Privacy is Paramount.

Privacy might be the answer to bringing buyers, sellers, agents and brokers back together again.                     

We recently pitched as one of the 15 finalists at the RealogyFWD innovation event in San Francisco and it was very apparent that both judges and attendees had data and privacy on the mind.  A common theme in questioning of each selected finalist centered on how companies were protecting customers from issues related to SPAM, data collection and specifically what measures each company was undertaking to ensure that personal data remained safe. It’s with good reason that the judges had this commonality in their lines of questioning each company.  There has been a shift in recent years towards consumers being more cautious and protective over where the information they’ve submitted online is ending up. We aren’t just talking sensitive data like social security numbers and credit card data either. We’re referring to the more simple readily accessible data such as email addresses and phone numbers.  Once upon a time, customers would hand over their email address and mobile number without so much as the bat of an eyelash, and now we’ve seemingly flipped to a once digitally spammed twice shy kind of crowd.

SYCNRO was created much in part to help alleviate the online pressure tactic of you give me all your data and only then I’ll show you what I’ve got mentality. We increasingly see contact forms abandoned and surreptitiously viewed only to be closed out with an exodus from the website entirely. We know that this sudden aversion to contact forms has everything to do with empty promises, misappropriation of confidential information and you could even throw in a hint of desensitization for good measure. For so long we were accustomed to filling out contact forms that requested more than too much in the way of personal details like: what our price range was, if we had been pre-qualified etc. and we kindly obliged until some started saying no and even more started questioning why?

So how is SYNCRO helping to fight the good fight on privacy and more importantly how are we bringing buyers, sellers, agents and brokers back together again?  It starts with removing impersonal, outdated contact forms from websites thereby asking brokerages and agents to stop being reliant on tech to do what should be the most human component of their job – prequalifying the lead.  We’re calling for brokers and agents to stop being dismissive about their online leads and to start genuinely engaging with them in the most honest way possible – by taking the time to get to know the human on the other side.  It’s a tall order and in order to build this level of trust with your online leads you need some serious data safeguarding in place.  Take a look at how SYNCRO is helping to protect agents, brokers and customers through privacy and SPAM controls.

THREE IS MAGIC. When you’re trying to establish trust online less is more. Which is why we only require three very basic pieces of information from a customer in order for them to be able to engage with a listing owner. Name, email and what their question is.  We aren’t digging into the nitty-gritty of when they want to buy, how many bedrooms they need and what they paid in taxes last year.  This less is more in the required data field approach makes engaging more accessible and less scary for customers.  Think of it as an icebreaker.  You wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know at a party and ask them how much they made last year. The same goes for online leads, you need to start small, build a connection and then start negotiating the tougher questions.

 

ROBOT SPAM BE GONE.  By default our live chat to text solution is SPAM proof because a human has to physically click to call the chat dialogue box up into action, fill in three required pieces of information and click again in order to initiate the chat.  Robots don’t have that kind of time. This protects agents and brokers from wasting time on bogus leads.

HUMAN SPAM. WE’RE WATCHING YOU TOO.  We’ve taken it the extra mile and built in further SPAM reduction mechanisms that prevent malicious humans from typing in nonsensical words like lkhhh, swear words (which admittedly was a fun exercise) and there is also a character limit in the question field to eliminate the possibility of people sending you long drawn out propositions meant for your email’s SPAM folder.

PRIVACY IS IN.  One of the most unique features about SYNCRO website chat to text is the anonymity features. As an agent you don’t have to broadcast your mobile phone number if you yourself have privacy concerns, because as far as we’re concerned privacy is a two way street these days. For every SPAM happy sales agent there are an equal number of quirky buyers that would love to have your personal cell number on speed dial. SYNCRO allows you to enter in a phone number which can be used for the click to call button (see screen cap below) but we don’t make it mandatory for that number to match the mobile number you are using to text back to the software. We have many agents who prefer to use the brokerages landline as a click to call action for added personal security.  At no point during a SYNCRO chat is your mobile number ever exposed to the person you are chatting with on the other end. Unless of course you volunteer it at some point during your correspondence.

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YOU GOTTA WORK FOR THAT NUMBER.  All incoming website chats are sent directly over to your mobile phone first and foremost, but all you will see is the information that the customer has volunteered, which again, is the data entered in the Name, Email Address and Question fields. All of this information, along with the website URL of the page they initiated the chat from, the MLS# and property address (if using the IDX version) will come instantly to your mobile in the form of a text message from the internal SYNCRO phone number. This phone number is in no way associated with the customer on the other end. The only way you can get the customers phone number is if you ask for it and they voluntarily oblige.

NO BULLIES ALLOWED.  In the unfortunate event you receive a chat that turns hateful or harassing you can simply ignore the text message without fear that person has any additional contact details from you.  We can also block users from ever contacting you through SYNCRO again if a pattern of abuse arises.  As for the consumer, if they aren’t impressed with your responses for whatever reason, they can simply close the window on the chat and rest easy knowing that no personal contact details have been disclosed outside of the required three fields. Our only pay for real leads mantra guarantees that you won’t be charged for bullies.

At the end of the day we have launched a lead conversion mechanism that is allowing for a more organic and personal sales approach. We’re taking the core ingredients of Internet privacy and anonymity, combining it with this new social phenomenon of instant gratification, but we’re throwing the whole thing back to the days when a sales agent had to work a little harder to build trust, rapport and goodwill with their customers before earning their business and possibly even more precious… their coveted phone number.

The Canary has landed. By that. We mean a really useful Broker report.

Broker reports are broken. See what I did there?  Brrrroooooke – r- n.

As a broker have you ever wondered what to do with your website analytic reports at the end of the month?  You know the one. It tells you how much traffic came to your website, how much of that traffic was robots, where in the world that robot traffic originated and what pages were the robots really enjoying the most?  Some companies have even made some nice accompanying graphics and charts for those stats, you know,  to make them more user friendly. Wheeeeee charts.

So what do you do with that report after you’ve looked at it?  That’s what I thought. Nothing. Because there’s literally not much you can do.  And I won’t say the cat litter box thing that everyone always says here. So, sure they say you can change the content out on your pages and add some more call to action graphics. Oh. And they also say you should blog. Like, blog a lot! All that will definitely help. But what does it help?  Go ahead, say it out loud. Nothing.

Well, sure it helps you get more traffic, but how does it help you add more value to your agents careers? How does traffic give you real insights into what actual consumers want from a listing page, profile or communication?

Remember “that” guy that won the race in Grade 1. Every. single. damn. race. What’s he doing now?  That’s what I thought – who cares. He doesn’t matter either and what we’re kind of saying to you is; you got us, neither do your website statistics as they relate to fervently awaiting monthly traffic reports to see if you’re finally number one for “real estate brokerage that sells houses in X-land”. You have other ways to check this, just in case you eagerly await your stats each month to see which position you’re in. You could Google it yourself. Any time really – day or night.

So what does count? Well, obviously that’s why I’m here. I want to sell you the next shiny thing you didn’t know you needed. A neeeewwwww kind of stat tracker. The SYNCRO Canary Stat Tracker for Brokers. Sounds like a mouthful, but unless the cat’s got your tongue, this means that Canary is going to give you some singingly, sweet stats, and these…these little gems will be the A-ha! kind of stats you’ve been missing. They’re going to make you a broker-super star.  Why?

Because Canary will give you results.  Results that will help your agents – become better agents.

We’re all about giving you real time, real valuable information; like what listing received the most chats and what can we do (aside from building an exact replica of the home getting the most action) to make other listings look like this one to encourage more chats?  Maybe hire the same photographer for all your agents would be a start. Or maybe the listing description needed a longer, more descriptive copywriter. Too many photos? Bad agent mug shot?

canaryThere are plenty of stats to sink your teeth into surrounding this stat alone, and there are yet dozens of stats just like these to keep you more efficient and more productive as a real estate Broker.  Like who was the least chattiest agent. What was different about their profile? Is it simply listing volume or can you make adjustments to a more streamlined profile?  Was it something the agent said in his/her messaging that lead to more cancelled chats? Because oh yeah. We do that too. You can view all the chat history that came in each month. This will help you to spot check your valuable agents to ensure that they don’t need any coaching on chat to text etiquette. Coaching they might even get from another Broker looking to poach the hard work and training you’ve already invested, for false promises to greener pastures.

So, sure. You can keep on, keeping on with those boring and kind of useless website traffic stats, or, you can sing like a Canary and get stats on things that really matter for your brokerage.

For a full description of what other stats are provided and how to get them working for you for less than a cup of coffee per agent per month, please SYNCRO us now to arrange a demo.

How to Integrate SYNCRO :: A Walk in the Park :: Part 3

Part 3 in our integration point series.

How to integrate SYNCRO into a brokerage or corporate level website using Powerlinks.

We’ve talked about Powerlinks a little bit here and there, but these beauties really put the power into your online interactions.

Powerlinks can change a simple link, form, button or advertisement into an instant communication and lead conversion machine.

When a user clicks on a call to action with a Powerlink embedded behind it, they won’t just get an email pop up or a website contact form to fill out where they’ll have to wait hours for someone to take notice and respond. Instead they’ll be presented with a chat dialogue box where they can instantly engage with you in real time and get real answers from the only person who knows it like it is…you!  Take a look at how we made a typical button that would normally send you over to a contact form instantly interactive below:

powerlinks-disengaged powerlinks-engaged

Why make your clients, who are craving instant answers, wait. With Powerlinks you don’t have to.

We can call up the chat window from any graphic, link, or form within your website. That lead will be sent to you at the precise moment in time that it’s hot. They don’t come fresher than Powerlinks leads.

If you’re interested in Powerlinks for your website, you’ll need to schedule some time with us to set them up for you. Again, our set up is free of charge and you are only ever charged when your legitimate lead comes through. It’s win for you. Win for your clients and win for technology that makes your website more human.

That concludes our Real Estate installation points. Let us know if we’ve missed something or you have other ideas to improve. We’re always listening!

Did you miss Part 1? Or Part 2?

 

Intelligent Contact Forms Have Arrived

When’s the last time you updated your contact form? Have you ever really looked all that closely at it since it was casually slipped into your website?  Chances are pretty high that answer will be a resounding, yet sheepish, “No.”

It’s funny how the most important part of a website, how one contacts you to do business, is often the most overlooked.  For good reason. We fret over custom graphics and branded colors and compelling verbiage and we push the limits on design, yet forms get lost in the mix. They’re kind of like a protected habitat that as customers we don’t feel we have the right to challenge developers on.  After all, everyone’s forms look pretty much the same, so why should yours be any different?

Website contact forms are a standardized part of how we do business online, and like all things traditional you generally don’t fix them if they aren’t broke.  But, this is where the problem lies.  Contact forms are broken. Not only are customers increasingly leery of filling out masses of information, but forms themselves have been so neglected and void of innovation that they are simply in existence on almost all websites as a filler.

Let’s look at why a standard contact form processed using email might not be the best way to convert leads on your website:

Toooooo Many!  Forms are typically abandoned due to the sheer volume of fields. Have you ever wanted to ask a simple question and scratched your head because someone is asking you for way too much personal information?  When did it become necessary to know, budget, income and marital status to ask if a home is near accessible public transportation?  Forms that have required fields other than first name and phone OR email are simply too long.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas  But what happens when you fill out a contact form could affect your Inbox and SPAM folder forever!  Had a better job been done to protect consumers from SPAM we might be in a different place with forms, but unfortunately too many didn’t protect their data and even more found it lucrative to sell it.  This has left a number of customers reluctant to hand over every piece of personal information before they even have a chance to speak with you face to face and develop a small amount of confidence that they are dealing with a reputable professional on the other end.

No contact  Have you ever filled out a form and then waited. Days. Weeks?  Did you know that after years of working with web developers and really reputable website companies that sometimes, (lots of times too many to count) we would find out that the website contact form on some sites was never tested?  Yep. That means that some clients would go days, weeks and even over a year and would wonder why they weren’t getting leads. Only to find out that no one ever tested where their form was going after the website went live. Humans. They make mistakes. Mistakes that could cost you tens of thousands in commissionable sales! We’ve seen it all from, forms not working in different browsers, forms sending to the wrong email account, broken forms, changed email addresses, you name it – we’ve seen it happen and it hurts your business.

Tooo many! Forms are dead.

Tooo many! Forms are dead.

So what can you do to make sure that you aren’t losing business?  Here are a few ideas:

Website Chat  Having website chat is huge for your business and conversions. Whether you choose something as innovative as SYCNRO website chat to SMS or you go with a standard PC to PC chat you need to have it.  Chat solves the issues that brands are plagued with on how to do business more effectively and efficiently. Chat increases sales, boosts consumer confidence and decreases your closing time majorly.  If you don’t have chat, you need to have it.

Kill the Snails. Make your contact form intelligent.  Nothing against snails, but they’re not good for business that needs to happen fast.  SYNCRO can change the way that your contact form is being processed. We can make it so that rather than your form getting sent by slow over negotiated email, the data is sent to you via text message.  This will give you the option of engaging with your customer on the spot, or at the least, letting your auto responder send them a quick personalized message back to your website, so that they know you will be reaching out to them as soon as possible.  How’s that for a new twist on an old form?

Testing 1-2-3.  Check your website out at least once a month.  Play with your links and test your forms. It costs you nothing and you never know if and when something can break. So pretend you are a customer and try to contact yourself. Browsers change, hardware changes all of this can have an effect on your website. It’s technology. It’s never going to be perfect!  Take some responsibility for it and subject it to regular testing.

Update your information  Do you have multiple email accounts?  You might want to do an audit and clean those up.  Maybe you have one for your website and one for your data provider, one for social media and one for an ad portal. You shouldn’t.  Get those cleaned up. And make sure you visit your affiliate sites and double check those too. How many of you have a corporate email address listed on your broker’s portal that you have no idea how to check?  Not good. Clean it up and keep it consistent and regularly audit the data you have out there!  People are getting frustrated and giving you a bad name when they can’t reach you through one of the 5 email accounts you have out there.  The same goes for old phone numbers and mobile numbers.

If you’ve read this article and are thinking you need to do some testing and contact form soul searching then we’ve done our job.  You do. If you’re interested in finding out more about forms of the future then by all means, chat with us now. You’ll notice there aren’t too many contact forms on our website 😉

Embedding Website Chat into IDX/MLS Data for Better Engagement

Have you ever felt like you were shooting darts at water while searching for property on a broker website or a search portal?  Maybe you’ve narrowed it down and drilled into a property that you love and started to arrange your furniture, so you take the next logical step and click on that evil little email icon (the one that should effectively be renamed abyss or black hole) and you sit back and wait for an eternity that never comes.  Well you aren’t alone. In fact, over 48% of online leads submitted via email (contact forms included) are never, ever responded to.

That stat doesn’t bode well for those sellers who entrust real estate agents to be responsive to all methods of communication in order to sell their largest lifetime asset.  A quick randomized test using Canada’s largest portal realtor.ca and you’ll see how many agents respond to emails about their listings.  We emailed five random agents with condo listings all under a price point of 300k and asked a simple question about the condos they had listed and what the pet policy was. Not one email was returned. Zero.

There’s lots of talk these days about how much longer email has left on this earth. Entire companies have given email up completely and actually banned their employees from using it, because at the end of the day some things aren’t made to wait. Real estate sales should specifically be added to that list.

We were just spot checking a couple of agents when we threw out our one liner: “Does this building have a pet policy in place and if so can you tell us more about the restrictions. ” This was a question that required a very simple answer, either yes or no and then maybe one or two more sentences to explain the yes or no answer.  For example, “Yes. You can have one dog or one cat no bigger than 21”.

Pretty simple, but is email really the best way to negotiate that conversation? Absolutely not. I would say the best way would be over telephone, but unfortunately even the good ol’ telephone has been getting a bad rep for being a privacy invader these days.  Somehow phoning someone that isn’t expecting your call has become like showing up uninvited to a wedding. It’s downright tacky and that sentiment is even spilling over to the business world. So how do we connect and make it simple?  Chat for one. And text messaging for two.

This is a new powerhouse combo that allows us to save email and phone for the right context and start funneling leads who are still in that courting phase, down the right path.

SYNCRO has taken the powerful combination of chat plus text to a whole new level by also integrating a third factor into the powerhouse combo. Data. We’ve made it so that a broker or a portal or an agent with lots of listings can embed a chat window into each individual property listing.

Screencaps of SYNCRO website chat to SMS text embedded into an IDX data feed.

Screencaps of SYNCRO website chat to SMS text embedded into an IDX data feed.

This allows a visitor to stay immersed and intrigued on the property details page and call up a ‘chat with the listing agent now’ box.  They can ask their simple question without having to give up too much personal information and feel comfortable knowing that they still have a shred of privacy while they test you out. The benefit to the agent, is that all of the information, including what listing the person is viewing, is sent over to them via text message. No matter where they are in their busy day they can take a couple of seconds to respond immediately and engage in a back and forth dialogue  with the customer who is viewing their listing.

Why do we say immediately?  How many text messages (your mom’s not included) do you ignore or save until later when you’re more comfortable?

Take a read through these four points about text messaging and see if it fits better with how you’re handling your online lead right now.

Text messaging according to David Nield, Demand Media, was designed for:

Immediacy – Texts are delivered immediately and directly to a device that most of us have with us at all times. Not as many of us are checking email on such a regular basis — even if someone owns a phone capable of sending and receiving email, there’s no guarantee email is being checked as regularly as text messages. SMS messages have more of a sense of urgency, whereas email tends to be seen as information that can be responded to at a later date. With cell numbers typically more closely guarded than email addresses, a text message also represents a more personal and intimate connection.

Mobility – The benefits of being able to receive an SMS anywhere also apply to the sending part of the process — a text can be sent from any location you can get a data connection, and there’s no need for email client software to get up and running. Most modern smartphones now come with built-in email clients, but texting remains simpler to do, and is the only option if you’re using a more basic cell phone.

Brevity- SMS messages are almost always typed out on a mobile phone keypad, whereas emails are generally composed on a full-sized keyboard or a bigger tablet keypad. This limitation can work to the advantage of SMS, encouraging shorter messages that get to the point. Paragraphs and text formatting are all stripped away, leaving only the message itself. While email may be preferable for discussing topics in-depth, texting has the advantage when it comes to making quick arrangements or sending shorter messages.

Security- Spam messages and group emails have to some extent diluted the impact of email. Messages sent over email can easily get lost or inadvertently filtered out of the inbox. While text messages can be sent to a group, or used to spam users, the problem is not as widespread as it is with email — this gives the SMS format another advantage. Virus attachments and malicious links are other problems with email that don’t exist to the same extent on text messages, making it a more secure platform as well.

So if you are a broker or portal with lots of real estate listings you might want to consider embedding chat into your data. It might just solve some immediate immediacy issues encountered by consumers.  What do you think?  Do you think leads are better sent via text so that they can be dealt with more efficiently?  Let us know in the comments or message us on Twitter.