A property industry leader has urged brokers to focus on customer retention and “double down” on keeping customers happy for the long term in the face of disruptive blockchain technologies.
Blockchains, a type of decentralised database that keeps records of digital transactions, are presenting a threat to the mortgage and property industry as they “replace the function of the middle man”.
Speaking to The Adviser, Greg Dickason, the executive manager technology for CoreLogic, explained that these “distributed public ledgers” are trusted places to record transactions and could revolutionise the way consumers transact.
Further, Mr Dickason has predicted that in five to 10 years’ time, people could “find, fund, acquire, rent and dispose” of properties in a single transaction, as blockchain gains traction in the property industry.
He explained: “Let's say I'm a buyer and I want to get my financing lined up and I want to get my house lined up at the same time. At the moment, they are two completely separate transactions. I've got to get a broker, I've got to interact with a bank, I've got to get my pre-approval. Separately to that, I've got to go and search on a website, speak to agents, go to open homes… I've also got to go and get a pest inspection to make sure that I'm comfortable with what I'm buying.
“I've got to line all this up myself, and that's hard work. I've got to phone people, I've got to chase people up, I've got to physically go to places. And there's nobody in the market that really pulls it all together for me. Blockchain could do that for us. To some extent that's taking away some of those middle men that aren't as effective, but it's also helping to co-ordinate something, which at the moment is reliant on the buyer, or the renter or the seller.”
Although the blockchain allows different people and institutions to interact with each other without a middle man, Mr Dickason believes that brokers will still have a role to play.
Mr Dickason explained that blockchain’s potential for disintermediation is more likely to affect “back-office” middle men rather than “front-office” people.
“It’s not going to replace customer-facing staff,” he said. “I think brokers still have a role to play, because I think that blockchain will still need introducing. They’re still going to need someone to interact with customers, and it’s all going to be about service.”
He added: “It’s going to be less about your back-office capabilities, because blockchain will make that easier, and it will become much more about your front-end interactions with customers.
“It will remove the need to have every rate under the sun and have all of the back-office efficiency, because Blockchain can give that to you, but it can never replace that coffee that you have, that email conversation that you have with your customer, that’s going to be needed.”
‘Get fanatical about customer service’
To prepare themselves for a future where blockchain technologies and other digital technologies become increasingly prevalent, Mr Dickason advises brokers to “get fanatical about customer service”.
“I think you need to: 1) Understand what’s coming; and 2) Double down on being very good at your customer service, at getting and keeping your customers,” he recommended.
“I think too few brokers rely on their trail and don’t do enough customer retention, and I think if brokers got better at point of retention, keeping their customers long-term happy… then I think they’d be in the best position they can be for the blockchain world.”
He noted, however, that there would likely only be one point of customer service for home buyers.
“And that person could be the broker, but at some point, they could be competing with the real estate agent,” he said. “So there absolutely is a role for the broker, but I’m not sure that there’s a role for more than one customer service person.
“If they’re the best at customer service, then they’ll probably win that game.”
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