Skype-Based Virtual Real Estate Tours Lead To Microsoft Partner Win

Dan Prud'homme, broker in charge, at Carolina Realty Group in Hilton Head Island, S.C., stumbled upon a business solution in Skype that quickly led to a total IT revamp -- and a major win for one Microsoft partner.

Prud'homme told CRN at an exclusive Microsoft mobility event in New York City on Monday that a common stumbling block in the real estate industry has been communicating with remote buyers. Second homes and vacation homes make up a large portion of the company's business, and new buyers frequently have a small window of time during the year to tour properties because they often have a primary residence in different location far away.

"One couple had told me exactly what they were looking for in a house, and as soon as they left town, a property became available. I knew it would be perfect for them," Prud'homme said.

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Prud'homme was walking through the vacant house attempting to describe it to his customers through a phone call, when it occurred to him to use Skype. Within minutes, he had the application open on his Surface tablet and the couple was able to see the house "in great detail." They were sold, and Prud'homme closed the deal.

After his second house sold via Skype, his colleagues started to take up the practice of virtual-house tours. The application eventually led Carolina Realty Group to re-evaluate the entirety of its IT infrastructure.

At the time, the company had servers in-house and had hired a local IT company to perform the routine maintenance.

"They were as good as they had to be to stay in business there," Prud'homme told CRN. Enterprises seeking IT help on Hilton Head Island, he said, have limited options, and the local IT company had become lax, relying on simple geography to continue to reel in business.

Prud'homme said the company maintaining Carolina Realty Group's servers "were not embracing cloud." Cloud, he said, was what the realty group wanted, and the company sought it out in the form of Office 365.

The realty company chose Palmetto Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based solution provider, to deliver a Microsoft Office 365 solution. Carolina Realty Group now pays less in an entire year than it did in a single month with its previous partner, saving a total of $30,000 annually.

NEXT: Microsoft: Think Of Us As A Tool, Not A Competitor

Shane Grumbles, sales director of Palmetto Technology Group, told CRN his company equally specializes in hosted solutions with Microsoft and managed services.

"We're in a time where everyone's eyes have to be open to becoming current," Grumbles said, pointing to the inevitable end of Windows XP as a specific example. "It is our job to open people's minds to different solutions."

As in the Carolina Realty Group situation, Grumbles said it is important to "enhance solutions, not just patch them."

Nancie Williams, general manager of Microsoft's East Region SMB & Distribution, told CRN Palmetto was the type of partner that understood how to view Microsoft not as a competitor, but as a tool.

Williams said she regularly sees solution providers struggle with the decision to build more managed services or add-on to Microsoft's offerings. Her message was clear: Do not try to compete with Microsoft -- instead, work with its products.

"[Partners] have to get over the mindset that you can compete with Microsoft. They have to think about moving up the chain and building solutions on top of what Microsoft already has to offer," Williams said.