WAV Group LogoIn almost every RFP (Request for Proposal) process I facilitate I get asked the question, which MLS vendor and system is the best?  In every instance I say, it depends, there isn’t a single right system for everyone.  Unlike the waitress who tells you everything is good on the menu, I really am not trying to avoid the question.  I will openly discuss what we see as pros and cons of each system, but the truth is, the vendor that is right for one customer is not going to be right for another.

There are many things to consider in arriving at the right choice and one huge thing to consider is the MLS vendor company culture and the culture of your MLS.  If you choose a vendor because you like their system but you find out you don’t really like the way they interact with you or their overall culture it can be a very frustrating experience.  On the other hand, if you are working with a vendor that you trust, and really mesh with in terms of the way you communicate and operate, it is easy to address issues and overcome the difficulties that will naturally come up.

Determining the type of vendor culture that is right for you is a lot like determining an investment profile.  Do you feel safer with a large, solid company that has high market share or would you prefer to work with a medium or smaller company where you may have more direct contact with the real decision makers.  One may offer a sense of greater stability while the other may offer the perception of faster change and the ability to react to market changes.  Does the stability of a large company give you a comfort that is necessary to you or do you prefer working with a smaller company where there may be a more personal touch.

In terms of technology, do you want to choose a company with a product that has been time tested for many years or are you more of a risk taker looking for leading edge capabilities.  If you are, then you should be the type of partner that is also willing to work through the first generation bugs and adjustments that come with the fun of being on the leading edge.  There isn’t a right or wrong here but there are realities that come along with the choices.  I know MLSs that love being on the cutting edge and helping to design and influence technology direction and I know others that just want the product to work and are not interested in being involved beyond that.  What is your preference?

Another area that becomes important over time includes the ability of customers to influence product direction.  Some vendors tend to be very responsive to customer input and their suggestions and move quite quickly to implement changes they feel are good for the product.  Other vendors not so much, but their customers are totally fine with that because they feel it is the vendor’s responsibility to set course and direction for the product.  Again, it is a matter of which approach works for you.

While we don’t have dozens and dozens of MLS vendors anymore in our industry the ones we have are excellent.  Each MLS vendor today has their own unique strengths and culture as well as unique products.  You can choose from the very large MLS vendors where you will be one of many customers to the opposite end where you can work with great vendors serving only a couple of clients.  And if you talk with customers using both you will hear that they really like the side they are on, which just illustrates that there isn’t a single right answer.

Identify your priorities before choosing a vendor!

I think it is really important as you move into any technology selection process to take some time and ask your membership and staff questions about what is really important to them.  We recommend member and staff research as a key part of the RFP process.  Here are just a few of the areas we recommend you explore with your members:

  • Your membership’s comfort level with technology
  • The level of support they really want and need from a vendor
  • How they feel about communications they receive now on technology
  • The level of technology they are actually using today – do you know what they use and don’t use on the current MLS system
  • How important is it to them to be leading edge
  • How important is it to them to not “rock the boat”
  • How they feel about the upgrades their vendor makes or doesn’t make
  • How they want to receive training
  • What they like and don’t like about service today
  • What they like and don’t like about their MLS technology today

In terms of your staff, they will be the ones interacting with the MLS vendor most frequently.  Make sure to include them in you research

  • How do they feel about their communications with the current vendor?
  • Is their vendor responsive?
  • Can they talk with someone that actually makes decisions?
  • How are communications from the vendor in terms of system changes and direction?
  • Are they a pleasure to work with?  Remember, these are long contracts.  It is important to like the people you are working with.
  • Do they follow through with commitments?

Final Thoughts

Some of these suggestions may seem obvious but many review processes really do focus almost exclusively on features and functionality and push the cultural side of the review to the back.  At the end of the day, remember, all of these vendors have good products.  Find the vendor with the product you like best but make sure you also are comfortable with the “relationship” you are entering into.  The relationship is what will make it easy to get through any issues that are bound to come up during a multi year agreement.  Talk to accounts using any of the vendors you are considering.  Talk to accounts that have left that vendor.  Understand what wasn’t working.  Talk to their big customers and also their small ones.  Are you going to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?  Do small accounts get the same level of service with a big vendor that they would with a medium or smaller vendor?

WAV Group 2013 MLS Technology Survey

WAV Group does an MLS technology survey each year in September.  Last year we had 80 MLSs participate with over 15,000 agents and staff taking part.  We hope your MLS will be a part of this free national survey this year.  MLSs that participate receive a free report on the national results for their vendor and system as well as a comparison of how all vendors were rated overall.  If you would like to be included please send an email to mike@wavgroup.com and we will make sure to send you the necessary information to get your MLS into the survey.

WAV Group RFP Process

WAV Group helps numerous MLSs each year go through the MLS vendor selection process.  If you would like more information on the WAV Group RFP process, please contact us at mike@wavgroup.com or 716-839-4628.