Summary of the Realestate.com.au email fiasco

Fiasco : Humiliating Failure – a total failure, especially a humiliating or ludicrous one

This is to form a summary of what we do know to date, and what has been reported in the comments of the original post about www.realestate.com.au email delivery failure.

Realestate.com.au had a failure to “several of the email servers” and on Thursday they freed the stuck mail queues without any advice to agents which resulted in agencies around Australia being flooded with old email enquiries.

Because the enquiry emails give very little clue as to the date the buyer actually made the enquiry agents reported following up buyers as though they were fresh enquiries. Understandably buyers reactions ranged significantly. If REA had advised of the email problems immediately much of the embarrassment, humiliation and frustration encountered by agents could have been avoided.

Other than releasing the old email enquiries, not one initiative or announcement was undertaken by REA to advise agents of what had happened and to minimise the damage to agents.

Once the story was made public on this blog REA representatives then started to manage the problem in a reactive way. A notification was put in the account login area and an email was eventually sent to all agents. From reports by REA staff it appears that account representatives were not notified and made aware of the problem until it went public and they began taking calls.

Agents have reported up to 100 emails arriving on the first day and dates on lost emails reported by agents commenting on the original posts range from 6 weeks to 10 weeks ago.  REA have advised that the error stems from an upgrade to the mail servers. It is unknown whether this was a hardware or software upgrade, or both.

Effectively the monitoring of the email servers seems to have wholly unsuccessful for a significant amount of time. REA advised on Friday that their Standard Operating Procedures have now been altered so this problem could not be repeated. The speed which these changes were instigated only seems to prove the ease that correct monitoring could have been installed in the first place.

Upgrades generally require heightened monitoring by IT staff immediately following the upgrade as this is often a time when problems occur.  This also appears to have been unsuccessful.

Because the failure was not right across all email servers only a percentage of emails were affected. REA has not released what percentage this represents however their “Important Message”  forwarded to all agents downplays the incident significantly advising that “and only a small number of customers have been impacted”.  This appears to be anything but the case with reports that a significant number of agencies are affected right around Australia.

The emails lost also affected subscribers to the realholidays.com.au portal and whilst nobody has confirmed it is likely subscribers to realcommercial.com.au were also affected.

A number of agents have reported various communication issues to REA technical staff and REA sales staff all of which appears to have fallen on deaf ears. REA confirmed to me that one agent was even told by their technical staff that the problem lay with the clients own server. It was also reported that REA technical staff were blaming third parties for the email delivery problems.

The number of emails affected is not known and REA is unlikely to release this. With emails arriving  Thursday and Friday, and REA advising in their email on Friday that emails will still arrive over the following 24 hours, the total number of emails appears to be significant.  Several educated guesses have been made ranging from 1 million to 2 million emails.  This numbers have not been countered by REA to date.

Reports of buyers openly abusing agents about their lack of professionalism have been reported.

The reports of lost opportunities to salespeople and agencies appears to be significant and the matter of compensation has been raised a number of times. An REA representative advised that compensation is a matter to be discussed with your account reps.

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25 Comments

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 3:23 pm 0Likes

    Whilst reading this – guess what arrived in my inbox (addressed to me) 🙂

    Important Message

    Please allow me to apologise again for the trouble caused by the delayed delivery of some of your email leads from realestate.com.au
    We can now confirm that 16.6% of agent emails were delayed over the last 2 months. The other 83.4% agent emails were delivered on time.

    Based on your feedback, we will be sending an apology email to those consumers who had their email delayed.
    Click here to read the communication.
    The cause has been identified as a fault with some of our servers. This fault has now been fixed. As the problem escalated over time, it was at its worst when it was identified and fixed last Thursday 19th June 2008.
    We have taken several steps to address this issue including, improved quality assurance and site monitoring processes.
    We have made sure that the servers are working properly now, with 35,000 new emails sent on time to agents over the weekend.

    Once again on behalf of the company I apologise for any trouble this has caused you. If you would like further information, please call Customer Care on 1300 134 174 or email customercare@realestate.com.au
    Regards

    Jamie Pride
    General Manager – Australia
    realestate.com.au

    Warning – This email transmission may contain confidential information. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify us immediately on (61 3) 9897 1121 or reply by email to the sender. You must destroy the email immediately and not use, copy, distribute or disclose the contents. Thank you.

  • Glen Barnes
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 3:44 pm 0Likes

    Hopefully lesson learned by REA. ALWAYS be proactive in admitting to errors and mistakes as it can only hurt in the long run. People can forgive the occasional error if they know that you have a) fixed the problem and b) have implemented some checks to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm 0Likes

    Good Stuff..

    Finally something of substance on the matter.

    Lets just play with some numbers for a sec.. lets assume that the 16.6% is correct 🙂

    …from my understanding the weekend is the quieter of all days of the week. So if we average it at say 20,000 enquiries per day over 10 weeks @ 16.6% we end up with around 230,000 effected emails or about an average of just under 30 per agency.

    It seems they are going to send out apologies to the effected clients and I think that will go some way to fixing the backlash.

    Only one question really remains… Is this enough? Should we as agents be asking for compensation?

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm 0Likes

    Dave for realestate.com.au here.

    I would like to go on the record again on behalf of the company–and all of us who work at it–with our sincere apologies for this problem.

    The situation sucks and we are disappointed in ourselves for having let it happened.

    The fact that nothing like this has occurred in 11 years doesn

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 3:59 pm 0Likes

    Oh I think REA have plenty more work still to be done. Now that they have corrected their server issues. They need to commence immediate work on their Customer Service Issues which are nothing short of atrocious.

    Just recently our agreement expired and what do they send me – threatening emails that unless I re-sign by a certain date we will then be billed at a higher rate! So I have not re-signed and paying the higher rate because I like many who agree that they are too arrogant. Again they forget that real estate agents do talk.

    I read a comment on the other thread by Craig Pontey who runs the number one Ray White office whom I had lunch with two weeks ago – and we too run our networks number one office and we both concur that in many aspects of their business model they have simply lost the plot!

    Simply put: they no longer have a personal relationship with clients which now is electronic, and the recent email debacle identified that even that too is not working all that well either.

  • Coastal Agent
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm 0Likes

    In response to Roberts post; I couldn’t agree more! REA is a highly arrogant company from the top to bottom as is fairfax. Perhaps we as agents should be voting with our feet and getting into sites like myhome or something similar (as long as they fix up their own problems) instead of continually getting bent over by REA and Fairfax. Simply put, if a site such as myhome got nearly every agent (at no cost) and those agents left realestate & domain the advertisers and traffic will follow. Importantly, site owners would be fully aware that we as agents want better service and stronger, respectful relationships with suppliers! Can’t see how anyone could lose out of that, except REA & Fairfax that is. Who cares about them!

  • SSSR
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 6:06 pm 0Likes

    You raise a pretty good point Coastal Agent. The portal sector is uncompetitive. Currently agents are propagating this market condition in a vicious cycle by failing to vote with their feet more often. Understandably there has been little alternative and I am not sure MyHome, now or in the future will be answer, but its better than nothing. Innovation will drive competition in this sector and not just by Google, but by a number of others as well. All agents need to do is get behind vehicles that will deliver that competition and the change will happen.

  • Rick Wraight
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:34 am 0Likes

    Dave Platter,
    I have now read 3 of your apologies..thank you for them…but how about doing something posotive and coming up with a compensation package.
    We might all choose to aplogise that we cannot accept it or alternativly it might be so attractive we will accept it.
    You suggest we all contact our ‘account managers’ …well I’m sure we all have…but to date no agent has seen anything other than rhetoric and apologies….in my real estate business if we make a mistake we pay for it…….what does REA do?
    Look forward to your comments Dave.

  • AJ
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:49 am 0Likes

    Hang on Robert… let me get this correct… you have opted to pay more for your realestate subscription because you a) do not like them and b) are still in bed with domain.

    So I just wonder if you are charging for the internet, through VPA to your customers… if so, don’t you think you owe it to them to get the best possible price for their marketing $?

    Why are your customers the ones subsidizing your personal views of one company, and also paying for your branding?

    Have an opinion on an issue and a company, certainly, but remember you are in business. Advertise your business where you get results, and also do the best thing by your customers.

    I wonder what they would think if they knew they were paying more than they should?!

    Perhaps that is the marketing advantage your competitors have over you, they make the vendors $ go further.

  • AJ
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:52 am 0Likes

    I am also sure that realestate is really hurting that you are paying MORE per month than what you could be…

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 1:42 am 0Likes

    AJ, Now that Shane has taken over MyHome you might want to get rid of the link from your signature to a MyHome closing down page. It might have been OK a couple of weeks ago but it’s the last thing Shane would need at the moment.

    This REA stuff up might be just the shot in the arm that he needs to get MyHome off the ground. Fingers crossed.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 10:55 am 0Likes

    AJ – it remains quite obvious that you still have much to learn about the real estate industry and its machinations.

  • AJ
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 9:56 am 0Likes

    How about this one Greg 🙂

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 11:08 am 0Likes

    AJ – your presumptions once again are unfounded and totally incorrect.

  • AJ
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 11:02 am 0Likes

    Perhaps – life is a learning journey

    For example – I do not understand how a business man would purposefully pay more and pass the costs on to his customers, and claim that they are an ‘expert’ and a ‘good businessman’.

    It seems, Robert, that so long as someone else pays for your branding, and also pays for the leads which come to you to sell their property, you do not really care how much they pay.

    Great model in a consumer market!

  • AJ
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 11:15 am 0Likes

    Robert – not unfounded, they come from your very comments on here.

    “So I have not re-signed and paying the higher rate …”

    So you pay more.

    Through your VPA program, you pass these costs on to your customers.

    Customers pay VPA to market their property so you get the leads.

    You chose to not pay less for the same product… so therefore the customer pays more.

    This would only be a mute point if you were already over charging for VPA and could absorb the costs. Which then raises another issue on delivering the best possible service for the best price.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 3:45 pm 0Likes

    Although it is not renewal time I received a visit today from our Domain rep who had checked on our account and had some “suggestions” to help us maximise our response from the domain system.

    One of the handy suggestions she had was that all email enquiries are available in the back end so should you ever lose an email, you can still access them. Very subtle and timely.. but a coincidence?… I dont think so!

    Also Fairfax have finally published an article online and I would expect that to be in tomorrows print editions.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/biztech/agents-fume-over-realestatecomau-glitch/2008/06/24/1214073213392.html

    Robert was contacted for the story. Pretty gentle treatment by the paper I must say and can only think Fairfax are trying to rise above the tit-for-tat of the past.

  • PaulD
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm 0Likes

    Glenn
    “Pretty gentle treatment by the paper I must say and can only think Fairfax are trying to rise above the tit-for-tat of the past.”

    Yes it was fairly gentle treatment, however one upon a time these two were sniping all the time at each other. I think in the future they will need to stand together against their mortal enemy, because if they don’t support each other, who else will ??

    Interesting analogy about the stamp Robert. Surely you meant “run it through the franking machine”. I can’t remember stamps in our office since 1992. 🙂

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 4:39 pm 0Likes

    Paul – I did for a moment think of a franking machine. Then I thought they may be construed with being too “frank”.

  • PaulD
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 4:59 pm 0Likes

    Great answer !!!!!! 🙂

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 2:58 pm 0Likes

    DOMAIN’S EMAIL SENT OUT TODAY….Domain

  • Paul Devine
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm 0Likes

    I’ve been reading this thread with interest and I feel I have to post. I have just recieved a response from a landlord that has recieved a domain enquiry that was sent to them at 2:20pm this afternoon. Whilst I appreciate her rapid response I infact didn’t send this email nor have I visited domain recently.

    Domain print the orginiating IP Address on each user enquiry received and a simple lookup of the IP state that the enquiry was made from mel-nat68.realestate.com.au server. User IP Address: 210.50.192.68

    What the?

    Happy to provide said email and why are realestate.com.au making shared accomodation enquires at domain on my behalf ?

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm 0Likes

    I can only think that one of their employees has inquired on the property. That would make sense with the information you have given, especially so if you do not have that property listed on REA.

  • Paul Devine
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:51 pm 0Likes

    The property isn’t one of ours. That IP Address made an enquiry on a domain.com.au property using my details as a potential tenant, so the agency replied back to me, which i found strange immediately becuase I am not looking for property. The agency replied to the domain.com.au email that was sent to them so it came to me. The user IP is a realestate.com.au computer.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm 0Likes

    Sorry, I misunderstood you…

    Wow.. that is weird.

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