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October 31, 2023 • Interview with Authority Magazine


Antonio Castelan: Harnessing AI for Enhanced Customer Experience in Real Estate

Article Summary

Antonio Castelan, founder of Fortum Digital Services, shares his journey from a determined high school student to a visionary leader in the marketing realm. His narrative, rooted in resilience and innovation, highlights how he harnessed AI to transform customer experiences in real estate. Castelan’s unique approach intertwines advanced technology with a deep understanding of human behavior, aiming to make meaningful impacts in the sector. He emphasizes the importance of resilience, integrity, and communication as cornerstones of his success. Castelan’s vision for Fortum Digital Services involves not just offering advanced digital solutions but also creating empathetic connections that resonate with clients on a human level. His insights into AI’s role in evolving customer service models reveal a future where technology and human insight blend to create more personalized, efficient, and meaningful customer interactions in real estate and beyond.

Antonio discusses how AI tools can revolutionize customer experiences in contact centers, particularly for the real estate industry. By integrating AI into customer service, Fortum Digital Services aims to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and personalize interactions, aligning with contemporary trends in property management and real estate marketing.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your personal backstory with us?

I appreciate the opportunity to share my journey with your readers. My path to where I stand today has been shaped by determination, ambition, and an inherited sense of resilience. Being a first-generation businessman and college student came with its unique set of challenges and triumphs. My parents, brave immigrants, journeyed to the United States, driven by dreams of a brighter future. Their perseverance and enduring spirit have consistently inspired me.

In school, although my grades categorized me as a B student, my aspirations reached beyond the ordinary. While many might have envisioned a trajectory for me towards a strategist or executive role at a leading Fortune 500 company, I harbored different dreams. I aimed to leave an indelible mark and, above all, make a profound difference. In 2017, I took a leap of faith, plunging into the business world headfirst. Nearly eight years later, I feel I’m only beginning to explore my potential. Every day stands as a testament to my dedication, and I look forward to the unfolding chapters ahead.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

Success, in my opinion, is a collective effort, shaped by the influences and teachings of those we cross paths with. Indeed, everyone I have encountered, from friends to family, from ex-partners to casual acquaintances, has left an indelible mark on my journey. I have always believed that we are intricate mosaics, pieced together by the experiences and memories shared with everyone we’ve ever met. Mosaics that if we look closer into each and every person, you could see each and every other person that has influenced them. The lessons, both joyous and challenging, have sculpted my perspective and fueled my ambition.

However, if I had to spotlight one particular person, I would have to choose two. It would unquestionably be my parents. Their unwavering faith in me, even in moments when I doubted myself, their unconditional love, and their consistent encouragement have been my guiding stars. Their support has not just been about celebrating the highs; it has been about anchoring me during the lows, offering a listening ear at 3 AM, and standing by me during financial challenges. Their sacrifices and relentless optimism have been the pillars upon which I have built my dreams.

While I can share countless stories of their kindness, compassion, and wisdom, it is the stories I cannot tell — the unspoken moments, the silent gestures, and the quiet sacrifices that truly encapsulate their essence. In their actions, big and small, they have displayed a brand of extraordinary humanity, teaching me that true strength is in humility, perseverance, and selfless love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite “Life Lesson Quotes” hails from Alexis Carrel’s ‘Man, the Unknown’: “To progress again, man must remake himself. And he cannot remake himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor. In order to uncover his true visage, he must shatter his own substance with heavy blows of his hammer.”

This poignant quote encapsulates the essence of human growth and transformation. It suggests that self-improvement is not a mere external endeavor; it is an intimate interplay between our innate potential and our willingness to refine it. Each challenge, each setback, and each failure are not mere obstacles; to me, they represent invaluable opportunities. Opportunities to introspect, to chip away at the rough edges, and to mold oneself into a better version. Only to realize one has always been that person.

Throughout my life, I have encountered numerous moments of doubt, moments where the path ahead seemed insurmountable. But this quote has consistently served as a beacon, reminding me that setbacks are not roadblocks but rather sculpting tools. It is through these very adversities that I have chiseled my character, refined my purpose, and uncovered layers of resilience and tenacity I didn’t know I possessed. Just as a sculptor chisels away to reveal the masterpiece within the marble, life’s challenges have been instrumental in shaping the individual I am today.

Antonio highlights that leveraging AI in real estate goes beyond operational efficiency. It’s about crafting emotionally intelligent journeys, where AI analyzes customer data to provide tailored experiences. This approach is particularly effective in areas like tenant management solutions and innovative marketing strategies for real estate.

Can you share with us three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves?

Three cardinal virtues have anchored my journey and steered me towards success: Resilience, Integrity, and Communication.

Resilience: It is the unwavering spirit to remain steadfast, even when faced with insurmountable odds. A tunnel vision that keeps distractions at bay and remains focused on the end goal. Throughout my journey, I have learned that many roadblocks are mere detours leading to an alternate route. Often, a “no” isn’t a dead-end; it’s just a “not right now.” By interpreting rejections as temporary setbacks and by being persistent, even with something as simple as well-timed follow-ups, resilience has been a guiding force.

Integrity: It is the backbone of trust. Integrity in what people see, but more importantly, in what people don’t. True integrity is about the decisions made behind closed doors. In business and life, being genuine and upholding a moral compass, even when no one is watching, is paramount. One can practice and follow this by realizing deception is a hollow victory; true success lies in being authentic and true to oneself.

Communication: Effective communication goes beyond mere words. It is an art that plays a pivotal role in building relationships, fostering trust, and influencing decisions. Whether it is selling a service or pitching an idea, the power of articulation cannot be overstated. I have always treated every conversation as a learning experience, analyzing what worked, what could have been better, and how different cues, both verbal and non-verbal, impacted the dialogue.

For those looking to hone these traits, immerse yourself in learning. Seek knowledge from industry leaders, delve into books, tune into podcasts, watch insightful videos, or scour through scientific journals. Even a simple Google search can be a treasure trove of information. Many have access to the world’s information (past and present) at their fingertips. Reflect constantly, learn from every interaction, and continuously work on refining your foundational skills.

Which skills are you still trying to grow now?

Even as I navigate the advanced stages of my career, the hunger to learn and grow never wanes — I’m a student of life. At the pinnacle of my ongoing pursuits is the aforementioned Communication. While I’ve cultivated effective communication skills over the years, I firmly believe in the doctrine that mastery is an ever-evolving journey. There is always a nuance to discover, a technique to refine, or a perspective to understand.

Secondly, I am learning the realm of Psychology and the skill of persuading, converting, and creating effective marketing. Diving deep into the intricacies of the human mind, understanding the triggers that prompt decisions, and discerning the linguistic nuances that can persuade. This is not JUST about professional growth; it is a journey of introspection and self-discovery as well. Understanding how I can become the best “marketer” in the game.

Lastly, I am immersing myself in the world of User Experience (UX). Beyond the aesthetic appeal, I’m passionate about understanding designs that resonate, that convert passive viewers into active participants, and that offer intuitive interactions. In all these endeavors, the underpinning goal remains constant: to amplify the value I bring to my clients and to continue being a beacon of genuine service in the industry.

Which metrics were you looking to improve? Have you seen results?

In the ever-evolving realm of digital services, especially when catering to the nuanced needs of the real estate industry, metrics serve as our compass. They guide us, helping ensure that our strategies aren’t just theoretically sound, but they’re yielding tangible, value-driven results for our clients. And for Fortum Digital Services, providing genuine value is not just an objective; it’s our defining ethos.

To crystallize this, consider some of our initial focus areas: Lead Conversion Rate and Website Traffic. We recognized early on that merely attracting visitors was not the endgame. It was about attracting the right kind of visitors — those genuinely interested in real estate offerings — and then providing them an optimized user experience to facilitate conversions. This philosophy extends to other metrics we prioritize, like User Engagement and Client Retention Rate. These metrics, while numbers on a dashboard, tell a story. They reflect the quality of our service, the effectiveness of our user interfaces, and the lasting value we provide.

But our analytical pursuits do not stop there. By tracking a diverse set of analytics and KPIs, from Return on Investment (ROI) to Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), and even more granular metrics like traffic sources, we’re able to continuously refine our strategies. SEO dynamics, customer retention patterns, and even channel-specific engagement rates all contribute to a comprehensive understanding of our performance landscape. And the results speak for themselves. With some metrics showing spikes of up to 129K%, it is evident that our methodical, data-driven approach is translating into undeniable success for our clients.

Prior to the implementation, how did you evaluate potential CX impacts?

At Fortum Digital Services, every significant move begins with a thorough understanding of its implications for Customer Experience (CX). Our approach is both deliberate and multi-layered.

Initially, we do not just rely on our own insights. Expert opinions, feedback from industry leaders, comprehensive studies, and candid interactions with our customers, peers, and even friends fuel our perspective. This rich tapestry of information helps illuminate the exact areas we need to enhance. Further, through carefully crafted use cases and imagined customer scenarios, we chart out the prospective journey our users might embark upon. This ensures that any change we contemplate is seamlessly aligned with our unwavering commitment to delivering unparalleled value.

We also lean heavily on benchmarking. By immersing ourselves in current industry trends and observing the ripple effects of similar implementations in our competitive ecosystem, we gain a broader, external viewpoint. This, when juxtaposed with our in-house evaluations, provides a holistic understanding.

Pilot testing remains our trusted ally. By introducing alterations to a select audience first and closely monitoring their reactions, we are better equipped to predict wider market responses and tweak accordingly. In parallel, A/B Testing has become indispensable. It is our litmus test, allowing us to gauge the efficacy of our pilot initiatives directly.

Lastly, in our arsenal is the power of analytics. In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, analytics serves as our compass, guiding us by shedding light on potential customer behaviors.

What effects (positive and negative) did the implementation have on CX?

In the always-evolving landscape of digital services and CX, implementing new strategies or technologies invariably yields a spectrum of outcomes — some anticipated, others not so much. While our forward-thinking ethos drives us to innovate, we are acutely aware that not every initiative will yield the results we expect. We do not have a crystal ball (yet) to forecast every twist and turn. At times, what we believe would be transformative might receive unexpected feedback or not align perfectly with diverse user expectations. Yet, every experience, all feedback is valuable feedback. We adapt.

On the upside, our meticulous choices in implementation frequently result in increased user engagement, favorable analytics, enhanced user experience (UX), and more efficient customer pathways. We prefer to be evaluated by our challenges, not just our triumphs. After all, the true caliber of a company is not solely in its string of successes, but in its capacity to adapt and learn from setbacks.

What was the biggest CX challenge you faced before, during or after implementation?

Arguably, the most pressing CX challenge we confronted during our early implementation stages was the battle with Adoption Rates. As we fervently believed in the transformative capacity of our modern technologies, we often found ourselves in a battle trying to persuade a user base ingrained in their traditional ways to venture into the unknown terrain. Notably, there are companies still anchored in older methodologies, reluctant to change. For them, and their tenants, adapting to our modern solutions sometimes feel like uncharted waters.

It became evident that mere implementation was not enough. We needed comprehensive onboarding sessions, tutorials, and perhaps most crucially, open channels of communication where users could voice concerns, seek clarifications, and provide feedback. This feedback, in particular, became our compass, guiding subsequent projects.

Reflecting on this journey, one truth remains: in our field, while technologies and strategies are vital, it is the human element — understanding, empathy, and patience — that truly drives successful CX evolution.

Discussing the balance between AI and human roles, Antonio emphasizes that while AI can automate routine tasks, the human touch remains crucial. He sees a future where AI tools not only reduce operational costs but also enrich customer interactions, a key aspect of successful property management website development.

How do you foresee AI tools impacting your contact center’s staffing costs? How will they impact the mix of different agent roles?

Your question touches upon one of the most pressing debates in today’s technological landscape: How will AI affect employments in ALL industries and sectors? For my contact center, and similar operations worldwide, AI stands as both an opportunity and a challenge. It is undeniable that AI’s encroachment into the world of customer support is transformative. With tech giants like Google unveiling AI capabilities that can effortlessly schedule appointments, screen calls, and engage in meaningful conversations with callers, the paradigm is shifting rapidly. I definitely will be investing in AI tools to drive down operational costs, streamline processes, and offer 24/7 support without human intervention.

While routine tasks might be automated, there is an increased demand for roles that manage, interpret, and act upon the vast amount of data AI tools generate. The human touch remains irreplaceable in many customer and client interactions. Thus, while staffing costs may evolve and the role of agents might diversify, the core of customer service — empathetic human interaction — will remain invaluable.

Antonio envisions AI as a tool for creating dynamic, emotionally resonant experiences in SaaS products for real estate. He predicts AI will play a crucial role in user experience design, enabling platforms to offer personalized, 24/7 customer support and insights, thus redefining the landscape of real estate digital marketing.

Can you please share your “5 Ways That AI Can Improve The Customer Experience For Saas Products.”

I. Dynamic Personal Journeys: AI does not merely analyze data — it can listen to stories and respond dynamically. Much like how real estate is about people’s dreams, AI can craft personalized onboarding pathways tailored to each user’s aspirations. Every user is different, their situation, their needs, their wants, and desires. This method ensures every user feels their software experience mirrors their unique journey.

II. Emotionally Intelligent Predictions: Using historical data and sentiment analysis, it could preemptively resolve potential challenges and confusions, ensuring that the service resonates with the emotions and dreams of the users.

III. The Evolving Real Estate Canvas: Real estate is never static. Every property has a story, every space is a memory, every renter a life. AI could adapt the SaaS interface dynamically, adjusting to the changing tapestry of a user’s interactions and preferences.

IV. 24/7 Resonance with Midnight Dreamers: The aspirations tied to a home or property do not clock out. The AI-powered chatbots are there for those late-night queries, ensuring that dreams and doubts get addressed promptly, regardless of the hour. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, someone is always emotionally there and capable of selling and directing them the correct way.

V. Deep-diving into Emotions: Beyond algorithms and numbers, AI tools delve deep into sentiments. Feedback is not just data; it is a story. It’s a life. With AI’s sentiment analysis, it is not just addressing technicalities; it is resonating with the emotions, aspirations, and the unspoken dreams tied to every piece of feedback.

Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, we often get caught in the web of metrics, analytics, and algorithms, occasionally overlooking the very core of any business interaction — the human connection. It is easy to assign individuals to mere data points, but at the heart of every interaction lies a unique story, an emotion, a dream. One of the most underrated yet crucial skills I often emphasize is empathy. It is the ability to genuinely connect, to understand, and to care. It is essential to remember that behind every click, every transaction, every feedback, there is a life with aspirations and concerns.

Not to do the right things for the wrong reasons, but to be genuine. It might yield immediate results, but it’s short-lived. Authenticity, understanding, and genuine concern lay the foundation for lasting relationships. When we embrace empathy and genuinely care, we not just cater to customers; we are connecting with lives. And the loyalty that emerges from such connections is unparalleled in its depth and longevity. In the long run, it’s these connections, built on trust and mutual respect, that stand the test of time and continue to bear fruit.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be?

If I had the platform and resources to inspire a global movement, it would be centered around ‘Digital Education for All.’ Despite the vast technological advancements, we have seen in recent years, there’s still a significant portion of the global population that lacks access to quality digital education resources. This disparity is not just about devices and internet connectivity; it is about empowering individuals with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in our increasingly digital world.

Picture a global network of e-learning platforms, accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status or geographical location. Such a platform would offer courses ranging from basic digital literacy to advanced technological subjects, tailored to the individual’s learning pace. This is not merely about career advancement; it is about providing everyone with the tools to navigate our digital age safely, efficiently, and knowledgeably.

Education is the cornerstone of progress. By democratizing access to digital education, we can drive socio-economic growth, reduce inequalities, and inspire innovation across continents. When knowledge flows freely, barriers are broken, opportunities arise, and the world progresses collectively.

Final Thoughts

Reflecting on Antonio Castelan’s insights, it’s clear that the intersection of AI and human empathy is where the future of customer experience lies, especially in the real estate sector. His leadership at Fortum Digital Services exemplifies how technology, when used thoughtfully, can transcend traditional boundaries, offering innovative solutions that resonate deeply with clients’ needs. The commitment to leveraging AI for enhanced customer engagement and operational efficiency positions Fortum Digital Services at the forefront of digital transformation in real estate. To delve deeper into Antonio’s vision and strategies, read the full article here –