By Maddie Jostol
You need to determine where chatbots fit within your business. That’s right, not “if” but “where.” Eighty percent of businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020, according to a survey by Oracle. Some are even predicting that chatbots will be the new way for companies to monetize the mobile experience, where smartphone apps are losing steam. It may sound intimidating, but like it or not, chatbots are the new must-have thing for businesses in all industries to keep up with changing technology. Is this the case for the real estate world as well? We dug a little deeper and here’s what we found.
First things first: What is a chatbot?
“A chatbot is a computer program that maintains a conversation with a user in natural language, understands the intent of the user, and sends a response based on business rules and data of the organization,” as defined by Chatbots Magazine. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a chat function backed by AI (artificial intelligence). Typically, a person would interact with a chatbot through an online messenger such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, text messaging, or a website, and AI is embedded in the messenger to hold the conversation. Currently, customer service and online shopping are common applications for chatbots.
The rise of artificial intelligence
One example of the rising popularity of AI for the everyday American is AI through voice enablement, which has become common and readily available through devices such as the Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Google Home. In 2017, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month, as reported by eMarketer. This trend goes beyond home automation, as companies across industries from banking to consumer products have AI solutions in the works. Americans have gained familiarity with the task-oriented format of voice enablement devices such as Amazon’s Echo. What chatbots accomplish is creating a more conversational transaction leveraging AI.
We’re claiming 2018 as the year of the bot for several reasons, including the changing expectations of consumers, investment in AI, and consumer familiarity with online messaging. Consumers are now comfortable using messaging services – texting for daily communications, Facebook Messanger for social purposes, and Slack at work, to name a few. On the other hand, AI is becoming more accessible and familiar for the average person. When you marry the two, you get chatbots.
Look out, real estate
51% of people expect a business to be available 24/7, according to Venture Beat. You better believe a process as stressful as buying or selling a home is no exception. Chatbots are breaking communication barriers between companies and consumers. There are countless applications for chatbots in the real estate world. Think about having a chatbot answering all of the basic introductory questions from a new lead, then handing the lead off to the agent when they’re ready. Imagine a chatbot that takes over the frustrating back-and-forth that inevitably happens when agents attempt to schedule a meeting. Communication is a dominant piece to the home sale process and chatbots are making their way in to deliver on consumer expectations, save agents time, and smooth brokerage business process.
In addition, the platform is already there. Facebook is the core of digital marketing in the real estate world, and Facebook happens to be one of the key players in the chatbot space. Industry players will be attentive to what path Facebook is paving and likely follow suit.
The future of brokerage technology
As companies continue to implement chatbots over the next year, they’ll become even more commonplace. Their powerfulness to brokerages, agents, and consumers is highly relevant to the current needs of the industry. For example, chatbots are particularly relevant for mobile users as messaging is key to mobile device use. Agents are always on-the-go, which means chatbots could fit into their existing workflow well. As we make our way into 2018, we’ll see a growing divide in productivity, agent retention, and profitability between the brokerages that have embraced chatbots and those that have not.
So, how can brokerages prepare for the rise of chatbots? The key is remaining agile. If you put technology in place that has the potential to integrate with innovations such as chatbots, you’re in a much better position to remain competitive. It all stems from data. Artificial intelligence, and, more specifically, chatbots, run on data. When you own your data and partner with companies that help you manage your data, you gain the opportunity to shift with the industry, adopting new technologies such as chatbots.
Chatbots become even more powerful when they’re integrated with an organization’s other systems. When technologies share data across a company, that brokerage benefits from high efficiency and data accuracy. This is familiar territory for us at Moxi Works as our Moxi Cloud open platform is designed to integrate technologies across an entire brokerage – it’s the ecosystem where all of your tech tools live and share data.
Moxi Works is in talks with chatbot providers regarding their application in the real estate industry. Why? Because we want to stay ahead of the game so we can serve not only as a technology provider, but also as a consultant to our brokerage partners. At the end of the day, we want to make our client brokerages be more profitable, which means taking part in technology movements such as chatbots.