Sweat the Details: Nest’s Taylor Titus

Sweat the Details Podcast by Nest Realty cooperation

Jonathan, Keith, and Jim sat down with Nest’s Taylor Titus and discussed her current role, how it has evolved into the Director of Agent Services from Client Happiness Coordinator, how she supports, guides, and leads our agents, and the value of authenticity in marketing and in being human.Taylor Titus - Caricature

You can listen to this podcast here, and subscribe to the podcast here.

Highlights:

  • Ovia pregnancy health app
  • Ink Cards
  • Value of being human. Stationary is a way
  • Celebrating the moments
  • Remember postagram?
  • Communicating Nest’s tools to our agents across all markets
  • Authenticity in marketing
  • Pain points that Taylor identifies through the lens of the agent?
  • Some moments need a hug
  • The value of having a remarkable marketing team within Nest

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Transcript:

Jim:
All right, we’re sitting here with Taylor von Titus, who is … How do you define yourself, what’s your role?

Taylor:
I am current the director of agent services.

Jim:
Okay.

Taylor:
Yeah.

Keith:
We’re sitting here with Taylor Von, and you are the?

Taylor:
Director of agent services.

Jim:
How long have you been with us?

Taylor:
Since 2013, I believe.

Jim:
Holy cow, that’s a long time.

Taylor:
I know, I know.

Jim:
You’ve put up with us for a long while, that’s impressive. In all seriousness, how big were we when you came? We were, clearly, just the one office.

Taylor:
Well, I think Fredericksburg and New River Valley were on board, and I think maybe Wilmington and Asheville were shortly after I started. It was five for a good while, when I first started.

Keith:
Right. Lets backup to 2013, your job title, if I remember correctly, was director of client happiness?

Taylor:
It was client happiness coordinator.

Keith:
Oh, client happiness coordinator, sorry. We do like our titles, we have fun.

Taylor:
Which was a big part of the appeal, was client happiness coordinator. Who would not want that job?

Keith:
All right, go into that. When you joined, what is your thought about what Nest is doing? Obviously, we were growing. At that point, the job you took over was one that nobody had had before, so you created it. What was your thought as to what a client happiness coordinator was going to entail?

Taylor:
That’s a great question, I don’t entirely know. I feel like, like you said, it was a created position that, I think, maybe on your end and also on mine, I don’t know that we know exactly what that would mean, entirely. I just knew that there was a need for someone to be focused on the client experience, and how that would call come together.

Taylor:
I think I was just more open to the idea that, instead of a customer service focused job that was outlined as a troubleshooting situation, it was framed in a way that was positive. That seemed like a need, just across the board, so I’m happy to be jumping into whatever opportunities that leads to.

Keith:
So you had, what, two decades of real estate experience, before you joined us?

Taylor:
Naturally, yes. Yes.

Keith:
So, you did own a home, at that point?

Taylor:
I did, I owned a Nest home.

Keith:
You had actually been through a buying experience, once.

Taylor:
Yes.

Keith:
But other than that, no clue of real estate?

Taylor:
That was flying blind.

Keith:
In terms of getting into real estate?

Taylor:
The buying experience, had no idea what I was doing. Of course, now having been here for a good amount of years, I wish that I had had a Nest agent on my side, to [crosstalk 00:03:19].

Jim:
Do you still remember the pain of that experience?

Taylor:
Yes.

Jim:
Okay. How does that color what you do on a daily basis?

Taylor:
I think I just … Looking at it, every once in a while, I’ll be thinking about that process. I think we were even talking about it yesterday, thinking about the lending process, and just having no idea if actually, at the end of the day, I owned the home. I’m signing all these documents, and I have no idea what any of them mean, and just not necessarily having anyone to outline what I was signing.

Taylor:
Yeah, in that moment you’re signing all these documents, and it’s one, after another, after another. You’re like, “Even if I read this, my comprehension of it is-”

Keith:
Nil.

Taylor:
Pretty small.

Keith:
Well, I think the reality is that for most buyers, that is absolutely the case. They know that they want to shop for a home, they know what they want physically from a house, or maybe have an idea of what they want physically from a house. Then, the actual process is just, what do we need to do to get to point B? There may not be as much understanding. In all honesty, and Jim will vouch for me on this, there are agents out there who may not know all of the steps as well, and what all the documents really entail, and what the purpose of each page is.

Jim:
No, and I think an experienced agent also … Deviating a little bit, an experienced agent has a way to take that 47 page document, and simplify it to a point where it’s understandable, but also minimizes the fear associated with it.

Taylor:
Right.

Jim:
Because there’s one clause in there that’s 400 words of attorney written drivel that says, “Don’t keep toxic waste or create meth in the house.” I think we can say that in a way, when the attorneys are going through that, to lighten the mood a little bit, but also say, “You really don’t need to read this, because you’re not going to be making meth in your house. And if you do, don’t get caught.”

Keith:
I mean, I think it’s a way to really-

Taylor:
What’s a great message for all.

Jim:
Exactly.

Keith:
It’s really hard to sell a house that’s been once a meth lab.

Jim:
It’s a disclosure in Virginia, now.

Jim:
It is.

Keith:
You learn something new every day.

Jim:
So, you came on board to do the client experience?

Taylor:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Keith:
Talk about some of the early projects. What were things, whether you brought them to the table, or whether agents did, or what those early stages were?

Taylor:
Honestly, again, it was because we started with maybe a nebulous idea of what that role would be, it was a lot of fact finding, I feel like, for the first, probably, year.

Jim:
Okay.

Taylor:
Just a lot of time spent either with PM, or talking with agents, just getting an idea of what the business actually is focused on. Which again, coming from non-real estate world, that was really important for me. So, I think just trying to figure out what the needs were.

Taylor:
Then, I think in our earlier explorations, I think it was focused on me being a more indirect contact with clients. I think, over the years we’ve evolved into realizing that our agents are more of our clients, not that necessarily we didn’t know that, but just in a way of providing more of the service base for our agents to then provide that great service to our clients.

Jim:
Well, I think Nest has evolved, to a certain degree, to recognizing that we do have two sets of client bases.

Jim:
Yeah.

Taylor:
Correct.

Jim:
Well, two and a half. We have the brokerage, we have the agents within said brokerages, and then we have the clients of the agents. So, we have a couple different threads that we’re serving, in a lot of ways.

Taylor:
Right.

Keith:
We knew that in the beginning, but it wasn’t until we started moving through this process that we articulated that, in a way that was meaningful.

Taylor:
Right.

Jim:
We talked yesterday, when we were prepping for this. You’re not a realtor, never have been, probably don’t want to be. But maybe, you never know. What do you read or look at, outside of the real estate space, for inspiration to do what you do in a better way?

Taylor:
Again, a lot of it is trying to think about the overall experience, both from an education and also the fun components of buying and selling a home. It’s a huge investment, obviously, but there’s so much associated with the warm fuzzies, right? You’re helping someone either buy their first home, or maybe sell their childhood home, or they’re downsizing, or relocating. There’s a lot of emotional components of the real estate experience. How do you provide two sides of things? How do you provide both the education around it, and then also celebrate the moments of it?

Taylor:
There’s a lot of things you can look at, that are, I would say, not at all real estate related, but certainly helpful. We inundated with apps, and things that enhance the experience from retail, to service, to all sorts of things. For me, personally right now, I am seven months pregnant, so one of the apps that I use pretty frequently is Ovia. One of the things I’ve really liked about them is just that they are-

Jim:
What is Ovia?

Taylor:
Ovia is a pregnancy app. It’s tracking all things from different milestones, and things that you should be thinking about, and maybe asking your doctor about. It’s keeping track of all sorts of aspects of-

Jim:
Baby stuff?

Taylor:
Yeah.

Keith:
It’s a pizza tracker for your baby?

Taylor:
That is not entirely untrue. Yeah, that is very true.

Jim:
I mean, it’s telling you here’s the stage, what’s going on, and what the growth is taking place?

Taylor:
Yeah, you’re plugging in different elements and information each time you go to the doctor, so then it’s also making suggestions of, “Hey, this is maybe something to be thinking about.” And the next time that you go in, it’s asking about this, or have you considered. It’s all things from both your health and wellbeing, but then also thinking about recommendations for financial decisions you might want to be thinking about a new baby.

Keith:
It’s a guide that also prompts you with questions that you should be asking?

Taylor:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Keith:
It’s providing that, in sort of what we do in a lot of ways?

Taylor:
Yeah.

Jim:
All right, so Ovia.

Taylor:
How can we ask the right questions?

Jim:
From a practitioner perspective, I see one of my roles is with my clients, particularly first time home buyers, is being the one who asks the dumb questions, because I know to ask them, because they don’t know what questions they should be asking.

Jim:
Okay, so Ovia?

Taylor:
Yeah, that’s another big one.

Jim:
What’s another one?

Taylor:
Another one that I’ve liked is Inked, which is … My niece and nephew are about an hour away, so not far by any means, but I don’t get to see them on a daily basis. One thing I’ve really liked is using this app, Inked, where I can create a little postcard for them, and have that sent in a timely fashion to their house. It can be a picture of me, or of my dog doing something silly, or just a note to let them know I’m thinking about them. For them, they’re five and three, getting something in the mail is awesome, they feel special. So, being able to do that in a pretty quick and easy, on the fly way is really great.

Jim:
In terms of, whether it’s Ovia or Inked, and what you’re going through outside of the office on a personal level, how does that translate to what you’re thinking about? Specifically, what are we doing here at Nest that those inspirations have applied to? Or, how do the agents feel a difference, in what they’re doing here at Nest, based on that?

Taylor:
Again, obviously with Ovia, it’s a lot of education based information. How can we facilitate topics that you might not have thought about, and kickstart conversations about longterm planning. But then, from the example of Inked, there’s a lot of things that I feel certain that agents want to be able to do and provide for their clients, but it’s just a matter of time and available brain space to be able to do all those small but meaningful things. How can we facilitate something like that through Nest, that makes it easier for them to do, and apply to all clients?

Jim:
Well, to the tangibility of Inked, one of the things we have within Nest is we have … everybody can get their own stationary. Nice, hard, good card stock stationary. We have notes. The notes that we have here at Nest are phenomenal, and it’s something that I went to my assistant … No, I went to you. I said, “Hey, I have a client whose dog passed away. Where can I get a card that offers that?” You said, “Oh, here it is.” I’m like, “Oh.”

Taylor:
Right.

Keith:
I think that having that on hand, it was just a nice little note to my client saying, “I saw this happened on Instagram, I’m really sorry.” It’s not real estate.

Jim:
Well, that’s the human perspective.

Keith:
[inaudible 00:12:34]. You know, one of the things Taylor said just a minute ago is that part of the job is celebrating the moments.

Jim:
Right.

Keith:
I don’t want to celebrate the moment of a dog passing, but the reality is that acknowledging that there are good moments and bad moments in people’s lives, and being able to be present for that is such a massive connection.

Jim:
Being human, because we do all this stuff online. Being able to take that, like with Inked, having an offline, tangible recognition of, we have a human relationship, and just being part of their lives in a really small sort of way.

Taylor:
Well, as a realtor, you’re involved in two major milestones, buying and selling a home. Those are big, huge moments, but all sorts of things happen in between, good and bad.

Keith:
Well, the reality is that there is typically a milestone that is happening, that is causing the milestone of buying or selling a home, right?

Taylor:
Right.

Keith:
They tend not to just be completely-

Taylor:
Isolated.

Keith:
An isolated … exactly. People are buying a house because they’ve either gotten a new job, and they moved. Or, they’re having a baby, or their kids are going to college, or there’s something that’s triggering a massive change.

Taylor:
Right.

Keith:
We know that there are moments going on, and there are moments that happen right after people close on their properties as well.

Keith:
I will say, I haven’t used Inked specifically for what you were referring to, but there was an app that I found … Probably eight years ago, nine years ago, we took our kids to Europe for the first time, and it was an app where you could take a photo, anywhere, and immediately just hit it. I think it was Postagram?

Keith:
Yeah, yeah.

Keith:
It would send an actual postcard of the photo, that could then be popped out and put in a frame, it was sized correctly, and it was an instant postcard that you could send, from the spot where we were. I was like, “That’s just amazing.” Literally, family members were getting postcards before we even got back from Europe. That’s such a cool, cool use of that.

Jim:
Let me step back. We have 50 some odd agents locally, in Charlottesville, we have about 300 within our 15 offices. You communicate with all of them?

Taylor:
A decent amount.

Jim:
As many as wish to?

Taylor:
Yeah, yeah.

Jim:
How do you convey to these agents what the best things are for them to use? Do you wait for them to come to you, or do you say here are the top five you should use? How do you walk these people through that?

Taylor:
We have, obviously, a lot of agents, and we’re working with agents of a variety of different levels of expertise, and interest in different tools. Like I said, not every tool’s for every person.

Keith:
Right.

Taylor:
I think that the challenge is creating information in a variety of ways.

Keith:
Okay.

Taylor:
Be it that I’m emailing everybody, through what we have as our bird calling emails, that would maybe be option one.

Keith:
Real quick, the bird call being an internal communication only?

Taylor:
Correct, yeah.

Jim:
That’s usually my role, is to ask the clarifying, dumb questions. I’m very proud of Keith for doing so.

Keith:
Thank you. I appreciate it.

Jim:
Well done.

Keith:
I’m growing up.

Taylor:
Step one would be, obviously, sending out the announcement to let people know that it’s available.

Jim:
Right.

Taylor:
But, we also have to be mindful of not every email, not every notification is read by all, of course. Then, how do you follow-up with more information, how do you provide tutorials via Nest help desk, which is our platform for all things Nest, all things FAQ based. It’s the resource when you don’t know what to do, here’s a great place to start.

Keith:
Right.

Taylor:
Then obviously, as I get questions from agents that are maybe looking to work on a project, it’s something that I try to incorporate into whatever they’re doing. “Hey, I know that we’re working on this, but it also might be helpful if we thought about trying this as well.” Just trying to think of every avenue to share that tool, share the message, share the opportunity.

Keith:
How much of your time is spent on the standard tools, and how much is spent on one-off projects that agents specifically come to you and ask for assistance on?

Taylor:
A decent amount of my time right now is spent on individual projects, things that don’t necessarily fit a specific box. So, how can we create something unique, and special, and needed?

Keith:
Are agents looking for standard, I need to do a farming campaign, and therefore it’s a one-off? Or, is it, I’m looking for a specific way that’s special, to touch a client in some creative manner?

Taylor:
Both. Yeah.

Jim:
All of the above?

Taylor:
All of the things, yes.

Keith:
Explain to people, when you have an agent who wants to do a farming again … Again, farming for the listeners who may not be real estate side, finding, picking a neighborhood, or picking some specific similarity within clients that they can market to. Within this farming, how much do we do, how much do you do, that’s truly unique to their experience, their farming campaign versus recycling projects that we have 10 postcards, and we’re just putting you on a list?

Taylor:
We do have available templates that are, again, focused on the education of buying and selling a home, because those kinds of tidbits are applicable to anybody buying or selling a home. But, in terms of what we can do, and what we often do for a higher level of customization, it’s pretty wide.

Taylor:
From working with agents to create a partnership with a local coffee shop to offer free coffee, or a donut, or whatever it is, to the recipient. Or, creating a summer bucket list of things that they might want to consider for when the kids are out of school, here are some things you can do to keep them out of the house, and keep them occupied, or whatever it is. Other things that we’ve done is even just gone on a roadshow around a certain area, to do a photo shoot so that every single image that comes through for that farming campaign looks and is local.

Keith:
And authentic.

Taylor:
Right, so that when the agent is marketing themselves as an area expert, it’s because they truly are.

Jim:
Right.

Taylor:
If they’re marketing recommendations to me of, “If someone lives in this area, they know this corner shop.” They know it backwards and forwards, this whole area, and that’s what we want to share with people.

Keith:
Well honestly, if you’re going to capture the attention of the general public, you have to do it in a manner that doesn’t say, look at my picture of a beach because it’s summertime.

Taylor:
Correct.

Keith:
Even though we’re three hours from a beach.

Taylor:
And we live in a mountain town, that matters.

Keith:
Well, but there are plenty agents for life postcard companies that, “Oh look, it’s springtime so let’s put a magnolia flower on a postcard and send it out and say remember to set your clocks forward next week.”

Taylor:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Keith:
Which just never really grabs the attention, other than … I’ll tell you who’s attention it does grab. All the other realtors, who then bring it into the office.

Jim:
And laugh at it.

Keith:
And laugh at it.

Keith:
But, that type of commitment to an ongoing piece is something that realtors here at Nest, and at other firms, utilize, and to great value. I think what I want to get to is what you’re doing, and the way that you’re positioning our agents, is in a manner that no one else in the marketplace is doing. You can’t fake the authenticity of it, you can’t really change that process, so you’re making it specific to every individual person.

Taylor:
Yeah. Again, like I said, every agent uses different tools, every agent has different needs. To that same point, every agent has a different focus, and a different style. How do we make sure that that conveys in everything that they do? From something like farming, but also just from their day-to-day business, too. From their social media posts, to …

Keith:
Consistency of imagery, consistency of brand, making sure that they’re touching on a regular, ongoing basis?

Taylor:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim:
What would you say … I think we’re close to wrapping this up, so two questions. One, what would you say the pain points that you identify through the lens of the agent, that you’re trying to help them solve?

Taylor:
Right. As a buyer’s agent, I feel like the biggest pain point is just remembering that the agent is there to provide the service, but that you guys don’t always have control over the market, and what is available as a product. You do not get to pick what is currently for sale, and try as you might, it might take a while to find the right fit.

Jim:
It would be really cool, if we could.

Taylor:
My goodness, wouldn’t it?

Jim:
It would be so much easier.

Taylor:
I know.

Jim:
Well, we’ll be 3D printing homes on demand here, soon. And we’ll be able to move other people’s houses, to put it where we want it, because that’s the cool part.

Keith:
Not right away.

Taylor:
In the future.

Keith:
Yeah.

Taylor:
I mean, as a listing agent, I feel like maybe more of what comes into play is just, obviously, managing expectations, in terms of what the timeline of selling a home, and expectations on price, and condition, and all sorts of things. Then also, as we talked about earlier, it’s just there’s so much, in terms of emotions that can be involved, and reason for selling. It could be wonderful reasons, but it could also be really hard ones, like relocating when maybe that’s not what you were hoping to do at this point in your life, or just transitions in life. How do you help them navigate that process, that does have a lot of to-dos, and a lot of important decisions to be made, but do that in a way that is thoughtful?

Jim:
And compassionate.

Taylor:
Correct.

Keith:
You say the job change, or the relocation. I mean, no matter how many clients we work with, there is excitement in a new job, there’s excitement in going to a new town, but the reality is you’re also going to be leaving your neighbors that you’ve gained relationships with, your kids are going to be uprooted. There’s always a certain amount in loss one place, with the gain for the next, and I think just helping our agents have a mindful way of being empathetic to that is huge. It is something we do, and again, it’s back to the loss of a dog card, it’s being able to acknowledge that there are moments in people’s lives that need a hug, not just a celebratory toast.

Jim:
I think it’s something that you’ve done an amazing job of bringing to our agents, and being able to keep everybody focused on, every day.

Jim:
So two things. One, I love doing the series that we do, of bringing our in-house folk to come and talk about what we do, because it gives me the opportunity to say, on air as I tell y’all, hopefully as often as possible, how much we appreciate what y’all do to make us look good.

Jim:
We are all really good, competent, really good at what we do with the clients, but a lot of us, myself included, kind of suck at what you do. So, you make us better for our clients, and for the brand, to be good at what we do. So, one, thank you.

Jim:
Two, details. As Jonathan always asks at the end of the podcast, the title of the podcast is Sweat the Details. What would you say is the one detail that you wake up every day, with respect to Nest, and sweat on a daily basis?

Taylor:
We talked a little bit about it earlier, it’s just making sure that what we are all working really hard to do is being shared, and understood, and landing, and being helpful in the way that we are intending it to be.

Taylor:
We spend a lot of time creating these tools, and providing these services, and making sure that people are aware of them, and feel comfortable using them, and that they’re as valuable as we’re hoping that they will be.

Keith:
Right. Taylor, thank you for joining us, thanks for the time. I will say, we are all looking forward to meeting Baby Titus, in a couple of months. We look forward to having him or her around the office from time to time, and I’m sorry we’re going to lose you for a couple of weeks after the baby’s born.

Jim:
Weeks? Days?

Keith:
Days.

Jim:
Days.

Taylor:
Right.

Jim:
Right, like three or four days.

Taylor:
Mere days.

Keith:
It’ll be fine. Take your time.

Taylor:
It’ll be fine. Yeah.

Jim:
Thanks a lot for the time, this has been awesome.

Jim:
Thanks Taylor, really appreciate it.

Taylor:
No problem, thanks guys.

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