Teresa Duran – John L. Scott Real Estate
If you’ve tried looking for a house or apartment in the last five years, chances are you wound up on Zillow or Redfin, two of the world’s biggest real-estate websites. Here, with just a few clicks and field-fills, users can scroll through hundreds—even thousands—of listings, each with a profile of the property.
Such functionality sure seems like the apex of home-hunting technology. But beneath the high-resolution images and crisp interface, details can be scarce. What about the surrounding neighborhood? How do the schools compare to others in the area? Is this really the right fit for my family?
For Teresa Duran, chief information officer at John L. Scott Real Estate (JLS), there’s a depersonalized feel to the world of online real estate—one her firm intends to remedy.
“It’s about who knows the neighborhood better through a hyperlocal presence,” says Duran. “We want to create a platform that has next-level reporting and analytics and helps bridge the buyer and seller more seamlessly. Through our technology and expert agents, we can make the process much more personal with their clients.”
Getting there, however, will require plenty of foundational tweaks.
Shortly after joining JLS in late 2017, Duran hired a mobile developer to update the firm’s home-search app, one of the industry’s first when it was launched in 2011. Soon, users will be able to filter everything from school performance data to enhanced neighborhood details.
By the end of this year, Duran plans to augment the app with a number of game-changing features, from virtual video tours to a voice-recognition function, allowing users to conduct searches through digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa.
According to Duran, consumers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the upgrades. With more than 3,300 agents across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California, JLS is focusing on ways to make those agents more efficient, giving them the time to do what they do best: engage with their clients.
“In today’s market, when you’re representing a client looking to buy a house, you have seconds to get back to them,” Duran explains. “We’re creating ways to make it easier to respond and follow up even when they’re out and assisting other clients.”
Agents of change
Of course, any best-in-class mobile app should have an equally impressive website behind it. As one of the first real estate companies to provide search filters for its web listings, JLS has long been at the digital forefront. From customizable search areas to over a dozen individual criteria—price, square footage and time-on-market included—the website will feel friendly-familiar to even the most loyal of Zillow users.
The company is also improving the agent experience. When agents join the JLS ranks, they’re given access to a customizable client relationship management platform (CRM) and training, allowing them to create customer engagement notifications, campaigns and market insights based on a client’s specific neighborhood or regional preferences.
In addition, agents can build their own JLS-branded websites. According to Duran, John L. Scott is investing in innovative technology products to improve lead generation and predictive analytics, bridging sellers with buyer demand in real time, to “increase our wins with leads and listings.”
The company is also working to improve its marketing and advertising efforts. By 2019, Duran hopes to outfit all agent CRMs with scalable and seamless targeted advertising products based on user data and consumer demand.
The goal, Duran says, is to create a “plug-and-play” environment, where firms have the flexibility to leverage those products that will put them in closer contact with potential customers.
“We need to demonstrate to buyers and sellers that our agents are true experts in their area,” Duran explains. “When you go on Redfin, you don’t know who you are going to get. What we’re trying to do is connect users directly with our agents.”
Brick and mortar
While the firm’s consumer- and agent-facing products remain a priority, Duran and her team have taken an equally assertive approach to upgrading JLS’ data center—the backbone of all its digital efforts—to achieve a more dynamic “hybrid-cloud” system. First and foremost, that means improving the company’s internal communications systems, ensuring more reliable and outage-free emails and asset exchanges.
Recently, Duran upgraded JLS’ network infrastructure, increasing bandwidth to allow its 300 full-time employees to operate more efficiently.
For Duran, the resulting workload has been mettle-testing, to say the least. With a team of just 18 full-time IT personnel, Duran relies heavily on outside vendors.
For instance, with the help of TEKsystems—a leading global technology services company—Duran not only ensured the timely execution of CRM product releases, Exchange Online, Business Intelligence Reporting, and SEO projects; she laid the groundwork for her company’s IT team and strategy of the future.
“TEKsystems and JLS have been partnering for the better part of five years, and, during that time, we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on complex business challenges,” says Matt Hulsebus, executive director of operations at TEKsystems. “Over this period, we helped in building a dynamic technology team that has allowed JLS to evolve and mature in an ever-changing industry. We’re very excited to continue our partnership with JLS.”
With JLS’ IT infrastructure growing stronger by the day, Duran is turning her attention to bolstering the company’s web presence and user-retention efforts. Doing so, she says, requires not just fancy apps and faster networks, but a more fundamental connection.
“My philosophy is that, at heart, I’m an end user of tech,” Duran says. “When you’re thinking about how to create and market new tech, you have to put yourself in the user’s shoes. That’s the only way you can truly understand the process.”
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Founded in 1931, John L Scott is one of the nation’s largest and most respected real estate firms. Beyond technology and expert agents, John L. Scott established a foundation that has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals. Learn more about how you can support children’s health care at johnlscottfoundation.org.
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