There’s this recurring feature of Reader’s Digest called “Things your <INSERT ANYTHING> wishes you knew.” It’s a fun read and usually I learn a thing or two or end up thinking about things a little differently than I did before. It got me thinking about the kinds of things I wish agents knew about the work of The Product Studio and our innovation strategy. So, in keeping with the Reader’s Digest theme, here are a few things we’d like you to know:
- Less Is More– When we first started working with Coldwell Banker NRT on their technology products, we quickly learned that agents and employees were weighed down by far too many products. The challenges this created from a value proposition, service and efficiency (not to mention learning and support) standpoint were bogging everyone down with far too much noise. In our quest to create raving fans of the technology, we set a goal to reduce the marketing product line by 90% by year-end – moving Coldwell Banker NRT from having 99 marketing products nationally to a much more consumable technology suite. I’m pleased to share we’ve successfully eliminated 81 of our 99 marketing products.
- The Magic Number – People ask me all the time how many products will we have at the end of all of this reduction. My answer? “10…ish…” While it’s no secret we’ve had a big job of product reduction (and the communication and change management that comes with it), we’ve also addedproducts along our journey. You may be asking yourself why are we adding when we are supposed to be eliminating!? And to that I answer: For very good reason! Yes, part of our responsibility is product consolidation, but a big part of is research and development and ensuring that we are mindful, forward thinking and ahead of what competitors are doing so we provide agents with a tech suite that continues to position them ahead of the competition. The pilots we are testing are all designed to research, test and help us succeed (or fail) quickly so we know what works, what doesn’t and where we will see the needle move most in recruiting and retention. As of today, the “magic number” at the end of our product consolidation rainbow is 12. And while we will always keep our focus on simplification, technology has forever changed the world we live in and, as such, we will continue to evolve and grow Coldwell Banker NRT’s product line over time.
- If You’re Not Failing in Tech, You’re Not Waking Up– Bottom line. There’s a saying in the software world: “The only code that has no bugs is the code that has never been written.” Recently we worked on a new mobile app called Agent Advocate. It was a cool concept (dreamt up during the Realogy April Product Challenge). It gave us impressive insights into building our first iOS mobile app within NRT IT and would ultimately provide agents with data for their listing presentations on how they (and Coldwell Banker NRT) stood out in their market. We built it, got it on the Apple Store and started putting it in front of agents. We found that users were engaged at first, but very few returned to it. We positioned it in the market, promoted it at meetings, found a few agent ambassadors to promote it, but found that the demand just wasn’t there. After six weeks, we only had about 51 downloads and our users just weren’t regularly accessing the tool. Knowing our need to focus on the products that really matter to agents, we ultimately realized that while we’d gained some good insight from the great work done by the development team, in this case, it was best for us to kill the product. Sometimes it’s hard to walk away from something you’re passionate about, but our product strategy is a big one and if the output doesn’t fit into the big picture of improving agents’ business and we don’t see strong demand early on, sometimes you just have to be willing to walk away and chalk up your losses.
- Guesses Make Messes– Often you’ll sit in a meeting and the highest paid executive in the room will demand a change to your product. When you ask them for detail as to the why or data to back up the decision, the response you typically hear is anecdotal based on the most recent meetings or events they participated in where they heard that feedback. So many companies base their strategies on the loudest voice in the room or optimistic guesses. And far too often, both are wrong. That is why we are moving toward a voice of customer strategy that focuses on data-driven decisions and user research. Partnering with products like Validately, UserVoice, HotJar and Wootric, we now have critical feedback loops in our products, regular user experience testing at varying intervals in product development and continued iteration based on user-centric data once the product is in the market – all to help us make smarter decisions, faster. The bottom line is that guessing is expensive, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage and it’s arrogant. Our job is to listen, learn and iterate to create products that truly delight our users and the data we are gathering helps us do just that.
- One Ring Will Rule Them All –Everything we are doing right now is focused on creating a more delightful experience for agents and employees. The foundation — or one ring to rule them all as we call it — is Desk. While in beta today, the vision for Desk unites these core principles into one, integrated solution to help improve agent and staff productivity:
- Product consolidation
- Ongoing R&D
- User research
- Updating the product styling into a more consistent and modern user interface
- Developing integrations so our systems talk to each other
- Leveraging APIs so contacts, calendars and the tools most critical to agents sync across platforms
With Desk, imagine a world where you update your profile in one place and it syncs across all of your platforms. You meet a prospect at an open house, enter it into your phone and immediately have it sync to all of the tools you use. You open the calendar on your phone and find everything from sales meetings and office events to company trainings, your daughter’s soccer practice and your upcoming inspections and appraisals. Desk will serve as the baseline of our technology suite. We have a big vision and can’t wait to bring it to life for you.
So there’s the five things The Product Studio would like agents to know. And, as always, we actively seek input from agents every day to make sure we are on the right track.