Article by Ben abbott for GQ.com.au – How Cohen Handler Used Tech To Change The Property Game
Simon Cohen and Ben Handler knew buying property should be easier, so they set about using technology to help turn the real estate industry on its head.
Cohen Handler’s attitude towards technology and its power to transform an industry was epitomised by its embrace of one device. Google Glass.
A local property buyers’ agency, Cohen Handler was among the first businesses to get its hands on Google’s internet-in-a-headset in the US, after it decided to trial the largely untested product on some overseas customers.
Co-founders Simon Cohen and Ben Handler envisioned a whole new type of customer experience, where an overseas buyer could effectively walk through a local property and see it through the eyes of Cohen Handler.
Though Google Glass failed, Cohen says it’s an example of how the business is willing to try new things to remain at the cutting edge of customer service.
“I think there’s no one doing anything like what we’re doing at the moment to be honest, and that’s why we’ve been such a success in this industry,” Cohen says. “It’s a very old school industry. We’ve come in and sharpened it up and brought it up to speed with the modern world and the way people do business today, and we’ve been able to add a huge amount of value for our customers,” he says.
Cohen Handler began when the ex-Ray White and Charter Hall co-founders agreed the existing real estate model was obsolete. Starting a buyers’ agency advocating for buyers rather than sellers, their model offered a professional edge that could save buyers time, hassle, and money – and give them experience.
It has proved a success. Spurred on by the launch of its fifth branch in Brisbane and a new commercial property department, Cohen Handler was named the third-fastest growing SME in Australia by SmartCompany, after it recorded $6m in revenue and 622 per cent growth during the 2014-15 financial year.
Technology has always been critical to its fast-growth trajectory. And there is no piece of technology that has made a bigger impact so far than Salesforce.
“It’s been a huge part of getting our whole team connected and every facet of our company streamlined, from how we communicate with customers right through to monitoring and tracking our team and helping them grow,” Cohen says.
After three years using it, Cohen names monitoring and tracking growth as a key advantage. “You can be on a mobile phone app lying on a beach in Hawaii and see how every individual agent is tracking, how every customer is tracking and how each department is tracking. It makes monitoring growth very easy.”
Cohen Handler is also a big advocate of digital over traditional marketing. “I think it’s incredibly important. If you are not looking at social media and digital marketing as a marketing priority your business is going backwards.”
Cohen says digital marketing has been at the heart of its growth. “We are able to share stories about our business – how our business is going, what we have to offer and the stories of our customers and team – and the public can see that through social media and thanks to other digital marketing and SEO efforts.”
While Google Glass did not work out for the business, Cohen says any technology that improves the property buying experience is going to be on his agenda.
“Whatever technology comes to the forefront, if that has benefits for our customers or will help our business we will be jumping all over it.”