April 2015 | By Lee Davenport
Moving away from physical files and adopting a paperless transaction management system has its perks. It can improve client satisfaction, reduce liability, and help agents work more efficiently, according to a recent RealTrends report. Going paperless is also an ideal way to instantly access and track your office’s vital numbers. But we all know that the road to success often has some bumps along the way.
I was an eyewitness to a semi-paperless office (SPO), where agents turned in paper contracts that were then saved to the cloud for review and storage. This was a trying period that resulted in at least one agent threatening to leave for another firm.
Here are two colossal mistakes that brokers should avoid so that more of their agents accept the transition to the cloud and adopt the paperless revolution in the industry.
Mistake 1: Adding More Time to Your Agents’ Workload
At the SPO, many of the agents were already accustomed to the local MLS’s online forms that automatically populated the agent’s information, synced additional data added to the forms (like cooperating agent or client information), retrieved MLS data, and transmitted the forms from the MLS with e-signing options built in. This was fantastic for agents because they spent less time filling out contracts and chasing parties down to get signatures. Thus, the agents of the SPO wanted a new system to include those same features — because who wants to upgrade to something that requires more work, right?
With MLS features like that, you might be wondering why a brokerage would seek a different solution. Well, the company did not have a singular dashboard within the MLS to view all of its transactions at a glance, which is typically found in many paperless management systems. Without a dashboard, a broker or staff member would have to manually click on numerous online files to see the status of each transaction. That’s not a good use of anyone’s time, especially when you have a significant number of agents.
The SPO did select a paperless system with the transaction management dashboard it desired, but the system also required more manual input of MLS and client data from the agents. Some agents simply returned to the previous system when faced with the additional time commitment.
The RealTrends study I mentioned above found that just under a quarter of brokerages surveyed stayed away from adopting paperless systems because they believed agents would not make the transition. That concern came to fruition at the SPO when the new system did not feature certain functions that the agents already used and found to be helpful.
Solution: Consider Your Agents’ Needs
Agents are the lifeline of your business. If you are evaluating a paperless system that does not include features your agents demand, keep searching for a better system. Don’t sacrifice the creature comforts your agents have grown accustomed to.
Keep in mind that many people are averse to change. So once you find a system that you believe is a good fit, conduct a beta test or trial run with a small sample of your agents so that you can get in front of any concerns. Select a good mix, from those who are the most technologically savvy to those who still need help connecting to the office Wi-Fi. It is much better to roll out a new system to a few who understand it is a trial run. With an untested full-scale rollout, you risk upsetting everyone and make it harder to adopt the new system.
Mistake 2: Not Considering Staff Feedback
The SPO’s staff had a valid concern: The dashboard in the new paperless system did not offer similar online checklists for monitoring transaction status as the previous system. Yikes! Helping staff better manage each transaction was, in essence, the main reason that the SPO wanted a new system.
The makers of the paperless system that the SPO had selected promised customized features and support for staff. But during the system’s inaugural week, the SPO learned that the company was not as supportive as needed, and the promises of customization never came to fruition. The new system was a nightmare for staffers, who were unable to effectively manage the transactions of the growing brokerage. As a result, the system was eliminated in less than a month.
Solution: Broaden Your Think Tank
The great thing about having staff is that you do not have to make decisions in a vacuum. Value the feedback of your employees as they just may save you time, money, and client relationships.
Simply offering a trial run of the software doesn’t mean anything if you don’t listen to, and act on, the feedback you get from both agents and staff. Take their concerns seriously and you’ll get better buy-in when it’s time to implement the new system.
Ultimately, you should be open to feedback, evaluate its merit, and make decisions that advance the path of your business.
Reprinted from realtor.org, April 2015, with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright April 2015. All rights reserved. http://www.realtor.org/