When I’m out in the field working at state and local REALTOR® associations, I see that technology is a blessing and a challenge for AEs and their members. Members want, and need, ongoing technology training to learn new applications, and AEs are continually looking for new ways to offer services in more efficient ways through the latest technology.
Most of us are overwhelmed by the sheer variety of technological tools at our disposal, which is not surprising considering how difficult it’s become to separate the beneficial from the trendy. Although no two associations are alike, when I asked successful AEs about the technological tools they have and want, the answers I received can go a long way toward helping us all define our needs.
If you suddenly had $5K to spend just on technology at your association, what would you buy?
- Video equipment that we could use to live-stream membership meetings and other educational events, in addition to creating videos for our YouTube channel. This would help us bring our services and education to members who can’t make it to our offices. —Dave Phillips, RCE, Charlottesville Association of REALTORS®, Va., 1,006 members
- Initially, I’d probably buy a couple of new training computers, but would also look at some good video equipment for our training room to be able to film some of the Lunch & Learns. We’d make Webinars out of these sessions to reach more members. —Helen Carter, RCE, Knoxville Association of REALTORS®, Tenn., 3,535 members
- Maybe the Acer 3D laptop or more flat-screen TVs that can hook up to computers. —Terry Penza, RCE, North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS®, Ill., 3,549 members
- I’d invest in a new high-quality server. This would allow for some new capabilities, but, more important, it would ensure that we don’t reach the point where we’re scrambling because our server is living on borrowed time. It’s especially good to be proactive in this area of technology. —Steve Blanton, RCE, CAE, e-pro, Rogue Valley Association of REALTORS®, Ore., 776 members
- Although I’m sure $5K wouldn’t quite cover it, I’d try to find a way to implement a call center for the members, offering appointment-scheduling services (Showing Solutions, eShowing, etc.). That’s something that brokers have been asking for. —Diane Ruggiero, RCE, Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS®, Mo., 7,438 members
- I would invest into a redesign of our association Web site, which was designed years ago and doesn’t offer much flexibility. We’d improve the overall appearance and design, plus improve its functionality to deliver more value to our members by incorporating tools that would enable us to keep the site more topical and relevant. —Rob Hulse, Lawrence Board of REALTORS®, Kan., 250 members
What has been your best technology investment recently?
- My BlackBerry is the easy answer. It lets me stay connected to staff, members, and family no matter where I am. —Dave Phillips
- Sometimes you have to start over to get it going again! We’ve been in PC mode and just upgraded three of our office computers to iMacs to better facilitate some plans we have for the future of our Web site—graphics, pictures, etc. We also got the dual processing systems so we can talk in the language of most of our members, while ensuring that it looks good on multiple browsers (Explorer, Safari, Firefox, etc.). Additionally, we invested in the ability to hook up more than one monitor so that we can view these different platforms simultaneously. —Helen Carter
- Our new Switch Box phone system (ability to link your office phone system through the Internet). It not only cost us 40 percent less than a name-brand phone system, but also gives us more flexibility with room to grow. Once there are better fiber optics in the area, we will also be able to stream out high-quality video. —Terry Penza
- Other than the usual, like a new MLS system, I’d have to say that autopopulated contracts and forms that integrate with the MLS are a big hit because it’s something members use every day. —Diane Ruggiero
- We replaced our old Internet connection with a new fiber-optic one, which has produced an unbelievable improvement in speed and capacity. We also replaced old computers in the office with iMacs. Macs can handle Windows-based programs, provide superior virus protection, are less quirky, and are more intuitive than anything else I’ve seen. —Steve Blanton
- The development of our public searchable database of active MLS Listings. —Rob Hulse
What was your worst technology investment recently?
- An overly complicated and sophisticated software and accounting package to manage our publishing company. Complexity kills any business. —Dave Phillips
- Probably a module of our current membership data-base system that is just horribly inefficient. Not only is it cumbersome, but since the developers of the module are no longer around, we have great difficulty with technical support. It was costly to purchase, and almost too hard to use. I wish we had looked into other database systems, which we are doing now! —Helen Carter
- Ncomputing (the ability to have multiple people simultaneously share a single computer), which was to be the answer to all our dreams. Unfortunately, it is way too buggy and crashed too much. —Terry Penza
- Haven’t had any real flops in the past few years, but about eight years ago the biggest waste of money, time, and resources was a membership system that just didn’t work for us. —Diane Ruggiero
- We like to innovate, so inevitably there will be some flops—usually products we purchase in bulk for member use. We think that a given product is the greatest thing since sliced bread and that the members will be dancing in the streets in front of their open houses because of the great choice we made on their behalf. But sometimes we’re wrong. —Steve Blanton
- As a small board and MLS we’re pretty limited with our resources, which keeps our level of risk on technology purchases low. —Rob Hulse
What’s your most popular tech training?
- We provide members with a lot of MLS and general tech support and classes. Our philosophy is: If your computer or smartphone is not able to interface with our services, it is our problem, no matter what the cause. We remove viruses, set up applications, load software, offer advice on what products to buy, and do anything else our members need to help them deal with technology. This is our highest rated service. —Dave Phillips
- I always promote several online sites and the e-PRO certification for our membership as starting points before encouraging them to go forward in technology training. We also work with the local mobile phone companies to hold periodic training on new phones, and we have a few members who have been gracious enough to conduct hands-on training on the social media sites, YouTube, and relatively inexpensive video equipment. —Helen Carter
- We offer a full technology department that includes training, repairs, recommendations of equipment, and answers to questions. —Terry Penza
- Our most popular trainings relate to our MLS system. We offer an iPhone class that is very popular as well. —Steve Blanton
What’s your latest and coolest personal tech toy?
- My Kindle (e-book and digital media reader). —Dave Phillips
- I have a BlackBerry but am really close to trading up for a Droid (Motorola’s Internet- and multimedia-enabled smartphone). Who really needs 100,000 applications? But I’m drawn to it because it’s very Google-based. And the next thing is going to be an iPad! —Helen Carter
- I’m a little behind on purchasing. I carry the following: iPhone, regular cell phone, Kodak digital camera, iPod, extra batteries, and a handful of USB flash drives. I want a 3D TV, which comes out this summer. —Terry Penza
- My Kindle. —Diane Ruggiero
- My Kindle. I listen to a lot of recorded books, but the Kindle is great, too. I also love my receipt scanner that scans and electronically stores receipt data to be exported to Excel or QuickBooks for expense reports. —Steve Blanton
- I had a BlackBerry for years, but now I’ve been using an iPhone and I’m in love with the thing. I know most say that BlackBerry is a better smart-phone for e-mail, but I easily manage five e-mail accounts on my iPhone and I sync to my Outlook with one click. —Rob Hulse