The technophobes and robot scaremongers have had their moment and that moment has passed. Artificial intelligence is here and is helping real estate agents to organise their information and data and then use it to create smart opportunities for new business and growth.
The prevailing narrative around robots and artificial intelligence have involved words like ‘replacement’ and ‘redundancy’ with doomsday prophets predicting the end of professional services and the abdication of real estate agent work to software.
Unlike the ‘disruptive’ technologies that have plagued us for the past decade – artificial intelligence is engineered towards supporting human work and enabling humans to focus on the soft human skill sets that are irreplaceable by machine or computer functionality.
Robots and artificial intelligence work in the black and the white. Things are either absolutely “yes” or absolutely “no”; it is either a 1 or a 0. Yet the human story, human decision making and human experience are very rarely, if ever, absolutely 1 or 0.
There is a complexity to the emotionality of decision making that allows an agent with the right customer relationships to pull the right levers at the right time and execute a result.
So while it is true that automation may replace some aspects of a real estate agent’s day-to-day job; what agents are going to end up with is a much more interesting job, away from a screen and engaged in emotional labour at the customer interface. Most real estate agents have highly adapted ‘people-skills’ – like empathy, influence, storytelling, verbal reasoning and negotiation.
Most agents will not only welcome the redistribution of their ‘work’ to the customer interface as a more dollar productive way to spend their time but also as an evolution that will see them working in the area of their jobs that they are best and enjoy the most.
What the critics and cynics of artificial intelligence may have underestimated is the CREATION of new types of jobs in real estate agencies, where human skill is applied to new – uniquely human work geared at supporting the human-robot blend in the workforce.
Here are three types of new work that we believe Ai creates in the real estate agency of the future.
Even if you take the example of an expert and niche artificial intelligence application like Rita, the contact data, database solution, marketplace, service design and office culture is going to be different with every office. Even within an office, the data sets available to different agents impacts the output of intelligent applications.
As no two businesses (or agents) are alike, no two Rita’s are identical either. Rita is best deployed a human supervisor to help adapt to the new data environment.
The handler is responsible for helping Rita (and her developer) understand the local attributes of a business that are going to help Rita optimise the opportunities that she can generate from the data.
The handler bears the onus of implementation, maintenance and updating of the algorithms and the data set at work in the organisation.
The helper role will assist non-technical real estate agents and business owners to interpret and make meaning from the work and insights of the artificial intelligence.
The work of artificial intelligence is geared toward prediction. Predictions suggest that a human action ought to be taken. With Rita, we use the language of opportunities. Rita consolidates multiple data sources and identifies contacts that ought to be engaged and suggests a purpose for this engagement.
A simple example might be that Rita has observed a new listing, then identified contacts with profiles ‘like’ the person who is selling. Rita will suggest that an agent contact these ‘smart’ suggestions and offer them an updated market opinion on price.
An example of the ‘helper’ role is to help provide clarity to the agent about ‘how’ the suggestion has been generated so that the agent trusts the prediction and can approach the call with confidence. The helper may also be able to offer a content suggestion such as scripts or dialogue to help with qualification and conversion of the opportunity, based on the defined strategy that generated it.
The helper’s function is to provide clarity on the computer generated outputs and to coach human team members on how to leverage the machine intelligence to be more productive and to work smarter than ever before.
Just as humans have performance reviews, it is important that the output and performance of artificial intelligence are evaluated and refined also.
Almost every intelligent application will report on the effectiveness of the algorithms that it uses, based on the problem that particular function is trying to understand or solve.
For example, if there are three or four different algorithms that created ‘opportunities’ for agents to generate appraisals – then the conversion ratio from connection to appraisal should be analysed. If one type of suggestion is more effective than another type of suggestion, the honer can recommend that this type of suggestion be increased and others decreased.
Collaboration with helpers and handlers may add some additional insight into the local factors that influence effectiveness measurements. Data, analysis and judgment assist an organisation to strategically adopt and continuously refine this technology to take advantage of these new technologies and achieve a competitive advantage.