Don’t Let Technology Ruin You

by 23 Apr 2012
( -- We’re awash in technology.  Today is like nothing I can remember in any field, in any time.  Maybe things were like this when Gutenberg invented the printing press, where for four thousand years of recorded history nobody had anything to read, and all of a sudden there’s Barnes and Noble.  Well, no, probably not.   Last week I caught myself using my Android phone as a mobile hotspot and watching the Apple new iPad announcement on my iPad 2 at a stoplight.

Perhaps I’m a little obsessive about this stuff, but I bet I’m not too different from most of the rest of you.  The things that we are treated to as almost our natural rights are beyond any imagining of the brightest and most creative minds of any age of history.   I tweet.  I post on Facebook.  I pin.  Yes, I PIN. You gonna make something of it?  I use the internet obsessively and constantly.  Right now I’m in the auditorium of a play practice dress rehearsal (I’m due on stage in a couple of minutes), writing on my MacBook and using my phone for internet.  I have ESPN up behind this window and I’m checking the scores from various tournaments as I type.  Is this you? If it isn’t, it’s likely your clients.

How many of them email you the rates they saw on someone’s website, or tell you what their house is worth by checking Zillow or one of the other sites?  How many search for their houses online?  Get financial news from e-newsletters?  Text and email and DM you?  Most of them, if not all of them.   A couple of months ago I wrote about an interview I conducted with a group of real estate agents.  It was illuminating.  After the group interview I got a chance to go riding on the home tour with a smaller group, and continue asking questions.  After a while, the topic got around to technology and what a difference that had made in their lives and livelihoods.

To a woman, they all said that their clients used technology at least as much as they used the knowledge base of the real estate agent; some even said that they used it to contradict them.  All of them had clients that went out to see houses without them, having found them on the internet.  All of them said they had clients that would bring lists of houses that they wanted to see, rather than leaving that up to the expertise of the Real Estate Agent.   You won’t be surprised to hear, they didn’t like this all that much.  But these were professionals, people that had been in the industry for years.  They weren’t upset that their clients knew more than before.  They were upset that they knew the wrong things, and thought they knew much more than they actually did, like someone that’s researched gall bladders and thinks they should be holding the knife in surgery.

One of them then said something I thought profound: “They know more, and they think that knowledge is going to give them an edge in the buying process.  But it doesn’t.  And then they’re frustrated that the process isn’t going as smoothly as they want it to.  What they don’t understand is that smooth is what I do, and when they cut me out of it, I can’t do what I do.”   It occurred to me that I had seen something similar with my own clients.  In an effort to communicate with them more efficiently, I had relied less on what made the process smooth for the client, and more on what took less effort for me.  The clients went with it, of course.  It was easy for them, too.  But they were less satisfied and more antsy.

They called with problems and (especially) concerns far more often.   Then, a miracle happened.  I went back to the future, and started bringing my clients to my office, just once, somewhere early in the process.  I called them at least once a week.  The complaints, the problems, they disappeared.   I want to propose that we’re in danger of losing something important.  We are obsessed with doing things faster, with having more and bigger.  What if the part of the transaction that we speed up destroys the part of the transaction that made it worth doing?  What if “friending” people makes having friends harder?

What if the conventional wisdom, that technology makes us all happier, is wrong?   May I propose a seven-day reassessment?  Here’s what you can do.  Take a chunk of every day and stop using any technology more advanced than a phone.  It can be an hour, a morning, an afternoon, but take some time every day for a week to see people face to face, and speak with them with your own voice.  Track the results.  See if it makes a difference.  See if perhaps doing things more slowly and less efficiently actually makes you more satisfied with your results.   And let me know what you find.  You can tweet me.

Chris Jones, branch manager with City First Mortgage Services, is a nine-year industry professional in brokering and banking, with a background in financial services, national politics and Main Street entrepreneurialism. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Six Channels of Marketing, available in January. Chris lives in Lehi, Utah, with his wife, Jeanette, and their eight children, and can be found at, or (801) 850-3781.



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