The Best of the Tech Helpline: To Bot or Not to Bot?

 October 08, 2018
Best of Tech Helpline

Technology has empowered real estate agents in remarkable ways in the last couple of decades. One of the hottest innovations for agent websites is bots. Short for robot, a bot is a software program that can execute commands, such as replying to messages, or performing routine tasks, typically automatically. For agent websites, chatbots are used to conduct a text conversation when someone visits the site. A popup is deployed inviting any questions a website user may have.

Chatbots are designed to convincingly mirror human conversation and often use artificial intelligence to offer answers to website visitor questions. When a visitor submits a question, the bot determines the correct response and returns the answer in a conversational style text, like a real person. If all goes as planned, the site visitor’s question is answered, and the visitor has a great experience using your site as a result.

Bots for real estate websites

A bot-attended website is advantageous when you don’t have time to monitor your site 24/7. Many agents also can’t afford to hire a customer service staff to monitor websites around the clock. But if they could, they would be able to offer visitors live assistance, answering any questions they may have immediately.

Not only could a service like this on your website provide potential customers a great experience, but it could help turn prospective customers into clients. At the very least, this service would likely increase your ability to capture site visitor contact information and build your database.

Chatbots can be great

Bot technology is improving every day. The best thing about artificial intelligence is that it keeps getting smarter: it learns and therefore improves over time. Bot conversation performance today is a lot better today than just a year ago.

Plus, the use of bots is expanding. You can use bots not only on your websites, but your business Facebook page and even your Twitter account. Bots can begin a conversation with a potential contact and work to develop the prospect to the point where you can take over the live discussion. Bots can help prospects search the MLS, take messages for you, and even share current market performance data with your customers.

Bots can be very helpful in qualifying your leads, helping to determine which prospects are the ones who need ‚ÄĒ and want ‚ÄĒ your help right away. One of the biggest challenges real estate agents face is being able to provide timely responses to their clients because emails and texts appear at all times of the day and night. Chatbots could solve this problem because they provide an immediate response.

Chatbots can be bad

There can be a downside to bots every agent should consider before deploying a bot service. And that’s when bots go bad: when the automated conversation does not work out for the potential customer. For a chatbot to work correctly, consumers must a) know that they are talking to a bot; and b) a bot must deliver value to the consumer. As soon as the conversation no longer provides value, the consumer abandons the bot and the conversation. That’s a significant risk to take for a transaction as big as a house.

The human factor

In the end, the decision to use a bot is a very personal one for each agent and his or her business. The technology firms offering bots say agents using their services report increasing their business significantly because of the leads they capture and no longer lose.

But agents who are 100 percent consumer-centric need to thoroughly test any new technology that is going to interact with their clients, like a bot. Agents need to make sure they experience what their clients and potential clients experience before they buy.

Right now, that‚Äôs the challenge. No technology is perfect, just like humans. But we have some things bots do not have ‚ÄĒ at least not yet: empathy and the ability to better determine the nuances in language, subtle hidden meanings in words and play on words. And let‚Äôs face it, who is a potential client today going to trust more: a bot or a real human being?

This contributing article is from the Tech Helpline, a service of the WRA. 

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