Chatbots and automation technology can save you and your staff from the daily avalanche of enquiries while improving engagement and building brand awareness. Find out more about how this software can be programmed to act as a round-the-clock customer care representative for your real estate agency.

By now it’s likely you will have heard about artificial intelligence, voice recognition and chatbots infiltrating the world of small business. These technologies are “the future” according to almost every startup or internet-based company.

Today, we take a look into how chatbot technology works and what’s most likely to be of benefit to businesses within the real estate industry.

Chatbot examples: Australia and beyond

A chatbot is a software program designed to use NLP (Natural Language Processing) and NLU (Natural Language Understanding) to interact with customers online.

You may have already encountered a chatbot when looking to order a pizza – the Domino’s Facebook bot can let you know if there are any valid specials at your local store.

Airline company Jetstar has a ‘virtual assistant’ named Jess. She can answer basic questions such as “How long do I have to check in before a flight?” and “Will there be movies on my flight?” She can’t book a flight for you just yet, but no doubt the technology will be landing very soon.

Closer to home, on the property finance front, is Habito, a digital mortgage advisor. This clever software can interact with customers on its own, requesting basic income and employment information. The program then scans lenders and products, promising to fast-track the process of applying for a home loan.

Chatbots are already in play in the real estate industry, too. You can now converse with a Domain.com.au chatbot within Facebook Messenger. Simply look up Domain in Messenger (as you would a contact) then type your postcode into the comment field and the online portals’ Experimental AI based Assistant will instantly present you with a gallery of available properties. The chatbot will even ask you questions to help refine your search results, too!

Plus you can continue your conversation with Domain by requesting Price Guides, even for houses that are not currently listed. If you move on and start doing something else the bot will re-engage you by politely asking “Where to now?”.

Domain’s chatbot feels embryonic as it is unable to respond to statements like “I want to rent a home in Paddington, NSW” without redirecting you to the homepage of the website. However, the product development team is likely to have more capabilities coming through the pipeline over the forthcoming year.

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Image source: Domain

The benefits of chatbots

The beauty of a chatbot is it has the power to act as a 24/7 point of contact for any type of business. With chatbots, there are no wait times. Whether you have one or 1,000 customers visiting your website, each one will instantly be able to interact and request information.

Chatbot systems can also live where your customers already are, for example in messaging apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and Slack. This means it is easier and faster for you to create a dialogue with potential clients. Over the course of this dialogue, your friendly chatbot can refer users to your website, boosting your traffic. A bot can also request email addresses to help you grow your database.

“When executed well, chatbots have the potential to streamline customer interactions and increase engagement.”

From a business perspective, chatbots have the power to provide better service at a lower cost. Programmed to respond to certain keywords and frequently asked questions, a chatbot will refer only the more complicated requests to an actual customer service agent. This gives you and your team access to better quality enquiries.

Chatbots can also reflect your business and your brand’s voice. They can use the same language your team would use – they can even make small talk and be a little bit cheeky if you let them!

The future of chatbots

Right now, chatbots are somewhat helpful, so long as your customers are asking the right questions. At present, a chatbot can only respond based on keywords, giving pre-programmed answers. This means they can’t completely replace humans when it comes to customer care.

The potential of this software lies in the advancements of NLP, NLU and machine learning. As reported in Forbes, chatbots will soon have the ability to “determine not just what rules-based action to take based on a word, but to understand the meaning of words in different combinations, ask questions to create context and intent, and to actually do something for the customer”.

In other words, chatbots will be able to learn as they go. By capturing data and analysing customer behaviour, the technology will also be able to predict consumer behaviour and needs.

Down the track, chatbots will be integrated with voice recognition software, removing the need for an interface altogether. They will also link with voice assistant’s such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa. This means consumers will be able to book an appraisal, find a hotel room or even order more dishwashing liquid, simply by asking out loud.

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How to start applying chatbot technology to your real estate agency

Businesses of all sizes around the world are experimenting with chatbot technology. As a real estate agency, it is worth trialling the technology. Its likely to provide the best return on investment within property management, as chatbots could aid with the large amount of rental enquiry questions property management teams receive.

While it is possible to program a chatbot yourself, you are probably busy with other things. Your best bet is to contact a software provider that specialises in the technology.

“Before you commission a chatbot, it is worth having some in-house discussions to define your target customer and develop a consistent online ‘voice’.”

You can have a chatbot developed for use in messaging apps, on your website or both. Once you have determined your objectives, your chatbot provider will begin the design and development process. They will come up with the look and feel and create conversation paths designed to optimise the customer experience.

The outcome of your chatbot project should be happy customers, a more streamlined lead funnel and less need for staff who sit all day answering phone calls that answer the same frequently asked questions.

When launching chatbots for Facebook in 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg foreshadowed the end of the phone as a way of communicating with customers. He wryly commented that with chatbots, “You’ll never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

While this technology is currently very basic, especially in Australia, it is easy to see how it has the potential to take over many aspects of customer care. Artificial intelligence is becoming more intelligent and with it, businesses of all sizes will be able to improve their service, their efficiency and their bottom line.

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Mark Cairns, General Manager

Mark Cairns, General Manager

With a rare mix of marketing, sales and digital experience, Mark’s our resident ‘spearhead for innovation’. Having helped many brands to grow, Mark’s adept at spotting opportunities that will improve our clients marketing activities, and help them become the local market leader.

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