“Instant coffee is no longer fast enough.” 

This quote by Matt Church is true for many consumers. People want things NOW.

Speed is a huge differentiator in business today and technology and software has certainly helped many companies deliver this much desired resource to consumers. But while speed is an important factor, it’s actually not what most customers put at the top of their priority list. Especially in real estate.

On this episode of Real Estate Pros, we debate why the real estate industry is having the wrong conversation about disruption and why if businesses don’t evolve quickly they may find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Disruption In Real Estate

Often when we hear the word disruption, we immediately think about companies like Uber or Airbnb.

If you’ve been to a conference or seminar in the past few years, you’ve likely heard a speaker use these companies as examples in their presentation to describe disruption.

The media and some commentators often refer to ‘speed’ as the ultimate differentiator today and how people want things NOW. One of my favourite speakers and all round gentleman Matt Church says, ‘instant coffee isn’t instant enough’. Aint’ it true!

Technology and software has certainly helped many companies deliver this much desired resource to customers.

“Instant coffee isn’t instant enough.” – Matt Church

But while speed is a much desired resource, it’s actually not what most customers put at the top of their priority list.

For those of you who know me, know that I travel a lot, and when I arrive at an airport I see the same thing no matter which city or country I’m in. The designated Uber pick-up area is lined with people on their phone waiting… waiting for their driver to arrive. Or, like in Sydney Australia, passengers need to walk 500m from the terminal to a designated pickup area and wait for their driver to arrive. In many cases, waiting for an Uber at an airport can take 10-15 minutes as Uber drivers wait in line until their car is first in the queue, before leaving the carpark to pick up a passenger.

Meanwhile, people catching taxis are breezing through empty turnstiles and are well on their way to their destination while us Uber passengers hang by our phones… waiting.

Why? I believe it’s because we’re happy to substitute speed for something far more valuable to us as human beings. An experience. A better experience. A human experience.

“Taxi’s weren’t disrupted by Uber. They were disrupted by a better customer experience. AirBNB didn’t disrupt the hotel industry. A better experience did.”

I don’t believe our beloved real estate industry will be disrupted by technology. But new business models that leverage technology to deliver a better customer experience most certainly will.

There are some cases, I would argue it’s a minority, where people need to sell their home fast. So speed is certainly a much desired resource to them. However, for the most part, people just want a stress free experience. They want an agent who tells them what they need to hear when they need to hear it and in a way that they can understand – not real estate jargon. They want a fair market price, not a crazy overinflated price that an agent has given them to win the listing and then proceed to tell them it’s too expensive one week into the campaign.

We need to bring the romance back to real estate.

At the heart of every disruptor, Uber and Airbnb included, is an emotional connection to people, not technology. One day, Uber might be replaced by driverless cars. But in real estate, at least in our lifetime, people will always be at the heart of the transaction.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a story about someone enquiring about a property who can’t get an agent to call them back. Even from agents who themselves who were looking to buy or rent a property.

While we as an industry might mock the so-called disruptors and their business models, or fee structures, make no mistake they are winning the public’s attention not because of their fees necessarily. They are earning attention for delivering a better experience. Like, simply calling people back if they leave a message, or responding automatically to email enquiries letting someone know exactly when they can expect a call.

If you work in a traditional real estate business and you want to be in this industry in 10 years time, it’s time to compete not on fees, but on a better customer experience. Instead of complaining about disruptors, I think it’s time our industry started competing on the one thing they weren’t expecting us to compete on – a better experience for real estate consumers.

Do you agree? Disagree?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

  • Stephen Creese

    I agree very much. I think as an industry we have become complacent over the years. We need to start showing clients value for money and justifying our fees through exceptional service. There are many ‘cheaper’ options coming so we need to ensure that we are ‘better’.

  • Aimee Engelmann

    Hi Josh, I agree for sure, if the customer experience is solid and even better highly differentiated via “people power” this is where the opportunity is for true disruption. The platform / app is just the connector or bridge. I see this all the time on my side of the fence with Philippines based service support for Property Management. When staff are well trained and highly service focused – tenants are accessing what they want and need, straight away. It could be purely on response time and turnaround, or even just being able to open up different communication channels eg SMS/Phone/email so the client (tenant) can choose how they communicate with the PM office. Customer experience can be over complicated at times, when really as you mentioned, can be as simple as the courtesy of a return phone call within an hour when a buyer has questions. Great episode. P.S you forgot to mention you were nominated : ) #humble #helpnothype

  • Absolutely spot on and The real Estate Industry is about to transform in a very big way. The evolution of the Professional Agent is being debated today in Sydney where 60 of the Industries thought leaders and influencers are taking the first step toward an new era. Knowledge, skills, expertise and service will form the basis of a totally new real estate experience for consumers that will see the industry disrupt itself and take a new journey to official professional standards recognition. This journey will take years of commitment and improvement and will not be for everyone but those that take it will become the new breed of consumer outcomes focused professionals

    • Great point, John. I hope your event is a success.