Against a backdrop of changing consumer preferences, technology and shifts in Washington, brokerages are navigating new territoryâ€”one where the customer experience is tops, and creativity, inclusiveness and leadership are non-negotiables for success.
For Paul Boomsma, CEO of the expansive Leading Real Estate Companies of the WorldÂ® (LeadingRE) network, it’s crucial to embrace the forces influencing real estate, including disruptors.
“Rather than being challenged by them or concerned about them, we should look at what they can deliver to us,” Boomsma told attendees of RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange, held in New York City September 5-6, in the keynote opening session, “The State of the Real Estate Union.”
“Each of these new competitors is somehow creating significance, certainty, esteem and autonomy for either agents or consumers, and it’s something that we may be missing,” said Boomsma. “The question is, how do we reestablish ourselves under these new principles to make sure we’re delivering the right things?”
The answer is leadershipâ€”not only of a brokerage, but also in areas where consumers live, and where it matters. According to Boomsma, customer service, cybersecurity, diversity, interconnectivity on an international scaleâ€¦all are having an impact in the industry.
“Being customer-centric is not new,” Boomsma explained. “Ninety percent of consumers now read online reviews before they visit a business, [and] 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Being responsive is the No. 1 thing consumers care aboutâ€”just picking up the phone or answering an email gets you high marks.”
Coupled with that is the extra mileâ€”the over-and-above agents do for their clients that earn them rosy testimonials, and referrals as a result.
“Whether the agent did something unexpectedâ€”say, helped with information they didn’t know they needed, or showed them things in the communityâ€”there’s a wow factor we deliver that’s hard to duplicate,” said Boomsma.
Being aware and conscious is critical, as well, whether with a client with culturally-tied expectations, or with the community on a global level. As head of LeadingRE’s 565 membersâ€”comprised of over 130,000 associates in 70 countriesâ€”Boomsma has firsthand knowledge of how powerful this sensitivity can be, noting that agents and brokers in other countries are emulating practices in the U.S.
“When we’re setting an example for how real estate is practiced and how homeownership is realized, we need to be aware,” Boomsma said. “We’re not just leading our organization, and not just leading our agentsâ€”we’re setting an example for the entire world. It’s a great challenge for us, but also something I think we can live up to.
“There are 350 languages spoken in the U.S., and 22 percent of the country now speaks something other than English at home,” added Boomsma. “We need to be thinking about inclusivity, and be inclusive of all groups,” citing the growing influence of the Asian American, Hispanic and LGBTQ segments.
An added layer is safety, both for brokerages internally, and the consumers they serve. In one exercise, LeadingRE phished its staff, with 13 percent effectively “hacked.”
“Hacking a real estate transaction is the fastest-growing form of real estate cybercrime out there today,” Boomsma said. “These are own employees, and they’re not paying attention. It’s something we’re susceptible to.”
For brokers, these broad factors are important for a key reason: commitment to consumers. The barrage of change currently happening in housing is massive, and it is up to brokerages to delicately direct them through the transaction, and beyond.
“The world, in my opinion, is so filled with noise,” said Boomsma. “I think part of our job is to provide a certain amount of peace. Being gracious is something that’s been overlooked, and I think it’s something we have an opportunity as leaders to instill in our organizations. Gracious people are kind and their behavior is characterized by tact. Graciousness may be superficial, but sometimes what’s on the surface is good enough.”
For continuing coverage of this year’s CEO Exchange sessions, stay tuned to RISMedia.com.
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CEO Exchange Keynote: Leadership, in Every Sense of the Word