Make Alexa Your Ally: 6 Ways Brokerages Can Use Voice Tech

As voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are seeing explosive growth, real estate firms are looking into getting their voices heard on smart devices.
Amazon Alexa Echo Plus on a white table with green plants in the background

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Is your brokerage leveraging a digital voice? Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and other voice assistants are fostering new ways to use voice control and search in real estate.

“Many brokerages may not fully realize the trend unfolding with voice assistants,” says Doug Devitre, a sales trainer and author of Screen to Screen Selling (McGraw-Hill Education, 2015). “There’s no industry more ready for voice than real estate. It can be applied to what the customer does on a regular basis as well as the real estate agent, broker, and the REALTOR® association.”

Smart speakers have the potential to enter several realms of real estate, from lead generation and training to even agent safety, Devitre says. By 2023, 8 billion digital voice assistants are expected to be in use among the public worldwide, according to Juniper Research. A great “voice app” race may be upon brokerages that want to add their voice to these smart speakers, and Devitre is on a mission to help brokerages make it happen. He’s leading the “Alexa Skill Building Summit” on May 13 in Washington, D.C., to bring together brokerages, REALTOR® associations, and real estate agents to address the possibilities in creating Alexa skills—even for the novice.

Devitre’s focus is on Alexa, given its leading market share comprising more than 60 percent of smart speaker sales (Google Home’s Assistant follows at nearly 30 percent). After building an Alexa “skill”—which is essentially an app for a smart speaker—you can then apply it to building an equivalent “action” compatible on Google Home or another competing devices, he says.

Several existing programs could be tailored to your brokerage, or you could build your own voice-controlled app. You can create ones for the general public that build brand awareness, or private skills geared only to business operations. Below, Devitre highlights six real estate areas ripe for growth within voice tech.

1. For productivity

Voice assistant can act as personal office assistants. Brokerages may consider adding an Amazon Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini to agents’ desk. Through voice prompts, agents can add appointments to their calendars or set reminders and timers to stay on schedule (such as “Alexa, create a new calendar appointment” or “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?”). To use these features, visit the settings from the Alexa or Google Assistant mobile app to sync it to your existing calendar service.

You can create voice-enabled applications for joining meetings and gathering business-related information. For example, Alexa for Business provides blueprints for companies that want to create a custom voice skill that is privately used only by people with the firm. Voice assistant programs can be built to sync a customer relationship management system, allowing agents to receive voice notifications on which tasks to focus on during the day. They can even input client information or data into sales contracts, Devitre says. LionDesk is one real estate CRM that recently integrated with Amazon’s Alexa to allow its CRM subscribers to verbally add tasks and appointments through Alexa and to gather information about new leads.

2. For training and education

Voice assistants can be used for training agents and making office policies more accessible. For example, brokerage policies could be instantly called up when agents ask questions like “Hey Google, what is our office’s social media policy?”

Also, consider creating interactive quizzes to aid in agent training. Devitre created a study tool to prepare for real estate prelicensing exams. Alexa asks agents a series of exam questions, awaits responses, and keeps a score of correct answers. (Read: Using Amazon’s Alexa for Real Estate Training) Devitre also sees smart speakers as an opportunity for helping to educate the public. He developed an Alexa skill with definitions of more than 500 common real estate terms.

3. For entertainment

Voice assistants can be used to craft memorable presentations, whether it’s a speech for your peers or a buyer or seller seminar. The Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® in Glendora, Calif., programmed Alexa to humorously introduce speakers at a conference. (Watch Alexa’s introduction.) “The people who attended won’t forget that experience,” Devitre says. “It’s just one of many unique cases that show how you can easily program Alexa to be your assistant,” even as an emcee to your next event.

4. For lead generation

Voice assistants can be used as prospecting tools. When users access a skill or action, they can grant permission to developers to access their customer profile, which includes email and contact information. Then, if a user asks their voice assistant about a specific property or information on your brokerage, you could instantly follow up with a phone call, text, or email with, say, a property brochure containing photos or company URLs.

Some real estate professionals are creating skills to be an information source for their local market. For example, Angie Stumbo with Coldwell Banker Pryor Realty in Dayton, Tenn., created a flash briefing skill for Alexa called “Angie’s Market Update,” which provides new listing information, pricing updates, properties under contract, and sold data in her area.

5. For voice-powered searches

Smart speakers can provide general information about your firm when asked, such as your office location, your mission and services, and local housing data. Companies like Voiceter Pro are helping brokerages build their identity on smart speakers through National Association of REALTORS® IDX-compliant voice searches that help customers find homes for sale in their market. ComScore, a media analytics firm, has made a bold prediction that by 2020, 50 percent of all internet searches will be done via voice, including from smart speakers and voice technology from smartphones. “You can create a digital experience that extends your brand so much further” by using voice assistants, Devitre says.

These voice searches could also prove useful as an open house assistant. Devitre says voice assistants can be programmed (for free using a House Guest Amazon Blueprint template) to greet guests and answer questions about the home. As visitors tour the home, they could ask for extra details about the property, MLS data, and neighborhood, crime, and school information.

6. For agent safety

Agent safety is a pressing priority in the industry, and voice technology could be programmed to help. Currently, you can’t use Alexa to call 911, which many people are unaware of, Devitre says. You would need to add an extra monthly 911 surcharge to support emergency phone calls. But Devitre foresees several cases where these devices could be programmed to intervene in case of an emergency during showings. For example, he offers up a scenario where facial recognition software is used to associate a person’s image with their contact record, and a voice assistant then begins a personalized qualifying conversation with the person prior to an agent meeting with them in person.

Voice assistants could also be programmed in a similar way as several safety mobile apps, which rely on sending urgent alerts to others when help is needed. For instance, agents who bring a smart speaker to an open house could program their smart speaker to respond to voice prompts or preset code words if an agent felt in danger by instantly sending alert information to predetermined contacts.

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Develop Your Own Skill

You can build your own real estate skill or action to work on Amazon Echo or Google Home devices by following premade templates. Devitre plans to walk attendees through how to build their own voice-assistant apps during his upcoming May 13 summit. Google offers templates to build actions, which it says can be created “within minutes” and without having to know code. Amazon offers the Alexa Skill Blueprints for creating and sharing customized Alexa skills by just filling in blanks on one of dozens templates. You can then publish your new skill to the Alexa Skills Store, and make it available publicly or privately. “Mapping out the conversation design is the hardest part,” Devitre says. Once you have that, though, he says “you’re basically just copying and pasting information in a Word document and then typing it up in the platform.”