According to a recent report from Juniper Research, by the end of 2018 roughly 2.5 billion digital assistants were being used by consumers across a range of different devices. This is an astounding number, yet to me what stands out is the fact that it is talking about consumers. Voice technology is clearly past the point of being “just a fad.” It is a mainstream and regularly used piece of technology today. Yet, most of voice tech’s uses are for consumers, as the business-to-business use has yet to catch up to the consumer use-case. This is changing, and admittedly, the industry that is leading the way in early business-to-business adoption might be a surprising one: real estate.
Before I discuss the ways that voice will modernize real estate and revolutionize the way that agents spend their time, let’s take a quick look at the place that voice tech has in the general tech world.
It is generally accepted that over the past three decades we’ve seen two key user-interface and technology platform shifts, and it’s clear now that voice is the third. The first shift was brought on through web pages that gave us the “click,” where we learned to surf the web using our mouse and activate buttons and hyperlinks by “clicking.” The second shift came from smartphones. Smartphones introduced us to “touching,” “swiping” and even “pinching” as we replaced many web pages with apps. The big thing to remember with these two transitions is that it required users to learn something new, this is where the ease of voice comes in. Voice doesn’t require users to do anything except speak, something they ostensibly do naturally in their daily lives. This is a large part of why voice technology is as popular as it is.
There is a plethora of examples of business-to-consumer uses for voice available in today’s market, however there are very few business-to-business uses. As a technology leader for the only Fortune 500 Real Estate company, I view it as our responsibility to take the daily activities of our agents to manage their business (such as lead and transaction management or market intelligence) and fuse that with tools that are not just based in technology that is readily available today, but also connected to where technology is headed. So where is technology headed? To me, the clear answer is voice.
At this point, it is important to note that voice is not going to replace mobile, desktop, etc. Rather, voice is an additional channel that serves the need of reaching users when and where users want to be reached. In other words, mobile, desktop and voice will all need to work together so that anything you do on your desktop translates to your mobile devices, and anything you do on your mobile devices translates to your voice apps, and so on, vice versa. Voice is a new channel to engage in, but it absolutely doesn’t mean that the other two channels are going away as they are all complimentary. An agent isn’t going to use their voice tool to look at their calendar when they are sitting at their desktop. Voice technology is the key to providing users (in our case, agents) the ability to access their information via voice when they don’t have the time to dive deeper into many of the great products they use to manage their business.
Real Estate is a natural use-case for this type of digital voice assistant, as an agent’s daily life is filled with many time-consuming tasks that take away from their ability to buy or sell properties, which is ultimately what makes agents money. Not to mention, agents are always juggling so many different locations, addresses, markets, etc. in their heads and in different documents, that it is difficult to easily find a way to access all of the information they need at any given time. Knowing all of this, and knowing agents, what better way is there for agents to access all of this data and information than using their voice?
So, why is voice technology such a natural fit for agents? In creating a voice-driven digital assistant for real estate agents, my team and I determined a number of ways to save agents time using their voice, allowing them to access data and information while on the go and without spending time searching multiple documents. There are obvious examples, like using voice technology to create appointments, get meeting details or look up their schedules, but there are also more unique examples for the real estate industry specifically.
One great example of this, which is very common for agents, is when they’re on the go. Agents are constantly moving and rarely find themselves with an abundance of time to sit in front of their computer and spend the time it takes to look up the status of all of their listings. Voice technology can help this, as using the right voice as stating “tell me about my listings” will provide an agent with a full status update of each of their listings, including specific status for each one (new, active, pending or expiring).
That same agent also often has precious few minutes to prepare for meetings with prospective clients, and voice technology can help them get a quick download of information, minutes before their meeting. Stating something like “tell me about 123 Main Street” can allow an agent the ability to be given property details, market research information or more.
Real estate is at a turning point. With more money being pumped into real estate technology than ever before, the industry is quickly modernizing and it is important to remember that we do not only need to get ourselves as an industry up to speed, we need to start setting standards as leaders in innovation for other industries. Voice is the most powerful way to do this as it is desperately trying to find more business-to-business use-cases that will bring voice to the enterprise, and not just to the consumer. However, more than anything else, we also need to remember that while we are innovating, the ultimate goal is to ensure that those who are driving the real estate industry, the agents, are the ones who we are building tools for. Again, this is where voice technology fits into the real estate industry better than almost anywhere else, as it is able to assist agents in their daily lives and ultimately give them the ability to be even more efficient, effective and productive.
Picture this: an agent wakes up, gets ready, packs their kids’ lunch and asks their voice powered digital assistant to “start their day.” The app responds by contextually walking the agent through everything they need to know for the day ahead, tapping into the breadth of data at its fingertips, and the agent is fully briefed for their day before their kids even head out to school or camp.
If you ask me, that is a pretty powerful way to use your voice.