Royal LePage settles into ‘virtual reality offices’

When the job requires to you to uproot yourself and find a new place to call home, the personal touch can make all difference.

That difference has driven Royal LePage’s Relocation division to implement a videoconferencing system

in its Western Canada office, located in Calgary, Alta., to deal with clients face to face without expanding its travel budget.

Maureen Heal’s office of about 15 people handles employee relocations for the Department of National Defence, all the departments and agencies of the government of Canada and the RCMP. With the click of a mouse, she can conduct meetings and communicate across great distances using Novell technology to establish virtual reality offices (VROs). Similar VROs have been set up in government locations in Yellowknife and Regina where a government employee can go and meet with the Royal LePage consultant.

Before implementing the VRO concept, Heal communicated with clients by phone, fax and e-mail, which more than anything lacked the intimacy to create a relationship of trust between real estate consultant and the person being moved.

“An initial consultation takes two hours,” she says, “so you have to be on your toes to keep somebody interested, even if it is their own relocation. The downside on the telephone is when do you know you’ve lost them? You don’t have any visuals. You’re depending on them having the paperwork in front of them.”

With the VRO, says Heal, both she and the client can have “paperwork” in front of them onscreen.

“We can work on them like it was a desk between us,” she says. Documents can even be exchanged and signed via a scanner and printer.

Most importantly, she says, it builds a bond of trust in a very stressful situation for the client. “It’s not just another voice, there’s an automatic bond immediately.”

The underlying infrastructure that makes the VRO possible is a centralized depository leveraging Novell eDirectory, and Novell BorderManager, a component of Novell’s Nsure solution, which helped Royal LePage Relocation Services establish a secure technology foundation.

The real estate firm also uses Novell ZENworks to centrally install software across branches.

According to Paulo Frazão, senior network analyst with Royal LePage in Toronto, BorderManager is what the firm needed to enhance communication between offices and employees, while ensuring its network was both secure and available.

“The corporate office here in Toronto already used Novell products and because we had an e-directory, we decided go with Novell because it would easily integrate with our existing infrastructure.”

Adding the VRO, says Frazão, became an easy upgrade. “We needed a way of talking to users without putting a person in the locati

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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