We Blew Up the Call Center (And We Launched Atlanta)

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We Blew Up the Call Center (And We Launched Atlanta)

The world’s best real estate brokerage came to Atlanta today, increasing the number of active listings available on Redfin’s site by a whopping 30%. But better than the Atlanta website is the team behind it, starting with the guy we hired to run our Atlanta business, James Marks.james-marks-152x154 (1)

From the moment James explained to us that he once ran a big customer-service team at Best Buy — and made sure every single car-radio installer set the clock — he had the job. James has been an Atlanta broker for six years. He has a gentle southern accent, a deep service ethic and the kind of humility you don’t see every day but what’s most striking about him is that he could probably destroy, seduce or charm any wild animal in a hand-to-hand encounter. He’s very resourceful and determined.

James will be offering our direct service in the Alpharetta, Buckhead, East Cobb, Intown, Perimeter, Suwanee and Woodstock areas. We’ll work with partners to serve West Cobb, Gwinnett, Peachtree City and Lake Lanier areas.

Redfin Invests in Local Teams
More important for our customers nationwide, we’re rolling out local real estate teams for every market we serve. This is a major service upgrade designed to give you the intimacy and personal service of a small team while still ensuring you always have someone to help you, seven days a week.

An agent runs each team, assisted by a coordinator for scheduling tours and handling the closing paperwork. Two or three field agents help you get into homes all over town on short notice. You work with the same folks throughout the process and one person — the agent — is responsible for your happiness. There’s technology behind the scenes to route service requests and phone calls to the right person on different days and at different times, but that’s only so it’s all simple for you.

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It’s a big shift for us. The way it used to work, the agent was your main advocate, but you had to call into a Seattle call-center to schedule home tours. This allowed us to offer service every day of the week morning, noon and night. But it turns out local expertise was also really important to our customers.

So why didn’t we hire local teams before? Well, one reason is that we just didn’t have enough business. When you start out getting two or three offers per week for customers across Seattle, you don’t have enough business to hire a bunch of local teams. Getting local is easy for traditional brokers, because their agents are contractors, but Redfin hires employees.

Which brings us to the essential conundrum of an online brokerage. The online part scales very well, as you naturally want to bring the world’s greatest real estate search site to every market you can, as fast as you can. And the brokerage doesn’t scale so well, as it’s expensive to hire a team for every neighborhood, particularly when you’re finicky about quality and consistency.

But everything that works against you when you’re first starting out starts to tip the other way as you grow. Redfin serves Palo Alto or Newton or Santa Monica much better than we used to, just because our business has gotten big enough to support local teams that know those areas.

Of course, we still struggle when we open a new market, but even that’s gotten better, first of all because traffic in every new market grows faster than it did in the prior market. And second because we’ve stopped trying to take on an entire market on our own. Rather than covering all of Atlanta just with James’s team, we work with partner agents to handle the outlying areas so James can stay close to home.

We think teams is another big step toward becoming a mass-market service that blends the best of the traditional world with new technology, and a commitment to serving customers rather than chasing commissions.

What About All the Other Features?
As with every release, Redfin also included the usual grab-bag of goodies, starting with email alerts on recent past sales:

5.5 Sold Listing Alert

Whenever a property you’ve marked as a favorite sells, we’ll let you know by email. To get the photos, prices and other details for all the homes  that sold in your neighborhood, just click “Email Me New Listings” in the box that appears top left:

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Now visit My Redfin, click on Saved Searches, then click the “Email Options” link to ask to be notified when “Listings Are Sold.”

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You can make the same adjustments for any listing alert.

We also began collecting reviews on the local lenders that our agents recommend, relying on Rob McGarty to publish them to our site. Over time, we’ll automate this, but for now you can trust to publish every review, good or bad, for every deal, just as we do with all of our agents:

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We also link to other lender marketplaces, so you can keep our recommended lenders honest on price. We don’t make any money from our recommended lenders because we haven’t figured out an ethical way to do this. When and if we do, we’ll let you know.

And that’s the new website! Happy holidays, and thanks to the entire team that worked so hard to deliver this release. It’s gorgeous! As always, we’re excited to hear what you think.

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