Whether it’s purchasing clothing or ordering a takeaway, it’s no longer unusual to have a conversation with a robot. With more bots now incorporating Facebook Messenger, the technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Messenger bots can be used to answer your questions and direct you towards items when you are unsure of what to choose, but what about for big purchases such as buying a house?
What can an estate agent’s messenger bot do?
The capabilities of messenger bots may surprise you. They can suggest properties to potential home buyers, give an estimate based on the area to help those looking to sell and so much more.
A good chatbot will react to a user’s personal needs and can factor in precise elements of someone’s search, from practical queries such as the number of bedrooms they are looking for to considering which homes would fit the person’s lifestyle and interests.
The purpose of the chatbot is to generate leads. A messenger bot could set up an interaction such as a phone call which could ultimately become a sale. Messenger bots could potentially become a new essential sales tool.
Are estate agents using messenger bots?
It was Australian estate agents Domain that were the first in the industry to use a Facebook Messenger bot in May 2016. This allowed for property enquires to be dealt with immediately.
With a large network across Australia, this meant customers were given quick answers about their vast bank of properties. Although the technology’s presence in this industry is still relatively new, it is a growing area of interest and will continue to evolve and improve.
Apartment Ocean is a chatbot that was designed for the rental market but is now proving popular in more aspects of estate agency.
The company’s co-founder, Junjie Shi, explains the process of the app launching: “We did our first chatbot for apartment renters on Slack and Facebook Messenger for test purposes in mid-2016.
“Since we launched, we surprisingly received lots of inquiries from real estate agents besides regular renters that asked if they can use this chatbot by themselves. Then we decided to develop a chatbot for real estate agents”.
Shi is confident that the reason his messenger bot has been successful is because of the way it solves a major pain point for agents.
“Agents want high quality leads, but most of them don’t even know who visited their websites. [The messenger bot] handles the initial conversation on website … it acts like a real real estate agent to ask some common questions.
“The answers will be sent to agents as a sales lead. In this way, agents can be well prepared before they contact their potential customers.”
By encouraging your visitors to interact with a bot rather than browse alone, you can better understand what they want to know.
What does this mean for traditional estate agents?
With a growing number of purely digital estate agencies, there are many industry members looking for the next technological opportunity. Messenger bots are a natural progression for online agents.
However, there’s no reason why physical estate agents can’t also become early adopters of this method. This tool would help them bridge the digital gap.
Although some estate agents are using chatbots, many will have no experience of virtual assistance. Improvements are being made to the technology to become more accessible so that companies of all sizes and technical knowledge will be able to use it.
Shi says he is focussing on making the tool easier. “Real estate agents are not programmers or developers. They don’t know how to code or how to write a few lines of commands. The chatbot should offer a mobile app style experience that everyone knows how to install and play with it.”
A messenger bot would allow estate agents on the high street to keep up with the age of instant demand without sacrificing the human touch. Quick queries can be answered by a messenger bot, leaving agents free to talk with clients more in-depth and assist on house-to-house visits.
For those worried about their customer’s experience online, they should be reassured by the evolution of the technology. “Chatbots need to have a better ability to lead the topic of conversation. Also, the chatbot must talk like a regular person, which means users shouldn’t even be able to figure out if they are chatting with a human or a bot”, Shi says.
Although the technology is still developing, anyone who adopts it before it is widely implemented is giving themselves an early advantage. Buying a new home may be a big decision but a little thing such as a messenger bot may make it easier for customers and estate agents, too.