Keller Williams has taken its destiny into its own hands with its pivot to a technology company. To do so, it has implemented a process called Labs. An opportunity for agents to work side-by-side with the KW technology team to develop the company’s tech offerings, Labs is how Keller Williams ensures that it’s developing the products agents want and need to run their businesses.
"We’re trying to solve real-world business problems that agents are facing every day by asking them to come sit in a room with us and solve problems,” explains Josh Team, Keller Williams President.
While holding Labs for KWCommand, the agent operating system of the future, one pain point repeatedly dominated the conversation: agent-to-agent referrals.
Labs participants Wendy Papasan, Sara St. Marceaux, Lance Loken and Kenny Klaus have been part of shaping KW’s new referrals platform from the start.
The Current Referral Process
According to Mega Agent Wendy Papasan, “The whole system is broken.” When she first started in 2010, the Facebook groups were effective, but now, she finds herself inundated with messages from agents she doesn’t know. It takes a lot of time to sort through and interview these potential referral partners to find someone she trusts. “We want to hand our referrals to the best possible person. It’s important they have a great experience.”
Then comes the problem of tracking the referrals sent and received. Sara St. Marceaux, a member of The Loken Group, finds it challenging to communicate with agents on what’s going on with the referrals the team receives – especially given the fact that some potential clients aren’t ready to buy or sell right away.
Not helping the situation: this is all often facilitated using a PDF form. Printed, filled out by hand, scanned and then emailed back – a highly inefficient and outdated process.
KW Can Do It Better
After continuously hearing these pain points around referral management, it became obvious that KW and its agents could design a better experience through the Labs process. This was in September.
A Lab, containing over 225 teams with a collective $50 billion in volume, was formed for the sole purpose of solving this challenge. Over the course of just a few months, a new agent-to-agent referral platform was born:
- September – KWCommand Labs participants identified the referrals pain point.
- November – The Lab kicked off with ideation and screenshot exercises.
- December – Agent participants signed off on the direction and sketches.
- January – The development team built the first iteration.
- February – All of Keller Williams receives access at Family Reunion.
The goal was to provide an intuitive way to send, receive, track and manage referrals within the Keller Cloud. KW and the Labs participants wanted to remove as many of the existing barriers as possible – unqualified referrals, managing communication, tracking the status, etc. Other barriers that aren’t unique to agent-to-agent referrals but equally important are eliminating the need to remember another set of login credentials and system how-tos.
The “My Referrals” tab in each agent’s KWConnect profile had to be “really clean and intuitive for both incoming and outgoing referrals,” explains Papasan. The Referrals view that lives in KWConnect is a simple, yet comprehensive snapshot of an agent’s inbound and outbound referrals, pending referrals, and referral network.
For Klaus, an easy-to-navigate map was important. To accomplish this, the team designed a map that allows someone to quickly search by locality: zooming in on a cluster of market centers first, and then further to narrow the search. With a market center in mind, it’s simple to choose an agent that operates from within it.
Neil Dholakia, Keller Williams Chief Product Officer, notes that there were many conversations around how an agent’s profile shows up. “There’s a lot of embellishment out there. What we heard in Labs was that we needed a certified way of choosing a partner.” Agents are initially shown as completely random. Then, you choose how you want to sort using filters tied to an agent’s verified production over the last 12 rolling months.
The February 2018 release of “Referrals” also includes the verified specialization filter tags of KW MAPS Mastery Client, GPS, Luxury, Commercial, Land and Expansion. “It was important for us to see agents by a certain specialty. For example, if they focused on commercial properties or spoke a certain language. Right now, we keep notes in an archaic spreadsheet,” says St. Marceaux.
Managing the System
Once a partner was chosen and the referral was sent out, the Lance Loken team had found some success using Trello, a card-based project management program, to track a deal’s progress. Using this program as a model, the team designed its own specialized card-like system to carry all the information about a referral as it progressed.
When unable to log in to KWConnect via a desktop, agents can use their mobile device to manage their referrals via Kelle. “What we know is that agents are often in their car. Kelle enables you to manage the negotiation and tracking process seamlessly while on-the-go,” explains Dholakia.
Plus, to create urgency around accepting or countering an offer, the referrals platform requires a potential partner to respond within a chosen timeframe. This ensures that the process continues to move forward and no client is left waiting. The knowledge that “all of this information is at our fingertips” excites Loken. “It’s a game-changer.”
The Labs Process
The Labs process ensures that KW is building products our agents want and need. And, because agents are such an integral part of its creation, they are the ultimate determiners of whether a product is ready to be introduced to a wider audience.
At Family Reunion, Kelle and the agent-to-agent Referrals platform has moved to general availability. It’s available right now to Keller Williams associates. They simply have to log in to KWConnect.
“We invite you to experience it and break it… And trust me, it will break,” says Team. The Labs process is designed to be iterative. We ideate, incubate and validate products at an incredibly fast pace, then our associates use the product and provide feedback so we can refine the product. We need your participation for this program to work. And, it will only get better if everyone uses it.