To enhance the customer experience, Nexity uses digital. In 2015, one of the leaders in real estate launched in Paris the unique concept of the connected real estate agency. This concept was deployed in Lyon in September 2016 and will soon be in Marseille, Nantes and Strasbourg. Among the featured innovations, there are virtual reality glasses that allow you to visit a property without having to go there, and a 3D immersive space that allows you to picture your future neighbourhood without leaving the agency.
How do these projects fit in with the group’s digital strategy? What has the first feedback from customers and colleagues been? Frédéric Verdavaine, Managing Director of Nexity Real Estate Services for individuals, answered our questions.
Frédéric Verdavaine has been managing the estate services for individuals for two years. With 4,500 employees spread across more than 200 agencies, this branch of Nexity includes managing agents, letting agents and all the professions that deal with real estate transactions.
Tell us about Nexity’s digital strategy?
Frédéric Verdavaine: Thanks to digital, we design services which are smart, useful and attractive to improve our productivity, stand out from the competition and target other sectors. To do so, we rely on an ecosystem that combines the best in human and digital resources.
To grant more time to our employees, we have automated all the tasks that are invisible (and thus not valued) to our customers.
As part of our managing agent activity, we also launched in early 2016 an app that allows each property management agent to carry out yearly property visits, directly on a tablet. After logging on to the IT system, they register the names of the attending representatives and can send pictures in real time. Forty-eight hours later, the management committee receives a complete, well-presented report. Thanks to digital, we have changed something rather tedious into a something with real added value. We’ve already had several thousand visits and people are delighted: it is a real revolution.
“We must be completely in tune with our customers and prospects.”
On the rental market, 55% of owners manage their property themselves. To attract more customers, we need to tap into a new market: the self-managers. They are younger, more mobile, more urban, more connected than owners who use agencies, whose average age is 60. Therefore, we have created a spin-off called “e-gérance” (e-management), the first 100% digital solution for real estate third party management. Basically, we manage property from an administrative and fiscal perspective, because these landlords don’t have the time and can’t keep up with the constant changes. Maybe they will eventually turn to our agencies.
“The question we ask ourselves is: what can we do to make the customer’s life easier?”
We have also launched Visilist, an app designed to facilitate searches for a property to rent or buy. It’s a virtual notebook, which allows you to write comments during a visit and add photos of the properties visited. Customers can also use it to chat in real time, for example when their spouse is not there for the visit. It’s a very didactic, lively tool.
How does the connected agency follow this digital strategy?
We adapt to our customers’ patterns of use: they want to use the Internet. The connected agency is cross-modal: customers can immerse themselves in the area they’re looking for.
“To create a connected agency, you must re-think the customer experience.”
When customers come into the agency, they are greeted by a hostess who registers their name on a tablet. If they have already registered on the Nexity website, the hostess can find their digital profile and avoid asking him the questions they’ve already answered online, regarding the research area for instance.
improving the quality of customer relations
The hostess then takes the customer on a trip: on a 3D map, they can find out about the real estate offer and can click on pre-selected properties to go on immersive viewings through Oculus Gear VR headsets. The estate agent then takes over and assesses the customer’s needs in more detail, thus ensuring a more customised customer experience.
The aim is for all the devices to communicate and respond to one another. If the customer has already been to the agency or the website, we have to know, so we can facilitate and optimise their experience.
Don’t estate agents feel like they’re being “replaced” by these digital tools?
We have carried out a lot of training sessions. I travelled all around France to convince and reassure the consultants, particularly regarding the “e-gérance” app, to explain that it was also a tool to attract new customers.
“Digital is also about managerial conviction.”
Our employees have grasped the advantage of working in a more modern way. Also, there’s sense of pride in offering customers a great tool: these digital solutions create value for employees.
COmbining the legitimacy of the group with the agility of start-ups
How are the teams that work on digital-related matters structured?
Nexity is a major, listed company. We have a digital management team, in charge of both the IT system and digital transformation. They are also in charge of keeping up with the latest trends in the real estate sector, in France as well as abroad.
Nexity also works on building an ecosystem, to combine the reassuring, legitimate aspect of the real estate agency with the agility of start-ups, through partnerships for instance. When we lack skills, we look for them elsewhere: working with start-ups allows us to quickly be at the forefront of technology. Nexity also collaborates with investment funds in FinTech to help start-ups develop and consolidate. All in all, about twenty million euros each year go to R&D.
“Instantaneousness has become a prerequisite”
Can you say a few words about the innovations to come?
We are working, among other things, on A.I. to answer our customers automatically and in real time via SMS. Nowadays, instantaneousness has become a prerequisite – but humans will always be there to bring intelligence to information.