The Keller Williams pivot is beginning to make sense to me. At a time when many franchise companies are focused on systems integration, KW is trying to become a systems developer of bespoke software.
Forever and today, Keller Williams has been tirelessly focused on the agent – recruiting, training, coaching, supporting. Gary Keller is almost like the Tony Robbins of real estate. He knows that if you can help an agent to find the right head space, their authentic head space where the agent knows what to do and loves doing it, it’s a win. Recruiting agents and building them up. Keller wants them to be successful and rich. KW’s role – is just to keep the heart pounding.
Keller became very wealthy many years ago. The kind of riches that never go away. With all of that behind him, he continues the mission to have a company of nearing 200,000 individuals that are working together under the same system of beliefs.
The pivot that Keller Williams made was focused around building their own technology. With the size of the company, it’s probably more economical anyway. When you license software, you get what they make and adopt to how they (software designers) want you to work. Gary threw all of that away.
I think that Compass is thinking the same way. If two or three franchises are all using the same thing, such as DotLoop, they all begin to look and act the same way. That is a problem for brands. Much in the same way that brokers complain about software solutions across brands like an MLS system – it levels the playing field. I think Gary hates it when he hears that a competitor is using the same software.
But this consideration cuts both ways. Just about every restaurant gets most of their food from Sysco, but it always tastes different when they plate it up and bring it to your table, right? I do not think that building software as a real estate broker makes much sense, unless the broker loves building software and that is their thing. Great software sits behind the people helping out and staying out of the way. Regardless of who builds it, that is what it is supposed to do.
I think that Gary Keller has a fascination with data. Clearly, he understands the power of it. That is the spirit behind Keller Cloud – which is really a vertical cloud with lots of layers. Everything goes in there. They build microservices on top of the data that perform functions.
Once you have that data, you can begin running decision support use cases that leverage that data. Artificial Intelligence is what happens when machines do the work of humans. They listen, watch for patterns, and do what’s next. An agent taking a video walkthrough of the house has a machine (phone) in the palm of their hand that sees things that the agent also sees, and it automatically categorizes and classifies every object in the video, much like an agent would do mentally. With this organized data, AI systems can create value and insights for both agents and their clients.
As the camera sees wood floors, granite counter tops, or whatever, it creates markers and tags. A two-car garage has meaning beyond the number 2. It is certainly not a single car garage and also not a three-car garage. Two cars, that’s it. Where do the other cars go? And, look over there – the laundry is in the garage. The agent sees these things and makes a mental note, but when Keller Cloud sees these things, it remembers them. It associates the data with many other systems (microservices). They create a type of data exhaust.
Keller Williams wants to collect that exhaust and find ways to use it. That data exhaust drives a lot of AI applications when tied to creative imaginations. For example, the video of the home can be used to create a virtual tour, but also calculate homeowner’s insurance or a home warranty. It also captures consumer preferences. Interesting, right?
I am also sure that the teams at Keller Williams and the teams that they work with at Google are getting along pretty well. And they are getting along outside of the United States too. They are working together globally in Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America. They are looking at homes and the way that people live globally. I bet that the dinners they have together are fun. They are driven by curiosity rather than balance sheets. They are unshackled from the end game of finding results that are anything more than interesting. They know that if they simply let it play out, great things will come. Especially if they stay tuned to the voice and behavior and the consumer.
It has taken a few years and a lot of treasury, but we are beginning to see some things come out of KW Labs. The idea of KW Labs is to build agent focus features, not products. This is very important to understand about their strategy. They bring agents into the lab to be partners in building a feature. As the agents ask questions and tell stories about what they do in their business life, they learn how agents think.
They also listen to what the agents say about consumers, along with the frustration that surfaces in the real estate business and in the life of the agent and consumer. The quest is to build solutions that people love by putting the agent or the consumer in the lab. Out of that comes software with a greater purpose. When the software succeeds, they let the agents take it out of the lab and run with it. When it fails, they mess with it until they get it right. As you repeat this process of developing AI-driven smart features, they naturally start to match up with other features to become products.
Keller Williams is about to launch their core CRM product called Command in December or January. It is an example of features coming together. The app they are rolling out sounds interesting too. It allows the agent to configure the buyer and seller journey. This is really important to understand because it is not linear.
They are not creating a CRM that encourages everyone to manage customer relationships and journeys the same way. This is brilliant. A great CRM is the one that you use. They are all a bit different and agents gravitate to one product or another because it aligns with how the agent thinks and works. They are not trying to assimilate behaviors, but rather to embrace the variety of behaviors.
Command was not built to synthesize every use case. Command was built with flexibility to allow the agent to structure the journey that works for them. It assumes that agents will all want something different for different customers. WOW! That is what bespoke software should be. And it becomes more powerful as the software leverages data, data exhaust, and AI to learn, adapt, and predict.
I imagine that success will come slowly at first. It may even seem like the early flowers of their work will look “unspecial.” But over time, there will be new buds and new flowers that evolve from the early successes and failures. They are stockpiling potentiality, and when they do that, the inevitable will occur. At the very least, they will know a lot.
WAV Group is going to look at Command in beta format sometime before or after Christmas. I am looking forward to hit. The strategy and thought process is solid, and that is the first big step.
Great article Victor. A point that needs to be brought out that has not in any prior discussion that I know of now. The application of unique technologies does not favor the ultimate objective of having a streamlined transactional experience for the consumer. In an industry that has been built on a sales environment of cooperation, agents working for different franchises or brokerages or that are using different technology platforms themselves present unique challenges to completing a truly cooperative transaction.
In example, one agent, the listing agent uses DocUSign for TMS and the other, the buyer’s agent uses DotLoop. Which platform serves as the universal platform for that single transaction? Result, a disintegrated tech train wreck that creates a horrible experience for the consumer.
It’s great that the industry has suddenly awakened to the value of technology but one day this industry will need to address the competitive nature of the technology. Today tech is very much brewing used to retain and attract agents v. what it should be delivering that is the ability for the same tech to align to enable the creation an truly improved, integrated consumer transactional experience.
Without making that happen, all of the rest makes little or no sense. Consumer-first thinking is no longer an option. It is the only way that this industry will survive as it exists today.
I agree Ken. DocuSign and DotLoop have open API architecture that allows a broker to use different technology platform – I do not believe that Skyslope or Instanet do (could be wrong). Our advise to brokers is to never let your agent log into another brokers TM system – that is a compliance nightmare as you cannot monitor anything in there. Hugely problamatic.
I know that Rebecca Jensen at MRED is trying to champion a “notification” standard for Transaction Managemnet – hopefully her leadership will stimulate a RESO standard for this.
That is the fix we can all live with.
This is the same thinking that has caused this fragmented market for 2 decades. As long as agents and brokers need to cooperate on sales there is a need for a shared/common technology.
Agents and brokers can individually ‘brand’ a common united technology so it looks unique. That’s what will bring real efficiency and change to this market.
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