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Opinion Editorials

We – And Our Customers – Are Not Machines

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Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him, we have the technology. We have the capability to make the worlds first Bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster.”

More than 30 years later, it seems that the human population continues to move closer and closer to becoming just what Steve Austin was in the Six Million Dollar Man … a machine.

With our Bluetooths, PDAs, mobile PCs, and constant

contact it becomes easy at times to forget that there are people on the other end of those messages. And while e-mail, texting, and instant messaging helps sell real estate – it can become a crutch to our field.

A crutch that allows us to stop treating people like people and start treating them like machines or any other commodity. I learned this the hard way recently.

An e-mail inquiry on a listing comes in, we share a couple e-mails, and set a showing on one my properties. Great, I’m stoked. Have a second showing at 5:15 with a client and this new client is set to be met at 6:30 with 15 minutes travel time between.

My client is 20 minutes late for the first appointment, so I bolt to meet my new clients. They are 10 minutes late and my first client is blowing up my cell phone wanting to know when I’ll be back to take care of his needs. And suddenly I’m faced with a dilemma:

  • Do I give up on these new clients and get back to the second showing for this client that is going to write on this house, or
  • do I hold out my usual 20 minutes for a late client.

Well I did the first and just missed a chance to show this home to a young couple that have an infant and could have yielded. And to set “karma” my first client didn’t write.

Why am I writing this today?

I made a couple of fundamental flaws in this process, and am hoping by sharing you’ll be reminded how easy it is to quit seeing people as people and only as commodities.

  • Always Talk to Potential Customers: E-mails are great to begin communication but you need to make that personal contact to solidify the deal. Also, it is a major safety faux pas that I committed.
  • Balancing The Birds: One of the things I’ve learned from working at Best Buy is “stacking customers”. What did I do last night? Failed at stacking customers, they don’t need to see you today – but they do need to know you care.
  • Keep a Black Book: My grandfather always carries a little notebook with numbers and contacts in it. What was my biggest mistake yesterday? I didn’t have a cell phone number for my new clients. That one action would have made this embarrassing situation go away.

Hopefully, this little reminder will help you not make the same mistake I did last night.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jim Duncan

    May 8, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I have little sympathy for the first client – did they call you to let you know that they were going to be late? This part falls, I think, on both client and agent – agent for not setting expectations of punctuality for the client, and the client for not respecting the agent’s time.

    We’re not machines, and neither are the clients, but if the clients don’t respect our time, we have to move to those who do.

    I met an appraiser the other day who was 10 minutes late – didn’t call, but I had called his office when he was 5 minutes late (and I had to meet him. That 10 minutes threw off most of my day.

    Personally, I call clients if I’m going to be 2 minutes late (which rarely happens) and I expect similar respect.

    But that’s just me.

  2. Toby Boyce

    May 8, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Jim,
    In the “real” world I follow your thoughts as well. I try to be on time for all appointments – why? Because it is the professional thing to do, and that was my first problem. I didn’t have a cell phone number for #2 to find out where we stood. Client #1 would have sat on the back-burner and simmered until #2 was done, had I been able to make contact.

    But, I’m finding more clients contacting me via e-mail regarding properties. Which is awesome. But I’ve made a personal “rule” that we must talk on the phone for a few minutes and exchange vitals before the appointment is scheduled. I’ll show one house to a suspect before they become pre-approved, but not on an e-mail discussion.

    Toby

  3. Jim Duncan

    May 8, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I’ll show one house to a suspect before they become pre-approved

    I love it.

  4. ines

    May 8, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I have to tell you that time issues are huge here in Miami. There is a general disrespect for others’ time and as much as it aggravates me…..I’ve gotten used to it and plan around it (I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t control it). I do expect people to respect my time and will wait a max of 15 minutes when another agent is late.

    As for the “man as a machine thing” – you are right – human contact before a showing is crucial – I’ve also learned the hard way. Funny how you can tell so much more about a person when you talk to them on the phone, no?

  5. Jay Thompson

    May 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    While in my younger days the ladies often referred to me as a “Love Machine”, you’re right, we (and our clients) are not machines.

    Time is valuable for all, and it’s not free. “Human contact” is critical in this business. All the technology is great, but it doesn’t replace face-to-face contact.

    And mutual respect for each other’s time.

    And I’m kidding about the “Love Machine” thing. Sorta…. 😉

  6. Vicki Moore

    May 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I’m going to start referring to you as The Love Machine. That’s great!

  7. ines

    May 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    May 9, 2008 at 5:49 am

    Jay – oh brother….

    Toby – unfortunaly agents have allowed themselves to be treated as a means to an end and not professionals. Most people are on time for meetngs with tax prep, parent-teacher coferences, getting the hair appoint etc… However, agents are “always there”, we don’t move on to the next appointment like most other industries do. We always seem to make time for every client even as aggravating as they are.

    But let me say this – Realtors are just as bad. A majority are always late for training, staff meetings, committee meetings, etc… I’ve caught a lot of flack for my tactics as an instructor in the past. At ten minutes after class I lock the doors to the classroom. When I give breaks, I have a timer on the projector. I always start exactly when I am suppose to. The word got out and folks are usually more timely for my sessions than they are for other instructors. It’s a slow hard process to change, but it’s well worth it.

    I’ve just learned to come to terms with it and realize that I can only control me, in regards to respecting other peoples time.

  9. Raleigh Real Estate

    May 9, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Great post. I have to agree personal contact is a must : ]

  10. Rebecca Levinson

    May 9, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Good post and I don’t have too many meaningful words to add, other than I agree that a personal connection should follow an electronic one. Your time is valuable and so is your clients?

    On a side note, I love seeing these Transformer Graphics. Just was reading another post that had one too. I suspect Suspect SpeedRacer will be up and coming. Yes, I watched both these shows as a kid, so the nostalgia of the graphic and then the headline led me to this post.

  11. Jim Duncan

    May 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Matthew – I wish more instructors were as strict as you.

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Opinion Editorials

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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Opinion Editorials

Do these 3 things if you TRULY want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) We understand diversity helps and strengthens our companies, and individual teams. But how can you be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce?

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More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps, and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

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