The Internet is an amazing place (can I call it a place?) – it pushes out incredible amounts of information every minute of every hour of every day. But what exactly do we do with that information? How do we find it, use it or dispose of it? For those of us accustomed to surfing the web, it’s second nature and we don’t even need to think about it. But how about those that have access to the Internet now and misuse or misinterpret the information?
My own mom who is pretty proficient with a computer sometimes calls me to help her find something. Today we received a call from a genuinely irate lady that just didn’t get it.
The Irate Consumer
She called me and demanded to know why in the world I would place her home for sale in the Internet without her knowledge or consent. In addition, I had grossly overpriced her home and she had no intentions of selling.
She had been looking through MSN.com and clicked on Real Estate/Rentals just for curiosity which took her to Realtor.com. Somehow this lady ended up putting her address to get a free value report and that’s when things got ugly.
Unintentional Bad Use of Information
It took me literally 20 minutes to decipher what she was doing and to explain that once she left the screen with her address – her property would no longer be there. That no one would be able to see the screen she was on and it was only information being provided to her would not remain permanently on the site.
If it took me that long to explain Realtor.com, imagine if she ever found her zestimate? (don’t tell David Gibbons I said that). So it takes us back to basics. Our team thrives in this business because of the educated consumer – because that consumer has the tools and the power to put useful information to good use. But what percentage of the population now has Internet Access and doesn’t know what to do with the information, or worse yet, they misinterpret it and make wrong assumptions.
A New Level of Reputation Management
This particular lady saw my name on the Realtor.com screen and was ready to trash me because I had listed her property without her consent!! Is it time to train the masses? We are reaching a point where information can be lethal (OK, I’m exaggerating) – I’m just glad I was there to answer the phone this one time and make things right, but it opened up my eyes to something I had not considered before – the unintentional misuse of information. A totally new level of reputation management.
Would you let someone drive without teaching them first?
July 28, 2009 at 10:44 am
You have found someone who lives in the twilight zone! In one rural market which we serve, about 1/4 of or customers in any given year who “don’t do email” I wrestle with this a lot. We want to provide great service, but what if great service involves polishing buggy whips? As a former soldier, I am reluctant to leave any man behind, but who would “train the masses”? Even the thoughtful web enabled population has been polluted by late night infomercials and easy money real estate seminars. How much time can you spend educating before it detracts from your focus on your livelihood? I welcome those Zillow discussions, because it indicates a certain level of proficiency and also gives me a chance to shine by explaining how Zillow arrives at the Zestimate.
Our lives are an open book, and as a wise dog once told me privacy is an artifact of inefficiency. Our property records are an open book. They always have been, but you had to physically go to the repository of public data to get them. Now our medical records are about to be opened up to any government bureaucrat with a taxpayer paid T-1 line. That is not a political statement. If it doesn’t happen this round, it will the next. The inexorable pressure of the aging boomer population will cause previously unimagined fiscal consequences which include maximizing technology to constrain costs. Those costs are spiraling upward with no end in sight and it doesn’t help that Wall St. has destroyed about half the boomers’ savings.
There is a niche serving those who dwell in the twilight zone. I do not know how profitable or viable it is with the relentless pressure on costs.
July 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm
Thomas – I agree that it is not profitable to market or consume your time educating those that live in the Twilight Zone, but this case was different. It used to be about marketing to those that know how to use the Internet and choose to use it as a tool to educate themselves as an informed consumer – now there’s a shift…..a shift for the ones that have access and can damage your reputation because they misinterpret the tools out of ignorance. Is this an isolated case or will we see more like it?
July 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm
Interesting observation! We do have a huge population consisting of both consumer and agent who don’t know how to use the information. Your example of the “over-valued” home was just one segment. Have you ever tried to explain to someone holding an MLS (read IDX) sheet that you don’t have the home listed and in fact no, you aren’t going to drive for two hours to shoot pictures of it?
All this confusion leaves the public mystified and clueless. It does nothing to help our business esteem in their eyes.
July 28, 2009 at 1:51 pm
KK – agreed! I think many in the industry misuse the information more than those that innocently don’t know what to do with it. I have driven to shoot listings that are not mine to send to foreign national clients who have ended up buying the property – so something has to be said for the incompetency of others.
July 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm
Hi Ines – what a story.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact the whole world isn’t as consumed with real estate sites and the issues surrounding them. Thus the call to you.
I appreciate Thomas’ observation, and would approach it from a different perspective. Often your raving fans begin their relationships with you under a little cloud of controversy (like that call). When you resolve an issue you can create some loyalty.
I don’t think you can train everyone – and why would you when they are occasional users. So, you just need to be aware of what’s happening “out there” and protect your reputation from the unseen.
Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.
July 28, 2009 at 11:04 pm
Brandie – it’s all about awareness no? If we don’t know it’s happening, we cannot do anything about it. It would have been easy to dismiss the lady and tell her that she was misreading the information and that would be that – instead I told her that I was worried about what she had found and had to get to the bottom of the problem with her help. Did I create loyalty? who knows….but you are right, awareness is the key.
July 28, 2009 at 11:09 pm
It remains to be seen if you created loyalty. But chances are better than not had you dismissed her, she may have shared that with someone else. It’s a lot of work to keep abreast of things, and it must be frustrating when it’s not of your own doing.
In answer to your question – yes, it’s about awareness.