In early December 2020 OP Koti and OP Lab launched a new service enabling remote house viewing through video stream from the comfort of one’s couch. As a result of the unusual housing market circumstances caused by Covid 19 pandemic, OP Koti wanted to ensure safe and reliable ways to continue serving their customers despite the exceptional situation. Therefore, ideas for new, alternative ways to host property viewings started being developed. After reviewing multiple technologies and solutions, we concluded that video streaming would be the best way to provide a convenient and safe way to host house viewings remotely and still maintain interaction between the realtor and the customer. Thus began the journey of OP Koti Etäesittely (OP Koti Remote Viewing).
After selecting video streaming as the remote viewing tool, we decided to test our concept with a quick and simple pilot. We knew that in order to be fast, the pilot service should not be a complete or perfect solution, but should be good enough to test our core hypothesis; customers will find video streams useful in deciding whether they want to see the house in person. Therefore, we created a quick MVP for the pilot – perhaps imperfect – but a service that performed its core functions well and was able to provide a good customer experience.
In order to pilot the service, we recruited a handful of OP Koti realtors and asked them to test it with their customers. A number of viewings around Finland resulted in a great turnout of customers and positive feedback. It turned out that the pilot confirmed our hypothesis and we got our validation to further develop the service and make a production-ready OP Koti Etäesittely that could be released to our entire customer base.
From pilot to production
Before moving from pilot stage towards an actual production solution, we needed to confirm whether the service would be useful to our customers also after the pandemic. We found evidence from customer feedback and from a survey by Etuovi.com suggesting that remote viewings have a place in the post-pandemic world as well. Remote viewings were found to be useful for people who live outside cities or busy individuals who find it hard to find time for live viewings.
“OP Koti Etäesittely is an important addition to the tool kit of our realtors, as it helps us reach a wider audience and provide a better, easier and safer viewing experience to our customers”, says Kaisu Christie, SVP of Mortgages, Collateral and Real Estate Business at OP Financial Group.
After wrapping up the pilot we started creating the new, improved version of the service to polish the user experience for both our customers and the OP Koti realtors. We developed the interface of the service to become more intuitive and responsive for the customer and to provide a better sign-up experience, as well as viewing and chatting experiences. In order to avoid extra installations, it was important to have the service run completely in the web browser.
For the realtors, the service was integrated in their daily tools in order to create a more elegant and seamless experience. It was absolutely imperative for us to ensure that our realtor could easily adopt the new service to their workflow without having to install or familiarize themselves with an additional system to use.
In summary, what have we achieved as a result? After the process of quick MVP and piloting, we have a remote viewing service offering with a simple, clean experience for our customers. But most importantly, with this service we can make house viewings more available to our customers, regardless of their location – and provide them even better opportunities to find their dream home.
“Solutions like OP Koti Etäesittely represent necessary steps for us to become fully digital, serving customers where they are. We want to offer remote services as an alternative to physical ones, allowing the customer to choose what is more convenient for them”, concludes Kristian Luoma, Head of OP Lab and IPR at OP Financial Group.