Why use a chatbot in the real estate industry?
There are many ways that chatbots can be used by real estate agents or the participants in the real estate market.
The obvious use case for chatbots for real estate is the conventional customer service use case. This is essentially the frequently asked questions use case whereby a potential customer can ask questions to the agent.
The questions asked by the customer can be with regards to a specific property or with regard to the process. The chatbot that answers these questions would normally be backed up by the real estate agent, i.e. the conversation will be escalated to the real estate agent if the chatbot cannot answer the questions.
While this is feasible for general questions about the real estate agency and the process, getting a chatbot to answer specific questions about a specific property is more of a challenge with the current model of chatbot design.
Currently, chatbots require multiple questions to be set up for every potential question that could be asked by a customer about a property. For example, the chatbot might need 20 examples of variations of the questions “What is the size of the property” to be able to answer most variations of that question. It would be too time-consuming and difficult to set that up for every property on the site.
A new approach to building chatbots for real estate is in development
A new approach to building chatbots is in development. This approach is based around the concept of objects, i.e. there are predefined objects in the system that the chatbot understands. For example, an object called “real estate property” would be set up in the system. To use this object for a given property the chatbot designer would simply need to fill in a form that allows the user to input all the information regarding that property, such as the number of rooms, floor space, price, etc. All the possible questions associated with each piece of information would be predefined so that the chatbot will be ready to answer them from the start.
The above shows you at least it would be possible to support this use case. It is a separate debate as to whether this is a useful or economic use case to implement.
There may be a question of whether a chatbot may be useful in assisting the customer with a search of properties. Again the filtering or search use case is generally not optimal with the current state of the technology as this is better done through a graphical interface. This is especially the case because generally the potential customer wants to see a map of where the property is located among other things.
Using a chatbot to search or filter is generally a good use case where the customer prioritizes speed and convenience over optimal search or filter. For example, they may be searching for a birthday gift for a classmate of their child and not believe the extra effort in searching is worth the improvement in results. For real estate, on the other hand, the customer wants to optimize the search as much as possible so using a bot is not really feasible, except for ad hoc cases where the customer is just browsing.
Chatbots could be useful in guiding users through the transaction. Chatbots are generally good for taking users through a step by step process and answering questions about the process as they arise. This can involve guiding them through the documentation and maintaining a calendar of events.
What about chatbots for real estate agents?
Real Estate agents themselves can benefit from chatbots, especially when they are not in the office. Chatbots are good at providing ad hoc information, such as when driving, about who they are meeting, when they are meeting, and information about the property they are meeting about, including information about the area. This could make them seem more informed in general and put them in a better position to sell the property.
The chatbot could also act as a coach for selling by reminding the real estate agent on the way to a client meeting about professional customer engagement and sales techniques.
The chatbot could also give them answers to ‘in the moment’ questions such as “what would be the monthly repayments for a 20 year mortgage on this property with an interest rate of 5%?”, “show me a map of the area” or “show me other houses for rent in the area for below $2000 per month”.
Finally, a chatbot can provide many of the generic services that chatbots employ for most companies, such as IT support and HR (including expense submission and holiday requests).
For senior managers, for example, they could play a business intelligence role, whereby managers could ask specific questions about the business and the chatbot would provide them with immediate relevant answers / analytics.
In conclusion, chatbots can play specific roles in the real estate business as well as provide the generic services for customers and employees.