Using AI to automate your customer engagement

Chatbots are becoming the Holy Grail of communication and customer care in real estate. New and old clients have to feel tended to and heard. But it becomes increasingly challenging when you have to manage these relationships by yourself. Sometimes, new leads fall through the cracks because you have a lot to do. Chatbots can help you manage the traffic, maintain communication and allow you the time to tackle other things. And for those who swear by them, the results are impressive.

What are chatbots, and how do they work?

Chatbots are “chatting robots” that can mimic human conversation. They’re powered by artificial intelligence (AI) software that is designed to manage and stimulate conversations with real people in real time with information on your listings and services 24/7. Chatbots understand natural language and can respond in ways that seem normal to humans. It is common to find them on Facebook pages and websites to help screen leads. They are functional and programmed with simple scripts such as “Would you like to schedule a showing?” Maximizing this tool can be a real game changer for your business.

Why should you jump on the chatbot train?

24/7 availability: Chatbots can interact with customers any time of day. They don’t get tired, and they don’t sleep. They will immediately respond to customer inquiries, schedule property tours and engage with clients around the clock.

Qualify leads: Chatbots can help you get all the required information, including price range, timeframe and even preferred location. They can even be programmed to instantly provide properties that fit the client’s needs and automatically send out alerts when properties are available.

Increased engagement: Chatbots can start conversations with potential customers who may not otherwise have reached out. This will help you capture leads that are reluctant to initiate the first query and potentially bring in new business.

Manage client relationships: Chatbots can help manage your CRM by sending out notifications for open houses, as well as personal messages on birthdays, anniversaries and other special holidays. Messages can be sent via SMS, email, social media or any other type of messaging medium you choose to make your client feel special and important.

Log conversations: Bots eventually will have to give way to a human agent, but that’s not a problem, since chatbots keep a log of their interactions with prospective clients. You will be able to go through the conversation, understand customer’s desires and have everything ready before engaging with them.
Cost savings: Chatbots can save you money by automating customer support tasks that otherwise would be handled by human assistants or ISAs (inside sales assistants).

Timesavers: Chatbots can handle the mundane tasks while you attend to other things. Let chatbots gather the data on a visitor, monitor their interests and even invite them to schedule a property tour — all on your behalf.

What are the disadvantages of chatbots?

Limited functionality: Chatbots can handle only simple questions and requests. Despite their lifelike quality, chatbots cannot perfectly replace a human agent. They may not understand certain questions, and their selection of answers is very limited and almost predictable. For more complex inquiries, they will need to escalate the issue to a human agent.

No emotional connection: Chatbots lack the ability to create an emotional connection with customers. This can be problematic when trying to build relationships.

Implementation costs: Chatbots can be expensive to implement, especially if you need to integrate them with your existing customer support infrastructure.
Maintenance: Implementing a chatbot now doesn’t mean you are set for life! You have to constantly revise, maintain and optimize its knowledge base and how it interacts with your clients. You need to teach the robot and feed it with current, meaningful content to help it respond appropriately to customer queries.

What are the best chatbots for Realtors?

There are several companies out there that offer chatbot services specific to real estate. One of the most well-known is Structurely.com. Others are Freshdesk Messaging and RealtyChatbox. Prices and features can vary. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each:

Structurely.com features:

Lead capture: Chatbots can be used to capture leads from your website or social media channels.

Qualification: Chatbots can help you qualify leads by asking them questions about their needs and budget.

Appointment scheduling: Schedule appointments with leads and customers directly through the chatbot.

Listing alerts: Receive listing alerts through the chatbot so you can share them with clients and customers.

Mobile app: Can manage account and chatbot through the app on the go.

Structurely is the most expensive but has the greatest number of options for integrating to specific CRMs like LionDesk. Its winning feature is an AI email assistant that uses email to interact with leads. However, it doesn’t offer RealtyChatbot’s Facebook chat option or Freshdesk Messaging’s affordable prices.

Freshdesk Messaging features:

Support ticketing: Chatbots can be used to create and track support tickets.

Knowledge base: Access Freshdesk’s knowledge base through the chatbot.

Live chat: Use the chatbot for live chat with clients and customers.

Freshdesk is a good option to get started, as it is the most budget-friendly but lacks some of the more mature features of Structurely.

RealtyChatbox features:

Lead capture: Capture leads from your website or social media channels.
Appointment scheduling: Schedule appointments with leads and customers directly through the chatbot.

Listing alerts: Receive listing alerts through the chatbot so you can share them with clients and customers.

Drip campaigns: Send automated drip campaigns to leads and customers.
Integration: You can integrate the chatbot with your social media accounts.

RealtyChatbox is good for agents who depend on Facebook and Messenger interactions. However, they have a very steep setup fee.

How much do chatbots cost?

The cost of chatbots can vary. Structurely.com starts at $179 per month, Freshdesk Messaging starts at $15 per month and Realty Chatbox starts at $119 per month. Some services require a setup fee in addition to the monthly fee. So, be sure to check!

Word of caution

Some buyers or sellers are leery about working with a chatbot. They want the personal touch that only a human can provide. For these clients, it is important to set expectations early on in the relationship. Make sure your website and social media platforms state that you use chatbots. This will help manage customer expectations from the start. And always remember to reach out to those whose information you have collected so you can start building a relationship!

Bottom line

If you are looking for a way to automate your customer support and save time and money, Chatbots are the perfect tool. A single technological solution will not supplant the real estate agent; however, using tools like chatbots will assist those who embrace it to become the leaders in the game. They are a powerful boost for any real estate agent. Love them or hate them, these AI tools are here to stay, so you might as well jump in.

Anne Ewasko is a veteran Realtor in the Chicago area and a longtime techie. Visit her at anne.luxhomechicago.com.

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