person-woman-desk-laptopA little over 10 years ago, in January 2006, we were heading into a tumultuous housing market. But a few years before things got crazy, the Florida Realtors did something brilliant – it launched a new service for its members called Tech Helpline.

The concept for Tech Helpline was pretty straightforward. Technology tools for agents were coming to market at a rapid pace and many agents admitted to needing technology assistance. Just a year later, the first iPhone would be announced and that little computer-in-your-pocket ushered in a flurry of both opportunities and challenges for agents as it quickly became the smartphone of choice for most agents in our industry.

Florida Realtors saw the need to help provide a tech support service early on because it listened to its members. What was created with Tech Helpline was a kind of virtual “Genius Bar” for real estate agents, who could connect with a trained tech expert by dialing a toll-free number, opening up a chat window online, or simply shooting out an email if they had a less urgent question or need. The cost to the member: It was included as a member benefit, covered by their annual association dues. In other words, it didn’t cost them an extra dime.

Tech Helpline was originally started as a service solely for Florida Realtors. But we quickly realized there was national need for this service and we had created a system and infrastructure that made Tech Helpline easy to scale. We began offering it as a service to other associations, and today, it is the #1 real estate tech support service in North America, making support from Tech Helpline available to almost half the Realtors in the U.S. and Canada.

Fast-forward to the creation of its sister product, Form Simplicity, also made by Realtors for Realtors. Again, it too was originally created as a member benefit solely for Florida Realtors. However, member response was so overwhelmingly positive for this transaction management software solution, that Florida Realtors seized the opportunity to offer it to other associations, MLSs and brokerages across the nation. The infrastructure was in place and we had developed terrific products, so why not share these great products and services with others?

What makes this so special?

That’s where our DNA makes us so much different than alternatives in the marketplace. Our “made by Realtors for Realtors” mantra, even our development agenda for adding features or making improvements to our software is more than just a description about how our services were created: It is a competitive differentiator packed with often overlooked benefits that are incredibly important.

What makes this “made by Realtors for Realtors” aspect so valuable to members? The benefits are pretty striking and distinct from our competitors, including:

  • We’re truly pro industry: We are owned by Realtors® and will always have your back
  • We really understand what agents and brokers need and want: This is huge because our members and customers have a direct role in the improvements we add to our services.
  • We’re not going to be sold to the highest bidder: You’re not going to find yourself with new owners you don’t know or don’t trust
  • We take a long-term view of everything: We’re not trying to hit a weekly sales quota or a quarterly earnings number; we’re trying to add value for members first
  • We won’t force a third-party relationship on you: We know you have local partners in your markets and respect your ability to control the content your members receive
  • We won’t share your info with others: Outside tech support providers may practice sharing your information with their business partners, but we don’t
  • We’re all about customer service: We’ve grown so fast because we are known for our no-nonsense technical advice and warm, friendly, and U.S.-based customer service team who help real estate agents every day
  • We think you’ll like working with us better: The number one thing our customers tell us, including many that have switched from other solutions, is how nice and attentive we are. Basically, we all live here by the Golden Rule—treating others the way we would like to be treated

The choices we make

In the end, we all know there are some great products and services in the marketplace and that every association, MLS and broker wants choices. That’s the thing about real estate that seems fairly common throughout our industry: we are independently minded and don’t like to be told what product to buy or service to use. That means we have to earn our way into the hearts and minds of our members every day.

And that’s what keeps us motivated at both Form Simplicity and Tech Helpline: making members happy. Not hitting a number or ringing a bell when we close another sale. We know real estate is a people business and the technology we create is all about making the process better for these people. Our people. Our members. Our fellow Realtors.