North Texas Real Estate Information Systems is a real estate information and technology solutions provider serving 15 Realtor associations in North Texas. It offers information storage and retrieval services, implemented document management technology and data services. For example, the company’s solutions makes it easy for association members to search for and list homes for sale, retrieve tax information and research neighborhoods, schools and crime statistics, among other things.
Once or twice a month, the company sends an e-newsletter to the more than 25,000 agents, brokers, office staffers and appraisers that work for the associations it serves. The list is carefully segmented by office, job function and needs, so recipients are only getting the most crucial and relevant information, said Uneeta Mosby-Palmer, director-corporate communications at NTREIS. Once a year, the e-newsletter links to a survey designed to help the company improve its services and product offerings.
“Sure, we get hate mail when a user doesn’t like something, but we wanted a way to reach out to everyone who is using our service and find out how we can do better,” said Mosby-Palmer, who suggested that all software, hardware and service providers can benefit from doing the same. Often, she said, people won’t provide feedback unless asked.
Mosby-Palmer said she gets significant participation—last year’s survey had a 35% response rate—by following these five guidelines:
- Establish a clear goal. NTREIS wanted to understand why specific service features were being underused, so it made sure that it included questions that could provide specific answers. “We ask them about their experience with the system, the number of mouse clicks [it takes to get to a feature], the support library [and] how they like our tech support,” said Mosby-Palmer. “If we want to know about an underutilized feature, we might ask them if they know about it and why they aren’t using it.”
- Pick the right time of year. NTREIS sends its survey in December, when demand for real estate services is at its lowest, said Mosby-Palmer. “We’d never send it during the summer when readers are going to be at their busiest,” she said. Tech marketers should sync surveys to product refresh cycles or customers’ renewal cycles—whichever time frame will reap more returns.
- Provide an option for feedback. In previous years, NTREIS simply sent out a multiple-choice survey. Last year, Mosby-Palmer added an option for written feedback and the results have been dramatic. “We didn’t want to force them into an answer, and now we’re getting real feedback that we can pass along to help improve the functionality of our offerings,” she said.
- Offer a carrot. In reality, a survey gives companies specifics that can help make a hardware or software product more appealing and useful. Reward respondents by offering a giveaway; pick something they can actually use. For instance, in 2008 NTREIS offered one winner a GPS system, something that could come in handy for a Realtor.
- Turn results into action. As soon as NTREIS starts getting responses, results are aggregated and forwarded to the company’s users committee, which works on suggestions and addressing problems. “They can start looking into ‘Is this feasible?’ ‘Can we make these changes?’ It’s a way to see what users like about our service and what we still need to communicate better.”