By Nick Kljaic

The real estate industry continually comes up short when it comes to marrying technology with real estate. Welcome to the land technology forgot. One particular area that surprisingly falls short is the customer service department.

Nowadays, potential home buyers and renters do not walk by a brick and mortar real estate office and view available listings from a printed catalogue or listings on a window. Those days have passed. In fact, 88 per cent of home buyers and renters visit a property website before finding their next home according to the National Association of Realtors’ recent survey.

The same printed property details and photos may have been digitized but the one thing that has failed to make the same digital transition is the customer service element. This is still the key element for home buyers when selecting a real estate professional. The process of relationship building and customer service, in general, is seemingly diminishing.

When you step into a brick and mortar store you are typically greeted by a sales representative who helps you with any typical questions or concerns that you may have regarding a particular product. An online shop doesn’t have that same luxury and some customers often times feel disconnected from the business due to the lack of this personal interaction.

Many real estate websites feel like unmanned generic stores. You know there are people running the website, but getting in contact with them can be a challenge. One of the false assumptions that the people behind these faceless websites make is that if users are opting to use a website, they probably want to be serviced by the web without an interactive presence. Coupled with a motivation to reduce customer inquiries, some websites go as far as hiding or making it difficult to locate their contact information. This could be likened to walking into a real estate office without anyone physically in the shop. There’s no one to interact with or to assist you with your hunt for your next home – there’s just a catalogue on a table for you to spend endless time scouring through.

What if you could be greeted by someone on your next visit to an online real estate storefront?

Instead of browsing through the catalogue of properties on your own, what if you could be assisted with your home hunting process in real time? If this “person” could note your specific requirements and suggest a few recommendations to get you started, would this keep your online shop visitor shopping longer on your site? Could it perhaps prompt them to provide their direct contact information?

Allow me to introduce you to the real estate chatbot. Chatbot’s response time, memory and knowledge bank would rival any agent within your office. Not to mention the fact that the chatbot also works 24/7 and can keep a conversation going with multiple visitors simultaneously. Chatbot is an artificial intelligence powered assistant built for real estate client interactions.

Examining market expectations

While over 90 per cent of real estate brokerages have a website, their most common feature includes property listings (90 per cent) followed by staff photos (71 per cent) and testimonials (40 per cent).

If your website has these three elements, you have made it to the top 40 per cent more or less. Perhaps you may have a few other differentiating elements on your site, like an interactive map or some cumbersome home financing widget. But where is the customer service? Is it simply limited to an email address buried somewhere within the website?

An online chat component puts your site visitors in direct contact with a customer service representative through short messages that are exchanged in real time. It’s best utilized for quick spur of the moment questions that do not require extended responses – the kind of questions that a visitor may not have bothered taking the time to compose an email to ask. They are looking for more of a responsive service where they can have their questions answered promptly.

This is where the chatbot excels. While you are busy with your open houses or viewings, the chatbot ensures that all those marketing dollars you spent driving traffic to your site are optimized for conversions and not gone to waste.

Forrester Research found that 44 per cent of consumers say that having questions answered by a live person in the middle of an online transaction is one of the most important features a website can offer. An ATG Global Consumer Study discovered that 90 per cent of customers consider live chat helpful.

Clearly, the surveys support having a live chat, while at the same time 46 per cent of real estate brokerages cite keeping up with technology as their primary challenge. Installing a chat widget on your site will definitely put you ahead of the pack, but who is going to man that station all day long? You guessed right – real estate chatbot.