Automatic showing feedback requests and self-cleaning ovens

Automation can be a beautiful thing. It can streamline your business and make you more efficient, freeing up valuable time for less mundane tasks — like automating other stuff.

Automation can also be the devil incarnate (incarnate, if you consider a computer to be a human being, which I do).  The problem is that once we automate a task, we tend to write that task off as having been accomplished. No need to worry about that “thing” anymore! It happens all by itself.

The problem is that, even when you delegate, some continued involvement is still required. Transaction coordinators and self-cleaning ovens come to mind.

Let’s start with the self-cleaning oven. There is no such thing. I demonstrated as much this past Sunday. It started innocently enough, with a certain husband who we shall call “Steve” (maybe not his real name).  “Steve,” the one who wouldn’t know dirt if he was riding shotgun in a backhoe, suddenly recognized that our oven didn’t look like other ovens in the ‘hood.

Eleven years of culinary disasters had done a number on the old guy. (I’m talking about the oven here, but I could just as easily be talking about Steve.) Sunday, apparently, the charred remains of a decade’s worth of pizzas and briskets, not to mention one unfortunate exploding potato mishap, reached Defcon 1 status in his mind. It was then that he eyed the magic “self-cleaning” display. “Let’s do that!” he squealed.

Now, we all know that “Let’s do that” is marriage code for “You do that while I watch the Charger game.” So I dutifully pushed the magic button. Then I waited while the internal temperature equaled that of the surface of Mercury, the oven cooled, and the oven unlocked, a process that took me well into the third quarter. And after I spent the next two hours, four sponges and one can of Bar Keeper’s Friend scrubbing the bowels of the Staphylococcus chamber, voila! The oven had self-cleaned.

The truth is that nothing in life can be entirely automated, except perhaps Ryan Seacrest, which brings me to my current beef. It has become all the rage for real estate listing agents to rely on automation for showing feedback. Adding to the popularity is the fact that our real estate association now offers an automated feedback service as a free member benefit, with the “free” part being the operative. If our Association of Realtors offered free spinal taps, I guarantee you there would be a shirtless line out the door.

The problem with automating the feedback process is three-fold.

  1. It is spam
  2. It still requires some human intervention
  3. It is spam

I shall offer as Exhibit A the feedback request I received yesterday. The email included the standard language. “Please provide feedback by clicking here or by going to the link below to answer a few quick questions. It will take less than a minute and my seller and I appreciate the courtesy and I will gladly return the favor for your listings.”  Now, I can forgive the run-on sentence. Hey, who’s perfect? What I can’t forgive is this. While I had indeed shown this home on multiple occasions, and while my clients did in fact like the home very much, they liked it so much that they are closing escrow on it today.

This is where the spam part comes in. I get these nonsensical queries all of the time, three days after I have already spoken to the agent about my client’s interest level or, as in this case, three months after my client’s offer was accepted. It happens so often that I now simply hit the delete key without processing.

If an agent isn’t paying enough attention to monitor their automated systems (and to turn the darn things off when it makes sense to do so), I wonder how much time they are spending monitoring the responses and exercising a little agency on the client’s behalf. I suspect that as I write this, some agent somewhere is sitting in a listing appointment using this very hip and now duty delegator as a valuable selling tool. For the love of leftovers, don’t buy it! You are hiring an agent to use their noggin and to work for you. One personal, conversational email or, dare I say, phone call is going to be infinitely more effective than a thoughtless, often unmanned robo-message.







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