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Guest Article: MLS Rework

Friday, September 24, 2010   (0 Comments)
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by Victor Lund, WAV Group

As a consulting firm to real estate Multiple Listings Services (MLSs), WAV Group has seen many examples of excellence, mediocrity, and outright poor performance in the delivery of services to participants and subscribers.  MLSs come in all shapes and sizes, and a variety of structures.  There are small MLSs that deliver outstanding services to their members for a low fee, and huge MLSs that deliver poor services to their members for high fees.  There is no particular MLS business model that prevails – it all comes down to good management, board support, and a dedication to executing a strategic plan.

Recently I looked at a book called REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  These are the same guys who wrote Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  In the first book, they looked at the dual nature of people who are in management – the logical and the emotional.  In their new book, REWORK – they suggest that doing things the normal way may not be the right way.

REWORK inspires a variety of management concepts that may be helpful for MLSs to consider.

IGNORE THE REAL WORLD

Interesting concept, and here is an example:  I listened to an industry leader speak last year about mobile solutions for real estate.  The speaker proffered that mobile may be the most important initiative for MLSs to adopt.  The reasoning was that it is the fastest growing technology in the world.  I agree with the reasoning, but in truth, mobile, at least with today’s technology and smartphone penetration, is a “nice to have” for MLSs.  Furthermore, mobile MLS has been available in the majority of MLSs for a long time but rarely reached more than 10% adoption by agents.

Ignoring mobile solutions may seem like antiquated thinking, but why should an MLS invest in technologies that have so little adoption?  Maybe they should be asking different questions like “Why is it that these tools have so little adoption?”   or “Why is it that mobile MLS generally have pretty low satisfaction rates?”  Are we really tapping into the right type of mobile technologies that are experiencing explosive growth?  Should we be focused on offering mobile to consumers instead of agents since they seem to be more excited about it than agents are?

I suspect that if agents had to pay extra for mobile, the adoption rates would drop even further.  Offering solutions on the fringes of the MLS technology ecosystem may seem progressive, but in truth, they may be more of a distraction to building training solutions and help desk services on core systems that are the lifeblood of the MLS customer relationship.

Ask your customers where they want you to invest – mobile solutions or sending a trainer to their office, or answering the help desk phone on the first ring. Importantly, ask each and every customer what they want.

Today, customers like what they like and they don’t really care what other customers like. Maybe it’s time to offer custom solutions and custom services based on each customer’s need. A top producer, for example, likely has very different needs than a part-time who sells or buys 1 or 2 houses a year. Have MLSs adjusted their offerings considering these differences?  One audience might want 10 mobile apps while the other may barely have a cell phone.  Maybe contracts with service providers should consider these need differences and adjust payment methods and formulas accordingly.

WHY GROW?

Size does matter, or at least should if used effectively.  Economy of scale is a real factor, but in some larger MLSs we do not see a corresponding lower price or increased services. There are some great examples of MLSs that do, but an equal number of MLSs that do not.

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