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Redfin: Redefining the real estate experience


I popped into Redfin’s HQ in Seattle last week, partly because I wanted to snap a few photos to highlight their developers on our website. But mostly to feed my curiosity on a development team that just keeps churning out new innovative ways to engage customers.

I walked away with a real appreciation of their approach using small development teams to continuously improve the Redfin customer experience.

For the uninitiated, Redfin is a national real estate brokerage. But in reality, they’re much more than that. They use technology to redefine the real estate experience to center on the customer — combining their own full-service employee agents with their own technology to deliver service that’s faster, better, and costs less. Every Redfin agent is backed by a team of real estate professionals who take care of everything for the customer. There’s always someone available.

A big part of modernizing the customer experience is communications. Here’s their approach:

Step 1 – Evaluate the situation

Redfin had a conventional setup for visitors to call the company’s real estate agents. But the calls were not integrated with the Redfin backend system, meaning that agents had to ask a series of upfront questions to connect the dots: “What’s your full name?” “Where are you calling from?” “What property are you interested in?” and so on.  Calls were less personal (it felt like a call center) and took longer than necessary. Additionally, the call activity was not tracked, so there was missed opportunity to create efficiency for the agents and serve customers better.

Step 2 – Route everything through Redfin phone numbers

Redfin now routes calls using Twilio Programmable Voice letting them control where calls go, reroute when an agent doesn’t pick up, and provide detailed visibility into call metrics and page performance by tracking the source of the call. The new Redfin phone numbers are displayed on the listing details page like so:

Now calls between buyer and agent stay on the Redfin platform, can be tracked to analyze performance, and keep the agent’s mobile phone number private. Best of all, consumers are connected with a Redfin team member even if the specific agent for the listing is unavailable at the time.

Step 3 – Handle voice from Redfins Agent Tools software

Next, Redfin turned to Twilio Programmable Voice SDKs to build voice calls into their Agent Tools software, and then tied this to a unique number posted on their site. This way, Redfin agents stopped wasting time asking for information the person had probably already provided.

Calls route to the next available support agent, and all the information about the customer is right there during the call.

David Ganey, a Software Developer at Redfin, explained it to me like this “Using Twilio for WebRTC-based calling means agents can take calls right from their browser. When a buyer calls in, the agent doesn’t have to interrupt their workflow to pick up a phone; they’re already there. They can see the customer’s information in the browser and start having a meaningful conversation right away.”

Step 4  Stop wasting time on robocalls

Then Redfin discovered Twilio Add-ons. Without changing any code,

Redfin could start to identify calls that were showing high frequency call patterns (high probability of a telemarketer or robocall spam) and route these elsewhere.

Getting this spam information was just a one-click integration of Nomorobo in the Twilio console, like so:

Step 5  Give agents insight into voice quality

Now that agents were handling calls from Redfin software, any problems with call quality resulted in support calls back to Redfin’s IT department. The company saw another opportunity to innovate by exposing voice and connection quality to the reps through the Agent Tools.

Step 6  Use SMS to notify Agents of web referrals

Early on, Redfin also saw the value of using SMS to quickly notify agents of new customer activity. If a call couldn’t immediately connect to the appropriate agent, it would automatically send them an SMS message with details to respond. This dramatically increased the conversion of referrals by cutting the time it took for agents to get back to customers.

Step  7  Integrate two-way text messaging into Redfin Agent tools

Because Redfin already had voice calls routed through their platform using Twilio, it was an obvious step to add two-way text messaging between the agent and the customer. Best of all, they could use the phone numbers they had already provisioned through Twilio and build messaging directly into their Agent web interface.

Step 8 – Always innovate

Redfin intends to stay at the forefront of the customer experience, always adapting to the changing needs of their agents and to the communication preferences of homebuyers and sellers.

Galen Knapp, the Engineering Team Lead at Redfin, explained to their fundamental belief that innovation is built, not bought. This is why Redfin takes an API-approach to problem solving in the first place. He summed it up nicely, saying “With a sophisticated multi-channel platform like Twilio, innovating our customer experience is just an API call away, and we can build it exactly the way we want.”

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