in that have to be dealt with. Having someone experienced to know how to
deal with them can absolutely make or break whether or not someone ends up at the closing
table. That’s where an agent not only has to be knowledgeable
about the area, the community, the home, but it’s just as much or more important for them
to be knowledgeable about the process of how to get someone through the funnel, to the
closing table so that they can move in. It’s difficult, and it has potential to have
a lot of disruptions. You have to be able to navigate it well. This has become a little bit of a town hall
on Twitter for Century 21 agents, and why not? We have a question from @Century21Universallux,
Century 21 UniLux, who says, “Will you combine the five branches of the brand with featured
advertising so people know the full power of the brand.” I think if heard you right, will we combine
certain branches of the brand? When they say branches, I’m assuming they
consider things like commercial, Fine Homes & Estates, maybe some of those things. When you look at it, obviously consumers have
different needs. Some are high-end luxury buyers. Some are farm and ranch. We have some of our agents who specialize
in commercial. I think the key is–again, when you think
real estate, you think Century 21, and vice versa–we have to make sure that we have agents
that are experts in every one of those areas and that and that we have the ability that,
when a consumer raises their hand and says, “I’m a high-end buyer and I’m interested in
luxury properties, we are pairing them with the right person that specializes in that
area. I think it’s more important, not as much even
to advertise those different segments, as much as it is to connect those people with
the right people because that’s how you’re going to create the extraordinary experience. From an advertising perspective, we want to
make sure the consumers know, trust, and understand that if they’re dealing with Century 21, they’re
going to have a successful experience, an exceptional experience. That, to me, is what should happen at the
top level with advertising. The specialties of the branches should happen
between consumer and agent. That’s interesting. The foundation of that consumer experience
is confidence and trust in the brand, and then, of course, the agent needs to execute
against that in a similar manner. They do. The agent creates the experience for the consumer. They’re completely dependent on it. That’s where I think, if you move forward
looking at technology, we can combine technology, increase the level of transparency to the
consumer along the process to where there’s interaction via technology from home shopping
to close that allows consumers to be part of that process even more so. It will also help the agent because good agents
make it look easy. Sometimes consumers say, “Why am I paying
an agent so much money? This process seems really easy?” The agent is back there wiping the sweat off
saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Buyer/Seller, you have no idea what I just did to get you to the
closing table.” And so, there’s a disconnect there, and that’s
where I see technology moving forward in the next five years of bringing those two together
so they can share in the experience. It takes the anxiety away from the consumer. It increases showing the transparency of the
value of the agent and will help move along to a successful, easier, less stressful process
to close. We have another question from Twitter. MichaelangeloAmantia is asking about the technology
systems. He wants to be able to do things like capture
his own buyer leads instead of having them sold back to them, similar to Zillow, and
then he talks about user experience. I guess if we abstract that out, what’s the
role of technology for agents going forward, and where do you see the role of Century 21
in developing technology to fill that gap to support the agents? Yeah, let me start. I like this question. I hear this a lot because, when you see technology
marketing companies out there that are marketing real estate listings, I hear this all the
time. “Why should we provide our listing content
to online marketers, and then they sell us back our leads?” Let’s keep in mind that there was a point
in which, even when I started my career selling real estate 21 years ago, that we were somewhat,
as agents, jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none in the sense that we developed all of our
own marketing, and we developed all of our lead gen. Then we took them through our process, lead
to close, and our paperwork. We had to do so many things. At the same time, we relied on newspapers
and magazines to be the marketing challenges. They had distribution. They had scale. Even though they were expensive for us as
agents to advertise with, we could not go out and create our own newspaper or create
our own magazine and scale it the way that those marketing arms could. I think the same holds true today, except
we’re seeing it online. It’s not as much about us providing listing
content and these companies selling back leads to us, but it’s what we know is, in any business,
you will spend marketing dollars. As much has changed, just as much has stayed
the same. What I mean by that is, as a real estate agent,
you’re looking for someone that wants to buy and someone that needs to sell. By doing that, you work your sphere. You also spend marketing dollars to hopefully
create that buzz and that attention back to you. When I spent money and bought a half page
in Harmonhomes or Homes Illustrated, I was hoping someone would pick up the magazine. I provided them [with] my listing content. I paid for it to be in there. What I was hoping is that they would pick
up the phone and call me. I would capture them as a client and hopefully
turn them into a successful business. The same thing happens today. We are providing our listing content to online
marketers or magazines, classifieds, if you will, and the difference is, today, the newspapers
and magazines didn’t allow you to put that information out there for free. I couldn’t call and say, “Will you put my
ten listings in for free?” and they say, “Nick, I’m happy to do that.” There was always a charge. What’s awesome today is you can put that content
out there and create activity on your listing content that can return leads back to you,
and you haven’t invested a dollar. Now, you have a choice in the online lead
game to invest more to put fuel on the fire, to increase that lead flow back to you. But, at the end of the day, we know this. Agents will always spend marketing dollars
to create interest in finding buyers and sellers. That is exactly what’s happening today, especially
with technology today like these mobile devices. I can’t go out and create my own mobile device. I have to rely on Apple or Android. I want to leverage it. Because of technology, you are seeing buckets
of specialties. You see companies like Realtor, like Zillow,
like Trulia. They are specialties in online marketing,
and that’s what they do really well. We need to let them do that, partner with
them, but leverage them for our business just as we did magazines and any type of more classic
type advertising from years past. That’s interesting as well. Those data-driven companies are essentially
marketing organizations using that data even though your core competency is in the underlying
data rather than in marketing, per se. Here’s where I think we’ll get ahead because,
ultimately, all of our entrepreneurs in our system, whether you’re a broker/owner, whether
you’re an agent, they are in business to make money and grow their business. That’s why they’ve joined up with a well-known
brand like ours. We can’t be experts in every single component
of the business. Sometimes we have to partner with them. What I believe we need to be great at, moving
forward, is creating that exceptional real estate buying or selling process. We will not own 100% of the lead gen. We will not own 100% of every single one of
the processes that go through. We don’t own 100% of the appraisal companies
or the mortgage companies. Let’s allow those experts to be really good
at what they are. We partner and leverage them, but we need
to be the very best at what we do, which is helping buyers and sellers transact. If we do that and create a phenomenal experience,
then that’s going to deliver even more repeat and referral business back to us because,
ultimately, we don’t want anyone to buy or sell real estate without it being done with
Century 21. Where do you see the technology of all of
this going? Yeah, so specifically here’s what I see. One, mobile first. I mentioned it earlier. Everything is mobile. It’s where consumers [and] it’s where agents
are doing their business. But when you look at [it], no one yet in the
industry has solved from lead to close. What I mean by that is, I raise my hand; I
inquire; I’m interested in buying a property. I go and I look. I submit an offer. The paperwork and how that’s done on transaction
management, taking you through all the steps to get it to the closing table. Then getting down and signing that final 180-page
book at the closing table to actually own the property. That’s where there’s opportunity from a mobile
perspective. I envision a space where I, as a real estate
agent, can use my mobile device that a lead comes in, and I can take that lead through
the entire process. If you want to see homes, I interface with
you via my mobile device. When you’re ready to write an offer, I’m writing
an offer on my mobile device and submitting it to the necessary stakeholders. When it comes down to an appraisal and how
that fits into the transaction [that’s done] via the mobile device, [and] the financing
that comes through. Even to a point when you get to the closing
table, I envision a day where buyers and sellers will sit with a mobile device and sign all
of their closing documents instead of going to the title company and actually having a
close. I think that the mobile device is going to
transcend that transaction process. That’s where we have to be innovative as leaders
in this space in saying, “What can we invest in to make sure that we’re delivering an awesome
mobile experience from lead to close?” To what extent do you foresee technology becoming
a core competence of Century 21 because, after all, you’re … (indiscernible, 00:38:37)
relationship in the buying and the selling business, but you’re not inherently in the
technology business? We already are. It is already a big part of our DNA, which
is, right now we have the ability for consumers to search for real estate using our consumer
technologies. We also have productivity tools, marketing
tools for agents that are available. The thing that we have to do and realize,
though, is once that technology comes out, we have to constantly be thinking about the
next one. That’s just the space we’re in. Everyone can relate to mobile devices. You get a brand new one. I just received mine last week. I’m already thinking about how I make sure
that I get the new one that’s next year. We have to stay ahead of that curve. That’s our job as leadership from a brand
perspective is to say, “What technologies are out there? Are there some that we can build and make
proprietary in-house because we have phenomenal technology resources?” But, we also have to make sure to say, “Our
core business is not a technology company, so there are times that we need to go out
to the street, find best in class, and incorporate them into what we do. Let those best in class companies be great
at what they do, leverage them, and bring them into our platform.” That’s what we plan to do. Technology is, remains, and will be a core
part of any … (indiscernible, 00:40:00) judgment, what we develop in-house, what we
buy, where we stake our claim to technology, given … (indiscernible, 00:40:08) continually
changing, and your focus ultimately is on that relationship with your buyer and seller? Yeah. Today, here’s the reality of what’s happening
in real estate. The space is very fragmented. What I mean by that is there are agents–I
know if they’re listening, they’ll be shaking their head yes–that are using two, three,
four different systems to do their business. The innovation, to me, is going to come with
integration. Making an agent’s life easier is being able
to utilize one system. For example, what I mean by that is every
lead source that they have, whether it be online from their website, maybe an advertiser’s
website, coming from the brand’s website, whatever lead source they have coming in,
they need it to dump in one single spot so that they can manage their business efficiently
from there, not log into three systems. Even if you’re not in real estate, we all
have that where you may go to your bank for something and your credit card for something
else. Agents are dealing with that all across the
board with multiple platforms. Our goal within Century 21 is to say, “How
can we create a singular base program that everything can plug into and integrate?” because
that to me is innovation of when everything talks to everything else. We’re not there yet, and that’s where I see
it as great, great opportunity in technology because I think the real estate industry lags
in overall technology innovation as a whole in society. We can move faster at it. We have only three minutes left, so I’d love
to explore what you were just talking about, but I think, to close, maybe it makes sense
to ask you for advice that you can offer to agents in how they can survive and they can
thrive in this changing environment that … (indiscernible, 00:42:02). I get asked that a lot. Here’s what it is. We’re in a very noisy space within real estate
right now. There are a lot of startups. If you look at 2017, it is set to have over
$1 billion of capital influx into just technology innovation. It’s the highest it will have been in years. It was climbing before 2007. Obviously, the trajectory changed on that
a bit. It’s on a steady climb, but over $1 billion
of capital coming in for new technology. You have startups popping up all over the
place. We’re seeing prices increase. We’re seeing low inventory markets. Real estate is hot. When it is hot, we start to see a flavor of
everything coming out of the woodwork. What that does for agents is creates a whole
lot of noise to say, “What should I invest in? What should I be using to expand my business?” Here’s how I would narrow it down. 1. A successful real estate professional works
their sphere and knows that the vast majority of their business will come from repeat and
referral business. If you’ve done business with someone, keep
in contact with them. They’re likely to do business with you again. It sounds simple, but it’s so easy to go to
the closing table and then forget to talk to your past clients. That is still the biggest basis of where you
can grow your business. 2. Invest in marketing, and I say marketing where
you advertise. If you invest in purchasing online leads,
whatever that is, track it because we can get, in all this noisy space, the hot flavor
of the day. Agents say, “Oh, I’ve got to go spend on this,”
and they throw their credit card down. Six months later, they haven’t looked to see
if there’s any result. Don’t toss money where it doesn’t need to
be tossed. Make sure you’re investing in your marketing
and you know that it’s delivering you a return. 3. Be the very best master of your trade in creating
an exceptional experience for buyers and sellers because that is where I believe, as long as
I’m alive, the agent will be at the foremost most important component of a transaction,
creating an exceptional experience for a buyer or seller. Work your sphere, track your ROI, and make
sure you are the very best at what you do in taking a buyer or seller from lead to close. You have been watching Episode #264 of CxOTalk. We’ve been speaking with Nick Bailey, who
is the CEO of Century 21. Thanks so much, everybody, and have a great
day.

One thought on “Century 21 Real Estate: Customer Experience with Data and Analytics (CXOtalk #264)

  1. Nick is the perfect CEO for the Century 21 Brand. Excited for what is ahead!

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