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How tech drives an agent-centric brokerage: a profile of Coldwell Banker Caine

Vivien Wang (Vivien Wang) Director, Marketing Programs
Director, Marketing Programs
Vivien Wang
Vivien is the Director of Marketing Programs at ZapLabs, where she leads a team focused on converting Zap users into fans through engaging content, events, and communications.

Since its founding 85 years ago, Coldwell Banker Caine has embraced an agent-centric, technology driven business model that pervades its culture, business systems and support infrastructure. In this post, we’ll look at how focusing on these three pillars empowers its agents to grow and thrive.

Run your brokerage as if it were a Fortune 10 business

“Real estate is not a cottage industry,” says Stephen Edgerton, President and CEO of Coldwell Banker Caine. Edgerton is an 11-year IBM veteran, whose career with the tech giant laid the foundation for his business and management approach.


           “When you’re part of a Fortune 10 company for that long, you know what world- 

                       class looks like from an HR, accounting, sales, and measurement                

                                       perspective. Real estate should be no different.”                          

Since its beginning, the linchpin for CB Caine has been the agent. “Our journey as a company has been to invest in the culture, infrastructure and community that allows our agents to grow and thrive in the business,” says Edgerton. With that in mind, his philosophy is to take as much off his agents’ plates as possible so that they can be out selling.

As Executive Vice President of Sales and Broker in Charge at CB Caine, Amanda Jones knew that creating a world-class work environment meant using business systems that reflected the digitally driven, mobile nature of her agents’ daily work.

“We have a 100% cloud-based collaborative platform, and we use all of our marketing technology and Office 365 software from there,” says Jones. “Everything is digitally managed: our transaction management via Dotloop, our staff and accounting systems. We use the Zap mobile app to manage clients and Dropbox for uploading property photos. It is seamless, paperless, and efficient.”

Adopting a mobile-first mindset also applied to the use of office space. “When your agents are on-the-go, your offices should be, too,” says Edgerton. “Having four buildings within a 3-mile radius was an inefficient way to operate. We started closing traditional offices because an agent doesn’t spend a ton of time in the office. But we wanted our agents to have the services and support they needed to be successful in their job.”


CB_Caine_agents.jpg

  Since its founding 85 years ago, Coldwell Banker Caine put the agent front and center--investing in a culture,                                                                infrastructure and community that drive agent productivity.

 

For CB Caine, the solution called for an innovative office structure and “mobile plan.” CB Caine’s seven offices are organized in this manner:

  • 1 headquarter office in Greenville, SC where the support staff, marketing and admin sit. This is where sales meetings take place and where agents can have a dedicated office if desired.
  • 1 hub office with a similar set up in Spartanburg, SC.
  • 4 real estate galleries with one experience manager and high visibility to the consumer. And yes, these offices function as event spaces and art galleries as well!

Consistency is key. “All of the technology within each location is exactly the same,” explains Jones. Agent support is available through an experience manager, and client and training rooms are connected. “Agents have everything they need to be mobile, as well as space where they can meet with clients, instead of having to meet at Panera or Starbucks. We made an effort to create a comfortable environment in our spaces where our agents and clients alike can truly feel at home” notes Jones.

CB Caine’s mobile plan for agents marries the benefits of mobility with office space. By choice, a very large percentage of CB Caine agents are on this mobile plan; less than 20% of agents have their own dedicated office.

Optimize agent productivity through technology and training

Jones knows that technology is what enables her agents to focus on providing a higher level of service and selling more homes. “We invest heavily in technology and in training in order to serve our agents’ focus.” But this approach took some time in the making.

“Five years ago, we just pushed tools out. Now, we roll out systems and technology in a slow, systematic way. We train on the basics of how to be a great agent using technology, then explain to agents why they should engage with the product and revisit this every quarter. If we can provide administrative support or execute tasks for them, we will, and that helps to increase engagement” says Jones.

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 2.58.13 PM.png
            CB Caine’s innovative offices accommodate the needs of their mobile-first agents, and also serve as                                                                                community event spaces and art galleries.

All new agents are trained on all platforms; weekly trainings incorporate different technologies like RPR, CBx, Zap, and focus on best practices and how best to reach out to clients. When it comes to mobile, CB Caine’s approach is early adoption and one-on-one training. “Our agents add all the mobile apps they’ll use on their phones during our trainings. All of our tech trainings are also conducted in small groups or one-on-one, to ensure agents are fully engaged,” says Jones.

Perhaps unique to CB Caine, every team member plays a role in training.

 

        All of our brokers lead training efforts. Each broker has a tool they’re a champion of,

                                 but they still need to be fully versed in all tools,” says Jones.

From a software perspective, CB Caine is responsible for procurement, implementation and training. Marketing and the experience manager teams provide support. Hardware support is outsourced to a third-party vendor.

Even Edgerton is heavily involved and constantly seeking the next innovation. “Stephen has a unique understanding of technology, so he’s our ace in the hole when it comes to software pilots and evaluations for our business,” says Jones. At any given time, CB Caine is actively evaluating software tools and systems ranging from cybersecurity, to multi-factor authentication to ATP, in an effort to stay ahead of the game so that agents never worry about technology and can remain focused on relationship building.

Naturally, all that training only comes full circle with a fully engaged user base. Kate Dabbs is CB Caine’s Director or Marketing and Operations and is keenly focused on tracking agent engagement. “We’re building a platform to see what agents have enrolled in and if they’ve completed trainings. Also, our Zap reports are helpful: brokers can pull up an agent to see the level of engagement they’ve had on the mobile app, and can react to this measure of business performance,” she says. “Even though we’re still building it out, our reports show that we have a high level of agent understanding and engagement. For example, we’re a top user for Dotloop with 88% of our agents on it,” notes Dabbs.

Today’s tech-enabled agent still requires support

The technology and training that CB Caine invests in its agents point to a paradigm shift in real estate in favor of the tech-enabled agent. Edgerton observes, “The industry is headed in the direction where we give agents the tools to do it themselves, but any high-performing salesperson has great support behind them.”

Dabbs describes the unique support role played by CB Caine’s “experience manager team,” which supports 180 agents and receives up to 4200 unique tickets each month.

“Using one email address, agents can reach out to the experience manager team, which serves the role of inputting listing and showing information and managing contracts and closings,” says Dabbs. “In the past, these all used to be managed in a shared inbox. Today, we have a client ticketing system with an algorithm to categorize and track tasks as well as spread them out among the team.”

Beyond support, CB Caine also offers a key value-added service for today’s tech-savvy agent: social media marketing.

Marisa Stephens is the Digital Strategist at CB Caine, and her team offers tiered social media marketing packages to agents. An initial meeting with the agent helps her team to establish voice and tone, so that listings, “just sold” graphics, open houses, and custom and local content accurately reflect the agent’s personality. A monthly analytics report is also part of each of the packages below:

  • For agents enrolled in the base package, her team will post to the agent’s Facebook business page 3 times per week about news and local events, plus any listing activity
  • For agents enrolled in a higher-level package, her team provides all of the above and a budget for Facebook advertising, using CBx to target likely buyers
  • For agents enrolled in the full package, her team provides all of the above and posts unique content to another platform such as Instagram

Results revealed that agents enrolled in Stephens’ social media packages make on average $40,000 more per year than those who didn’t.

By keeping the agent front and center and embodying a Fortune 10 business mindset and approach to its business systems, culture and support, CB Caine excels in its mission to “conduct real estate business in a superior manner.” With these pillars in place, this innovative brokerage is built to last.