Ever since the now infamous Gripe List was published, MLSs have been scrambling to find out they can better serve their MLS Customers. I was honored to moderate a panel of brokers at the highly successful RESO conference last week as part of the first business track. I asked them what they believe an MLS must do to become broker-centric.
Since there is no official definition of what a broker-centric MLS is I thought I would take a crack at it to get the conversation going.
The following list is a compilation of their answers along with interviews we conducted with brokers throughout the country and even our own experiences with MLS organizations working on behalf of our broker clients.
Here you go:
1. TRULY understands and addresses broker’s needs
The broker-centric MLS goes to school on their brokers – they spend time truly listening to their brokers and uncover new ways to help them be successful in the ways that brokers are interested in. Importantly, they DO something about what brokers need – they don’t just postulate about it
2. MOVES quickly – solves problems and create opportunities
Brokers are entrepreneurs by definition. They work in a highly competitive and undifferentiated environment. They need to solve problems every day to open up doors of opportunity for their agents and for their clients. MLSs who do not have a sense of urgency are slowing down a broker’s ability to get it done and make a sale.
When a broker calls, she needs an answer quickly. As soon as you slow down the potential for a new sale or a new line of business an MLS is NOT being broker-centric. We get complaints all the time about MLSs who simply say no or worse yet, don’t respond at all to requests.
It’s also important to support the companies that work for the brokers. Some MLSs treat technology companies like lepers. They portray a genuine disinterest and even disgust for vendors that have been hired by brokers to deliver services. The attitude of broker-centricity needs to extend to ALL of the companies that support them, not just to the brokers themselves. We just had a hellish experience with a small MLS in New York State that simply refused to answer questions that we were requesting on behalf of one of the MLSs clients. We weren’t asking for anything other than public information and they simply refused to provide it after ignoring us for a few weeks. SO frustrating!
3. Flexible offerings – subscription/a la carte – both agents and brokers
All Brokers are not created equal. It’s time for MLSs to stop TALKING about offering a variety of subscription levels and service offerings and start doing it. MLSs need to start acting more like a cable company and less like a magazine subscription offering customized services to meet the unique needs of each of their customers.
4. PLEASURE, not PAIN to work with
This one was a real hot button with my broker panel at RESO. They said it would be so great if the MLS would pick up the phone with an enthusiastic – “Good morning, how can we help you be successful today?” They tell us that they often feel like they are a burden to the MLS, especially if they are asking something a bit out of norm. They are greeted with an unenthusiastic hello instead of a welcoming and upbeat tone.
5. Up to speed/compliant on ALL current policies
The MLSs that are not up to speed AND compliant with all current data policies are not serving the needs of their members. We hear often, for example, that brokers ask for a VOW feed and are simply told NO with any recourse, even though MLSs have been required to offer VOW feeds since the DOJ required them to several years ago. We also hear that many MLSs are STILL not offering SOLDS as an option in their IDX feed even though the requirement was put in place over a year ago. If you’re one of these MLSs who are dragging their feet on this, you are definitely NOT broker-centric.
6. LIVES to provide amazing, relevant service(s)
Broker-Centric MLSs are constantly evaluating the power, relevance and incrementality of the services they offer. They also focus energies on effectively promoting their services to encourage adoption by highlighting how each of their products will help their subscribers be more successful. They conduct regular outreach in broker’s offices to help their members learn how to use each of the services more effectively in their businesses. They pride themselves on the relationships they have with their brokers by constantly soliciting input about ways the MLS can improve the value and relevance of their organizations.
7. Helps brokers be better – insights
Brokers are busy, head down every day solving problems. It’s very difficult for them to find the time to look at the bigger trends affecting their business or get proactive about ways to re-invent their businesses. The best MLSs are focused on helping to keep their brokers up to speed on issues and trends that can help them be more successful. Proactive MLSs offer services like RE Technology.com, an online technology education site. They bring in national speakers. In a few cases, like the Houston Association of REALTORS®, they even provide consumer insights by creating their own local consumer research panel. (FYI, WAV Group partners own RE Technology.com and facilitate the consumer panel for HAR)
8. Eliminates ego/protectionism
One of the things that drive brokers the most crazy are MLSs that believe the needs of their organization is more important than the collective needs of the broker customers they serve. We’ve seen MLS organizations get very passive aggressive about consolidation efforts even though it is more cost-effective for a broker to expand into new territories, for example. They worry about being in control of their fiefdom more than they care about enabling brokers to expand their footprint. As soon as an MLS starts to worry about their own jobs or importance more than serving the needs of their paying customers, they are going down the wrong road. We see it happen regularly, unfortunately.
9. Encourages innovation
The most proactive brokers are smart. They are trying new ways to use technology and MLS data to differentiate themselves by providing better insights to their agents or creating new products and services to help their agents provide amazing customer service or marketing support. These types of brokers call us in frustration all the time. They tell us if they go to their MLS with anything but exactly the same types of technologies offered by their competitors their MLS doesn’t know how to handle it. Most times when a MLS does not know what to do they simply say no. While sometimes brokers may be trying to do something that is not appropriate or acceptable, many MLSs treat all unique requests the same and simply reject the idea. It’s time for MLSs to get more creative and collaborative with their broker partners, supporting their need for differentiation and working to evolve rules and regulations.
10. Balances Data Accuracy with Respect
Brokers are very appreciative of the MLSs’ focus on data quality and accuracy. It is a critical tool to position them and their agents as experts. They would appreciate more proactivity and collaboration when a listing contains an error. They would love to see MLSs eliminate the fines system and go more for a proactive partnership where MLSs help fix problems and train agents on how to avoid making the same mistakes instead of using a punitive system like many MLSs offer right now. They would also like to see the MLS reward good behavior instead of punish inaccuracies.
I would love to hear your list of what you think makes an MLS Broker-Centric!