connect with us:
Follow us on Facebook
Follow us on LinkedIn
Follow us on Google+

What Can We Learn from Microsoft's Latest Announcement?

Jun 18, 2012

Posted by

Charles Dahlheimer

Recognized as one of the industrys leading visionaries, Dahlheimer is publisher of The Real Estate Professional magazine and The Real Estate Executive Summary.  He co-authored Real Es Read more

This afternoon (Monday, June 18), Microsoft will unveil plans to market its own tablet, in competition with Apple’s iPad.  This is a major change of direction for Microsoft, a company whose multi-billion dollar business has been built exclusively on software.  Throughout some 37 years in business, Microsoft steadfastly held to its mission of producing and licensing software to hardware manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Steve Jobs believed that the only way to guarantee the best consumer experience with the product was to “build the entire widget.”  In other words, don’t rely on the quality of someone else’s hardware.  This allowed Apple designers to work on hardware and software throughout the creation, design and testing phases, modifying each as necessary to assure both top performance and a consumer-friendly experience.  Jobs called it the “wow” factor.  And it has made Apple the world’s highest valued corporation.

So what does all that have to do with real estate?  Consider this:  the end user, the purchaser of computer equipment, is the same consumer who purchases our services. 

What goes on behind the touch screen of an iPad is extremely complex, thousands of commands moving through switches and gates and other widgets following the command of millions of lines of code written specifically for this instrument.  Similarly, the real estate purchase/sale process can be complicated, with many service providers interacting to move the process through to closing.

But the user of an iPad has no idea what’s behind that touch screen—and doesn’t even want to know.  She just wants to know that when she turns it on, the things she wants done miraculously happen, and the machine responds quickly and efficiently to each tap on the screen.  The electronic circuitry, operating systems and programming must work together seamlessly to deliver the desired results.  And, if there can be a little fun along the way, all the better.  (Consider Apple’s packaging).

Unfortunately, with real estate, there is no standard “operating system” to keep all the functions in line and interacting efficiently with each other.  But if we want to guarantee seamless performance, there has to be.  Either we create it or we rely on someone else to create it.   And if we rely on someone else, how do we assure that the quality of service will be there—that everything will function seamlessly and that the consumer will leave the closing table with a feeling of satisfaction.

There needs to be a “wow” factor in the purchase/sale experience.

Consider all the “parts” in the real estate transaction.  What is the “operating system” that monitors and directs them?  What “backup systems” are in place should one part malfunction or a glitch of some kind occur?  Are there “warning screens” (like “battery low”) to alert us when something is not functioning correctly?  And how much of this can go on “behind the screen” without the consumer ever having to know about it? 

When an iPad user opens her e-mail, she doesn’t want to know how many “packets” the information has been cut up into or what route it took from the sender to her screen.  She just wants to see the message, just as it was written by the sender, and delivered in just a few moments after the “send” button was touched.  And she wants to be able to click on “reply” and know that her response will be delivered with equal speed and accuracy.

The end user of the iPad just wants it to deliver the information she needs, when she needs it and in the form that she needs it.  And when that same person is the end-user of real estate services, the same expectations apply.  Home buyers just want to find the home that suits their needs, get a mortgage that they can afford, sign all the papers, take the keys, and move into a home that will “perform” as it should.  This includes knowing that the home is in good condition, that all systems are operating correctly, that the neighborhood holds no surprises and that when they’re ready to move on, they will be able to sell their home at a reasonable price and within a specific time frame, get to closing and walk away with a check in hand to use for the purchase of the next home.  Everything else needs to be transparent.  Any more involvement in the processes going on “behind the screen” is just unnecessary bother.

In the late 1800s, if someone would have told a Pony Express courier that messages would one day be delivered instantly, across the nation or around the world, and at no cost to either sender or receiver, he would have thought them to be out of their mind.  But within a dozen generations, that came to be.  The Internet-based MLS is a product of our current generation.  Two generations ago, there was no computerized MLS, just printed MLS books and “listing sheets.”  Go back three generations, and there was no MLS at all.

We’ve made great progress on the “information” side of the business.  It’s time that we turn our attention to the “service delivery” side to see what it will take to create Steve Job’s “wow” factor for the homeowner.

If we don’t do that, someone else will.