In February 2017 at the Keller Williams Convention, affectionately called Family Reunion, our founder, Gary Keller, announced that “he has enough money” and would pledge $1Billion dollars toward agent technology for Keller Williams agents. At the 2018 and 2019 Family Reunion a Gary and the Chief Technology Officer for KW, Josh Team, continued the discussion at length about the technology on the horizon for Keller Williams agents.
Gary stressed the importance of controlling our data, which he believes is the 4th Industrial Age. As agents we are often blind sighted by promises from the latest and greatest – essentially paying for leads through 3rd party vendors. Agents receive calls daily from vendors promising X number of leads for $X. Gary has always discredited this source of business when we could do better financially by going back to our roots of lead generation such as talking with our database or knocking on doors.
This year Gary stressed that these 3rd party vendors are collecting our data and if not already using it against us, will in the future. For example, our listings are loaded into the MLS and pushed to other sites such as Zillow. If you aren’t a KW agent or paying Zillow an extra fee, your listings are sold to the highest bidder of that zip code for buyer leads. Gary negotiated with Zillow on behalf of his agents, that buyer leads for our agent’s listings belong to our agents. This was affectionately called, “Our listings our leads.” This is true for countless other third-party property search sites. All the major third party property search sites will show my information to the agent for my listings.
In the article released by Inman News, Keller Williams debuts AI virtual assistant and referral platform, Gary describes another example, the fact that Fidelity National (parent to a title company) owns Commissions Inc, a high-end database used by many top performing real estate teams across the nation. Fidelity National also owns Pacific Union International, a KW brokerage rival. “This means that any Realtor using Commissions Inc is giving their data to a company that’s competing with them if you’re on the West Coast” according to Josh Team.
Why is it so important to Gary Keller that the agents control their data? In a nutshell, to protect the industry and the jobs of his agents. We have already seen how Zillow is trying to cut the agent out of the transaction with the “Make Me Sell” option on the website for For Sale By Owners and the recent announcement by Zillow in some markets where Zillow is advertising “Instant Offers” for sellers to sell their homes to investors. Redfin is also cutting out the buyer’s agent in the transaction.
How does Keller Williams plan to protect the agent’s data? By reducing the “bolt-on” technology from other companies and creating their own technology.
In the past, Keller Williams worked with third-party companies for a database and agent websites. These tools stored the data within their systems. In the past with previous tools, the data was retained within the tool and when the agent wanted to use a different tool they left their data with the tool. Sure, they could export their database, but after they stopped paying the 3rd party for the use of their tool, the agent lost control of their data in that tool.
The new philosophy is to replace these 3rd party tools with Keller Williams created apps and trusted partners. The Keller Cloud is already in production storing the data for Keller Williams agents. Approved partners are given an opportunity to plug their tool into the Keller Cloud and allow agents to access their data using these other tools, but the data remains in Keller Cloud. This allows the agent to unplug from the tool without losing control of their data. Keller Cloud also allows them to take their data with them if they decide to leave Keller Williams.
I have been a real estate agent since 2006. I have used 5 different database tools over the years moving to a new one with more or different functionality every time. Each time I made the move I exported my contact database and each time I lost data, particularly my notes and my contact history. Gary’s goal is to stop this loss of data and allow agents to keep all their data on all their contacts with a fully functional Keller Cloud and the use of participating vendor applications. As Josh Team stated “We will always respect your data as your business and will always allow you to take your database with you….We will never hold your data or your business hostage. If you leave, you can take your data with you and we will not keep a copy.”
Keller Williams is developing several applications that will interface with Keller Cloud using a “labs” process. This process brings together hundreds of agents to design the user interface and backend functionality of future apps. During Family Reunion, nearly 400 agents participated in the labs process and during several breakout sessions, panels of agents involved in the different labs, were given the opportunity to speak about their experiences. In development at different stages of the labs include a KWCommand Contact Management System, KWCommand Offer Management System, KWCommand Facebook Ad Accelerator, Neighborhood Pages, and KWConnect Groups and Notifications. Some of this functionality is already available to agents in a beta mode.
Already deployed is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) mobile app for Keller Williams agents called Kelle. It is built on the Keller Cloud that holds all the data owned by Keller Williams agents as well as data collected from participating 3rd parties, such as Nextdoor. As Kelle matures, it will help Keller Williams agents with their business from helping them keep in touch with their clients to understanding the real estate market in a neighborhood as the agent prepares for a listing appointment. Its use and value to the KW agent is unlimited.
Also released is the new agent referral platform within Kelle and Keller Cloud. This application is available to all Keller Williams agents and allows us to build our referral network across the nation and the world to our worldwide Keller Williams agents. This tool will make it easier to refer clients to other agents and to stay informed on the status of the referral.
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