Using AI to Build Relationships

The term artificial intelligence can spark sci-fi images of a robot army taking over the world. But in reality, AI is simply building on existing technology to help you work more efficiently.
Artificial intelligence. Technology web background.

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How many times have you helped a client buy or sell a property and then never spoken to them again? It’s a pretty common scenario. The truth is, humans tend to be lazy and are often easily distracted, according to Greg Cypes, chief technology officer at Contactually, a customer relationship management software company. You have business meetings, soccer games, and other family obligations, so staying in touch with past clients is often put on the back burner. “We don’t do a great job at prioritizing relationships, nor do we understand how to form relationships because we don’t always know what to say or how to say it,” Cypes said.

But artificial intelligence might be able to help this conundrum. During the Emerging Business Issues & Technology Forum at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. on May 17, presenters discussed the value and benefits of budding AI technology and how it may help real estate pros develop more authentic relationships with clients, prospects, and colleagues.

“AI isn’t robots; we’re many years away from that,” Cypes said. And we’re not living in a science-fiction thriller where an imperial army of robot soldiers is on the verge of taking over the world. Instead, AI is about augmenting the technology we already use and helping people work more effectively. And it’s already happening. Think about all the times you visit a website and it’s personalized for you, or how Apple helps organize your personal photos based on facial recognition.

In the future, brokers could use AI to propagate their personality and business culture across multiple offices. Automated messages, such as those a broker might send congratulating an agent on a completed deal, could mimic their management style without the need to record a video greeting, for example. Agents could also use this type of technology to form stronger bonds with clients.

Aleksander Velkoski, a data scientist with NAR, showed a video of a Google Duplex phone call that debuted during the Google I/O 2018 conference last week, which demonstrates how the AI assistant can make a hair salon appointment while sounding almost indistinguishable from a human. “One of the things that’s exciting about Duplex is that it’s capable of being thrown curve balls and addressing those curve balls,” Velkoski said. For instance, the assistant can call a restaurant to make reservations and handle a scenario where the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. The sophistication of technology depends on training related to real-life scenarios that programmers provide to the AI, he added.

When it comes to your real estate business, AI can already help in numerous ways. The technology is evolving in its ability to understand and process the nuances of language, including active or passive voice, pleasant or unpleasant tones, and its understanding of text in articles, tweets, and documents, Velkoski said. Through computer vision, AI is now able to identify and extract objects from images, such as pieces of furniture in a photo of a living room. This results in more advanced virtual staging software and platforms such as augmented reality apps that can visualize room concepts for marketing vacant properties. AI tools like Insightpool and Sprout can also help with social media monitoring and listening. And when it comes to the everyday operations of your business, AI can help with customer service and support, IT service monitoring, security and fraud prevention, and electronic commerce help.

Velkoski suggested that agents and broker-owners considering how AI can help their businesses begin by following the trends in emerging technology, and test products out whenever possible. He also advised they set realistic goals and start with small AI initiatives. Finally, business leaders should ensure their team members and agents have access to the education and information they need to use the technology.