Consumer experiences with retail set consumer expectations in real estate

Before a consumer decides to purchase a home (whether first time buyer, move up buyer, etc) how many times has he or she purchased products via Amazon, Zappos, iTunes, or visited Target or an Apple Store? Hundreds of times. Thousands of times. And in some cases likely tens of thousands of times. Think of the experience these entities deliver, the baseline expectations their consumers bring to the door when they begin their real estate experience.

What are these core baseline expectations? First, consumers expect integration between mobile, web, and social channels. Second, consumers expect stellar and insightful customer service. Third, consumers expect seamless integration between one and two above.

The ability to manage one’s own experience with the brands mentioned above–whether searching for products, skimming product reviews, downloading products, using an immersive mobile shopping experience within a store environment–is a key driver of their ability to consistently delight their customers. Additionally, if a customer service issue arises, these brands’ customers expect insight and knowledge about their interactions with these brands. For example, if I as a consumer reach out to the customer service department of one of these brands I understand I will have to provide some baseline validation as to my identity and explain my customer service issue, but I also do not want to explain my entire history with these brands. The customer service representative has my history at his or her fingertips which gives that representative an opportunity to engage me at a higher level, more efficient level, and more satisfying level. The brands mentioned above consistently deliver on these expectations, which is seen in their stock prices, their loyal customer bases, and general goodwill.

Real estate brands should study how these brands deliver on customer expectations. Additionally, real estate brands should strive to create support structures, systems, and training programs that give their sales associates the best opportunities to delight their clients, the best opportunities to deliver an exceedingly excellent experience. In essence, deliver an Amazon-like, Zappos-like, Target-like, and Apple-like experience. It’s this service delivery differential that drives personal referrals, client loyalty, and goodwill.

Photo credit: Patricia Turo

Mobile app ecosystem allows real estate brokerages to deliver excellent consumer experiences

Over the last year or so there’s been an ongoing and well-publicized debate between proponents and opponents of real estate property listing aggregators and whether brokerages have ceded too much “control” over the consumer relationship to these entities. In my mind this is a debate with no clear winner and no clear loser, as both sides make excellent and valid arguments. This wonkish debate can continue, but it’s time for brokerages to take action within the mobile environment.

It’s clear that some real estate property listing aggregators have done an excellent job with presenting real estate related information in a novel manner. Many of these aggregators are well-capitalized, have taken SCRUM software and product development to new levels, and continually evolve. These companies have done a really great job monetizing the consumer and agent experience within their brand environment. As such, these entities have seemingly taken ownership over brokerages’ property listings, the consumer experience, quick response times, and engaged and informative customer service. They are a seeming Juggernaut of continued market dominance.

Yes, these entities have garnered a significant piece of consumer mindshare since 2005. But this continued quasi-dominance will not continue forever. And to this point, brokerages need to stop focusing on and obsessing over what the property listing aggregators are doing. Brokerages need to look inward. Brokerages need to look to their core values and creativity as a brand and build on those values and that creativity. Last time I looked real estate brokerages still have the same opportunity as aggreagators to delight consumers with an exceedingly excellent experience, and continue to deliver on this experience, thus gaining customers for life. When brokerages consistently deliver on this value proposition, consumers “reward” them with their business and referrals. Real estate is a still a local, relationship-driven business.

I will concede the point that some property listing aggregators have brilliantly leveraged brokerages’ property listing assets and created compelling social+web+mobile presences. But brokerages have always had an opportunity to similarly deliver something unique, compelling, and useful to consumers. The Internet is the Great Leveler of the Playing Field. Given this, what should brokerages focus on now in their drive to deliver an excellent experience? Build another listings portal? Embrace Facebook as a primary advertising venue? Build a kick-a$$ mobile app? Here’s a proposed answer: brokerages should consider all of these tactics, but should focus on creating a series of mobile apps that leverage a rich database of property, demographic, lifestyle, neighborhood, and predictive information.

According to this Mashable article, mobile is the ascendant platform of choice for consumers. Thus, brokerages should focus now on leveraging this platform. Brokerages should define what is “broken” (with the consumer experience value chain) with mobile apps released by the various real estate listings aggregators. Similarly, brokerages should define what’s “right” with these apps. Disregard or “fix” what’s wrong, and make better what is right. In other words, “build a better mouse app.” ;-D Next, brokerages should analyze what Sawbuck Realty has done with its HomeSnap app, as this informs brokerages as to what makes a successful app. According to this Scobleizer interview, the HomeSnap app was the top real estate app on iTunes for a period of time. What makes the HomeSnap app so successful with consumers? Simplicity + Motivation. This is a concept proposed by Stanford University Professor BJ Fogg. The HomeSnap app is simple to use (take a photo and retrieve information about the home) combined with satiating a consumer’s curiosity—motivation—to “know” the details about a home (what was paid, what’s the history, etc), delivered in a manner that costs the consumer as little time as possible.

Simultaneously, brokerages should focus on building the richest database of home-related data thus created. This database would focus on compiling core up-to-date and ACCURATE property-related data, neighborhood-related data mashed up from several different data sources (like EveryBlock, NabeWise, StreetAdvisor, Walkscore, etc) and then normalized, combined with socialgraphics and demographics and psychographics (supplied by companies like Facebook, Acxiom, or Experian), and further enhanced by behavioral and predictive analytics. This database will power the mobile app ecosystem. This database could also power a website that’s very SEO-friendly and optimized for mobile, but the website is secondary to the mobile app. Sounds weird? Yes, to me too. But consumers are telling us with their purchase patterns and platform utilization patterns that mobile is precedent. Thus, brokerages need to play to this whim.

Finally, an integrated CRM would underlie this mobile app ecosystem for brokerages and agents to use. The key is for the mobile apps to tie directly to a CRM module so brokerages and agents have an opportunity to immediately respond to consumer inquiries. The mobile app ecosystem would promote collaborative CRM and drive consumer brand loyalty. And it is this latter point where the mobile app ecosystem has the ability to transcend—jump the chasm if you will—traditional modes of service delivery in the real estate industry. Brokerages are better able to control the overall experience via a mobile app. By allowing consumers to control their experience via personal settings (e.g., notification via text but not email, or notification via message pop-up but not text, etc), brokerages are tapping into the consumer DIY meme (i.e., having “control” over their brand experience). More importantly these behaviors not only inform brokerages as to how to segment their database for true one-to-one marketing opportunities but deliver an excellent service experience to the consumer when he or she decides to engage the brand. Integrate a mortgage services component and a transaction management and notification layer, and the experience gets richer. The consumer wins. The brokerage and its agents win.

Finally, what happens when a deal closes? A brokerage can give the consumer an option to continue the relationship across a variety of complimentary, meaningful, and informative channels such as refinancing opportunities or co-marketed offers with entities like Home Depot, Target, etc. If a brokerage has delivered an exceedingly excellent experience for a consumer through the entire home buying or selling process, that consumer has an incentive for the brokerage brand experience to continue. All delivered through the mobile app ecosystem.

The opportunity for brokerages is here just like it was in 2005 when the “age of the aggregators” dawned. And like then, brokerages can grab an opportunity now to deliver on consumer expectations.

Photo credit: w00kie

Recent research on social CRM principles

Following is a series of research articles focusing on social CRM. These articles explore different facets of the concepts underpinning social CRM.

Interactive digital advertising versus interactive community (download). This article focuses on what motivates individuals to participate in social networks and what causes these individuals to respond to social advertising.

Advertising on Facebook. This is a well-written article on Facebook advertising best practices, strategies and tactics.

Customer engagement and Facebook pages. This is an in-depth article focusing on many nuances of how to leverage Facebook business pages to increase customer loyalty.

Value-based CRM. This article explores the relationship between marketing, IT, and finance to deliver an effective CRM solution. The authors make some great recommendations as to how finance departments can work with marketing and IT departments to set proper metrics tied to corporate business objectives.

Value based CRM aligning marketing IT and finance functions

This article discusses values-based CRM concepts in regards to aligning marketing, IT, and financial functions. An interesting point made by the authors

[F]ocusing just on the ability of IT to support strategy and processes bears the risk of not utilizing the full potential of innovative technologies[.]

It’s clear there is a critical interdependence between both marketing and IT departments. As marketing seeks to “engage,” “relate with,” and “delight” customers in the continuous battle for share-of-mind and share-of-heart, relegating IT to the sidelines as bench support is not a good strategy. Rather, incorporating IT vision is a critical component in setting strategy. The complexity of consumer interactions with a firm’s brand, demands increasingly sophisticated infrastructure and data management tools to ensure that a firm can meet the needs of these consumers.

Similarly, firms ought to align financial management goals within this marketing-IT milieu. Financial concerns, in this context, center around setting proper marketing metrics to measure ROI and lifetime value of a customer. The paper points out that

[A] number of financial concepts (e.g. capital asset pricing model, portfolio theory, and real option approaches) have recently been transferred to customer portfolios…Such “marketing metrics”, based on these approaches and thus taking a future-oriented, long-term, cashflow oriented, and risk adjusted perspective, allow for an identification and measurement of the economic value contribution and the ROI of marketing[.]

To enable such penetrative insights, firms need to leverage data mining tools to create timely (i.e., near real-time) metrics to be shared across business to ensure uniform adherence to meeting clients’ expectations.

Satisfied customers are more loyal than delighted customers

This research paper focusing on the hotel industry indicates that although delighted customers have generally positively views of brands, a satisfied customer will more likely take action supportive of loyalty marketing constructs (i.e., actually book a return trip) because they have an emotional connection to the brand. Thus, the researchers suggest that marketers focus on loyalty programs that seek to instill positive emotional experiences with the brand. Such mechanics go beyond baseline experiences like prompt response times, meaningful communications, knowing where a customer is in the life-cycle of a transaction, and extend to activities that prompt a positive emotional response (like receiving a handwritten thank you card).

Influence of word of mouth on customer perception of service

This research paper focuses on the influence of word of mouth (WOM) on customers’ perception of service. It’s axiomatic that negative WOM can significantly impact brand reputation. Studying the effect of WOM on such perceptions, though, is another matter. And the research article delves into some interesting bits. First, customers’ perceived service value influences their revisit intention, which in turn influences positive or negative WOM. Second, gender influences WOM. The study points out that women trend more towards a relational aspect versus men who are more trial-and-error focused:

  • For female customers, relational service quality will have a stronger total influence on the WOM than core service quality.
  • For male customers, core service quality will have a stronger total influence on WOM than relational quality.
  • The total effect of relational quality on WOM will be stronger for female customers than the male.
  •  The total effect of core quality on WOM will be stronger for male than female.

The implications seem fairly obvious: focus on delivering superior relational and core experiences. The study suggests different methods of CRM (call scripts, greetings, etc) based on gender, especially where the CRM involves human-to-human interaction. In real estate, this could trickle down to agents’ initial interactions with cusomters too: for men, generally, get right to the point, whereas for women, generally, focus on establishing a relationship first and ease into the data as relationship-focused interactions mature.

Customer loyalty CRM and customer satisfaction

This research paper on CRM strategies used by RBC Royal Bank of Canada (Bahamas), analyzes whether the bank successfully applied the four P’s of CRM (planning, people, process, and platform). It’s well established that financial success is tied to a well executed CRM strategy which drives customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. What this research paper found was that although the bank lists CRM as a strategic initiative and policy, it has not integrated the CRM process at each customer touch point. The methodology used to correct the problem was instituting a wide-ranging customer satisfaction survey initiative to ascertain–from the customers’ viewpoints–where the service breakdowns and gaps actually occurred and to make changes accordingly at those points.

Customer strategy departments driving customer loyalty

This Harvard Business Review article (subscription necessary) makes a strong case for companies to create customer strategy departments and positions. One section of the article focuses on “Customer-facing functions” and makes some great recommendations:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) responsibility should migrate away from corporate IT and into the customer strategy department since CRM helps companies assess customers needs and wants and that’s the role of customer strategists
  • Market research should break-out of the marketing department silo and extend to all departments and focus bilaterally on the aggregate and the individual (for example, creating customer profiles as espoused in the book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR) with a singular focus on customer for life (CLV) and customer equity metrics to measure success (here’s a sample lifetime value of a customer analysis from the Database Marketing Institute that will help you begin thinking about CLV metrics
  • Customer strategists should drive the product development process rather than the engineers; the article notes that NOKIA launched NOKIA Beta Labs in Asia and enjoys 60% market share there because, in part, this developer community helps drive the product development process, whereas in the U.S. Nokia pursued a different strategy that has far less consumer input and has suffered

Voice of the customer is not a new concept in product design and development. It’s sure refreshing to see HBR tackle this issue. What’s your view of creating a customer strategist role in a company?

Photo: ishrona

Online community management and social ties

This study (.pdf) delves into programmatic methodology that can be used to predict strong and weak ties between users of a social network. From a community manager’s perspective, this is important because predictive activities can alleviate some oversight tasks while intelligently satisfying the needs of community members. As an example of practical implications of their research, the authors note that:

When users make privacy choices, a system could make educated guesses about which friends fall into trusted and untrusted categories.

…and…

Consider a politician or company that wants to broadcast a message through the network such that it only passes through trusted friends.

From a marketing perspective, it’s important to understand this as way to drive customer loyalty because as social networks continue to grow, predictive systems that deliver more relevant information in meaningful ways will drive overall customer loyalty. This could be a huge value add for such social network marketing/branding services like Facebook pages.

Related post: Peering Under the Hood at Facebook

Customer loyalty and corporate reputation

To what extent does corporate reputation affect customer loyalty? This study (.pdf, begin reading at page 28) found that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the second most important factor influencing corporate reputation (with overall competency being first). In fact, CSR was found to have a higher impact on corporate reputation than product price. The authors posit that CSR impacts customer loyalty because such corporate behavior elicits customers’ positive emotions. Left unresolved is whether a company can over-leverage such CSR activities in its push to drive customer loyalty. In other words, where is a marketing line crossed in customers’ eyes where a negative emotion is associated with a company’s overt efforts to leverage its CSR activities; is there diminishing returns on such “cause marketing” activities.

Related post: Positive Authority and Digital Reputation

Customer loyalty and online community development

What factors keep an online community happy, involved, and engaged? The authors of this study (.pdf) found four primary things influence these three factors:

  • Purpose: Clearly define the purpose and values of the community space with a well-articulated and succinct statement so people who join the community know what to expect, while internally defining your (i.e., corporate) goal of the community
  • Monitor: Before you can know how a community vibe ebbs and flows, you must monitor the community’s interactions, and “embrace” community leaders perhaps by elevating their status within the community
  • Feedback: Implement meaningful rating systems (the authors site a rating system that reflects users’ behavior as an example of a meaningful rating system, as opposed to a simple “top ten” type system)
  • Organization: Clearly guide new community members about where to go, what to do, how to get acquainted, etc, while cuing or gently nudging existing users with meaningful suggestions and topics on how the community can grow and evolve

Related post: Community crowdsourcing and innovation

Customer loyalty and employee engagement

To what extent does employee loyalty and commitment to a brand drive overall customer loyalty? This research paper (.pdf) tackles that question and concludes that employee attitudes toward their company have a high degree of impact on customer loyalty. What the authors essentially argue is that fostering a corporate environment that espouses a unique and positive corporate culture grounded in clearly defined values goes a long way to inspire employees to be more engaged with their company and brand.  Once this baseline is met, the authors propose that brands create internal employee engagement indexes to monitor employee sentiments toward the brand (similar in concept to consumer engagement metrics) to ensure they remain committed to the brand and ultimately the customer. Thus, the company can ensure that it’s employees are working towards increasing customer loyalty. A perfect example of this is Zappos.

Related posts:  Creating a culture of creativity and innovation and Creativity Integrity and Brand Differentiation

Customer loyalty and customer trust

Trust is a major driver of customer loyalty. How does a corporate brand secure this trust following a breakdown in service delivery? The authors of this study (.pdf) ponder this question and proffer some intriguing insights. The authors argue that negative emotions experienced by a customer following a negative service experience do not necessarily change his or her attitude towards the service provider; rather, the customer simply leaves the service provider. Although losing a customer is never good, this finding is somewhat good news because it seems that customers are unlikely to carry a negative emotion for long with respect to the brand following a service break-down, thus minimizing the chance of an emotive outburst via social media that negatively affects the brand. On the flip side, a brand can enhance the trust and loyalty of its customer base if it honestly admits a mistake and vigorously works to correct such.

Related post: Trust indicators in social network marketing

Choreographing client experiences on your website

Art can inform business decisionmaking and processes in so many ways. And choreography is one artform that does.
Choreography is designing a series of movements to convey an expression of an idea. The best choreographers apply a scientific approach to their dance notation. These choreographers carefully map movement through time and space–in essence navigate time and space–and have their dancers execute complicated series of steps ending in a penultimate conclusion or outcome.

Your website is a mosaic, a stage where you showcase, display, and promote your content and expertise in myriad forms and elements. Your clients and potential clients must navigate your website, working through the mosaic.

Relating design to desired outcomes
You can help your website visitors navigate your website mosaic by mapping their movement through your website, choreographing their experience to end in a desired outcome. What’s your desired outcome of a visit to your listing detail page? Mortgage origination and, thus, mortgage prequalification? Driving inquiries directly to your agents in certain instances versus routing inquiries to your e-commerce team? Each desired outcome necessitates choices with respect to design, navigation, branding, calls to action, etc. If mortgage origination is more important than direct-to-agent inquiries, then your page design and architecture coupled with your calls to action will be different if direct-to-agent inquiries were the penultimate outcome.

Test, measure, refine, roll-out
Once you’ve settled on a desired outcome (or set of desired outcomes), test which set of inputs (i.e., button placement, calls to action, etc) garners the highest and most qualified response rate. This is called A/B split testing. For example, let’s say in your marketing brainstorming and competitive analysis you’ve determined that these two mortgage origination calls to action may garner highly qualified inquiries: “Qualify for a first-time home loan? Find out here” versus “Prequalify for first-time home loans now!”. To determine which is the most effective, set up a testing array. Essentially, what you’re determining through such an array is which verbiage and button placement drives the highest response and conversion rates. Once you’ve applied an A/B split test methodology to each primary element that supports a desired outcome (or set of desired outcomes) on each of your discreet website pages, and determined the optimal verbiage and placement of such, you’ve in essence created guideposts throughout your website mosaic, allowing visitors to dance through your content and data.

Photos:
ZUrigo
Ctd 2005

Clients are not cows

Real estate marketing professionals interested in farming, cultivating, or harvesting customers should consider something new. Livestock management perhaps? How about genetic engineering of new hybrid corn? Better yet how about driving a combine or cultivator? It’s time to shed these agri-centric terms that are so often used in conjunction with traditional Customer (Client) Relationship Management (CRM) theories.

Potential and existing clients are neither livestock, corn, nor wheat. Clients are people who have families, passions, wants, desires, and needs. And they likely would not want to be managed, cultivated, harvested, or farmed. Instead they’d likely want a meaningful interaction with your brand where you treat them like a human rather than like an uninformed data element.

As a first step to embracing clients and potential clients as living and breathing HUMANS, rather than disembodied data nodes, firms ought to shed certain traditional labels of CRM as well as agri-centric terms in favor of human-centric labels. Use “client” rather than customer; clients seek professional advice, customers purchase products. As a real estate professional who’s positioning yourself as a trusted adviser and subject matter expert, aren’t you more interesting in engaging clients as opposed to just pushing products?  Similarly, use “engagement” and “conversation” rather than cultivate or nurture; engagement implies a recognition that your client has a role in the CRM process and conversation recognizes that you’re goal is to enlist the client in a dialogue, rather than having them passively remain rooted in your system like a seed and plant in a field until they’re harvested at maturation.

Words matter. And labels inform your conduct. If your CRM system focuses on the human touch, the people element, then your CRM operations become more focused and in tune with promoting engagement and brand partnership. Consumers want to trust your brand. Give them a reason to do so by acting like you trust them.

Photo credit zieak

Real Estate Value in an Uncertain Market

The comments in this post offer an “in the trenches” snapshot of many issues framing the current real estate crisis. The dialogue between Scott and the listing agent is particularly fascinating and elucidates the inherent challenges agents face in a market where traditional and foundational norms have been so acutely destabilized.

Positive Authority and Digital Reputation

As a real estate brand, wouldn’t you like your customers to be this excited about their experience with you?

Powder Mountain Utah Best Day of Skiing

Powder Mountain Utah Skiing Fabulous Day

I shot these videos after an absolutely transcendent day of skiing at Powder Mountain, Utah. Yes, conditions have lots to do with having a good versus great day of skiing. And yes skill level and equipment affects these considerations too. But a great day of skiing begins with the actual resort (or in the case of Power Mountain the “un-resort”).

Powder Mountain is the absolute antithesis of “big brand” in that it has a minimal choice of groomed trails with tons of choices for “off piste” skiing. There is no lodge per se, no massive repetitive brand messaging throughout its 7,000 acres. Rather, the Powder Mountain skiing experience IS the message.

It’s an authentic experience where skiers choose their routes and create their own affinities, relationships, and partnerships with the Powder Mountain brand. And it’s clear that Powder Mountain’s owners are passionate about skiing, which further elicits emotional bonds with their customers. I (we) created our own skiing experience and carry that experience and promote that experience. I (we) are brand ambassadors for Powder Mountain.

These same attributes and creeds apply to real estate professionals too. Here’s authenticity and an experience that delivers a powerful brand message. My take-aways from Jim’s video: he’s passionate about honestly representing clients, he’s passionate about his chosen profession, he’s a professional, and he’s not afraid of a fight (a good attitude to have at the negotiation table). Through this video I get a sense of who he is and what he’s willing to do for me as a client. His reputation is his personal brand and his personal brand is his reputation. And by honestly and transparently allowing clients and potential clients to viscerally “experience” his personal ethos, he’s implicitly hitting on issues discussed in this excellent post about managing your digital reputation, which I too have discussed but missed some insightful angles discussed by the FutureBuzz .

Web 2.0 Multichannel Marketing Considerations

Digital Trends is a big topic and this post really goes through a substantive analysis of Edleman’s recent predictions.

The digital train is tearing down the tracks and has no signs of slowing. Every industry is being reshaped by the expectation that everything should be digitized. Add digital hungry consumers with web devices, NetPCs, Kindles and smart gaming consoles and you’ve got a multichannel marketing and distribution train wreck.

Multichannel marketing considerations will certainly be primary this year as fragmented consumer relations with brands accelerate. Thus, firms like SAP have begun tracking social media interactions. Despite the inherent trackability problem presented by fragmented brand interactions with consumers, firms are either “in” or “out” of the social media space. And it seems evident to me that firms should be “in”, as this report on how telecoms use social media demonstrates; given this, here is a list of great tips list for creating content that spreads.

Viral is Dead, Let it Spread Instead

Real estate firms that are thinking about implementing social media marketing strategies should pay attention to Charlene Li‘s predictions. Li’s series of five interviews paint a road map of the social media future firms ought to be considering today:

melded identities

 

social algorithms (see also my earlier post on trust indicators in social networks)

open platforms

privacy and permissions

organizational trust

Her thinking mirrors that of Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, who essentially argues in his white paper “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead” that marketers need to shed the terms “viral” and “memes” and adopt “spreadability” as a benchmark.

What Jenkins points out, and Li implicitly endorses, is that humans are not passive hosts that propagate marketing messages. Rather, humans take an active roll in transferring and transforming marketing messages. Thus, marketers need to rethink their approaches to conceiving of, executing on, and managing marketing campaigns by migrating away from command and control modalities to adopting more of a marketing midwifery role.

I think that Li’s and Jenkins’ thoughts also pertain to CRM definitions. Let’s shed the agri-centric CRM labels like “cultivate,” “nurture,” and “harvest” for terms that recognize a consumer’s role in allowing themselves to become part of a CRM system, rather than passive victims of that system. Terms like “engagement,” “conversation,” and “partner” align with Li’s and Jenkins’ sentiments, seem more respectful of an individual’s role in a CRM system, and are reflective of the fact that consumers are active participants in a firm’s “relationship management” processes. And assuming that a firm’s client services division performs at high levels of consumer satisfaction, this ethos shift also has the potential to empower “engaged” consumers to spread the word of a firm’s client services successes (much like Li relates in her Comcast example in the above “organizational trust” interview).

Theatre of Cruelty in a Carnival of Real Estate

What’s the value of a real estate firm’s or agent’s service? What actions justify a firm’s or agent’s fees? I’m contemplating these questions as I re-read “The Theatre and Its Double” written by Antonin Artaud, and some of what he says in his writing has a certain philosophical resonance with respect to the current state of affairs in the real estate industry.

Artaud was an early 20th century French playwright. He challenged existing theatrical norms of his day to strip away historical groundings with respect to performance (which he generally thought were overproduced parodies of themselves) and show a more honest–transparent–personification of character, thought, or theme, where the actor is the ultimate provocateur of an honest dialogue with her audience, whilst producers and directors contentedly cling to the status quo. In Chapter 6, “No More Masterpieces”, Artaud states:

Far from blaming the public, we ought to blame the formal screen we interpose between ourselves and the public[.]

He continues at a more sublime level:

Enough of personal poems, benefitting those who create them much more than those who read them.

Theatre changed for the better after Artaud’s call to action. Similarly, it seems to me, the real estate industry is due for an Artaud-like challenge to existing norms with respect to representation, compensation, and professionalism. The run-up to 2009 was indeed a real spectacle, but the tent has fallen, the elephants have flattened the performance space, and the audience seems to have run away. Indeed, many have written about the current state of affairs.

But here are perhaps two of the the clearest calls to action to change the status quo–two honest evaluations of the state of affairs with respect to the relationship between real estate professional and consumer. Neither author engages in finger pointing, tries to push off responsibility, nor cringes from the challenge to ask hard questions and honestly answer these questions.

Rather, there is a recognition that the forum has changed, that same old lines fall on increasingly calloused consumer ears. Indeed, the authors’ challenges to the “old rules” of relationship and dialogue between real estate professional and consumer especially resonate when one of these authors had a consumer click through to his blog from the search “buyer’s real estate commission myth“. Clearly this consumer was seeking a different type of relationship with a real estate professional. And, with respect to the norm, this author’s blog post presented an honest–and transparent–alternative conversation. 

Thus begins a few hammer blows to the status quo.