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Too Plugged In?

January 1, 2007

It never ceases to amaze me that in any given meeting of executive officers or Realtor® boards of directors, there is a huge assortment of technological gadgets. If the attendees emptied their pockets, purses, or briefcases, we would find at least one cell phone or BlackBerry per person, Bluetooth earpieces for half, pagers for several, and probably a quarter with laptop or tablet computers. You can always find at least two or three individuals typing away furiously under the table, trying to act like they are paying attention to the discussion. They may believe they are “multitasking,” but I believe they just have questionable attention spans. (If you’re in a meeting with me while doing this, expect to be called on to report.)

This issue’s articles focus on growing your tech know-how. The main issue, IMHO, is, how are we communicating? What is the best way to send out our message? Is anyone reading our e-newsletter? Why won’t anyone visit our Web site?

When I look at arbitration and ethics cases filed at my association, and review telephone calls from disgruntled members or consumers, it’s clear that there’s a real communication problem. Ninety percent of the calls were the result of a lack of communication. Why, in an age when technology gives us more ways to stay in touch with each other than ever before, is lack of communication still one of the highest-ranking problems we see day in and day out? The problem lies not with the technology but with the operators. Having access to the latest technology doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to maximize its capabilities. Just because someone can buy a ’68 Hemi Charger with 700hp doesn’t mean they know how to drive it. There are two steps everyone should take regarding technology:

Step one: When purchasing technology, make sure you get adequate training. This doesn’t mean just your phone or PDA, but also the services you are hiring to set up your Web site or internal computer system. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to know HTML or computer programming. However, the service provider should be able to explain, in plain English, the services being performed. If the service provider cannot help you understand what they are doing and how it will work, find someone else! Been there, done that.

Step two: Develop a communications plan. We have several communications plans in place for the different audiences we want to reach. We also have a master plan, which encompasses all the individual components. And here is a plan that I have found works best with each new association president. Before the year starts, I let the president know that I will call and speak to him or her once each week to provide an update on association activities. What day and time is best? Where should I call—home, cell phone, or the office? We will also be in contact via e-mail during the week to provide information updates. What e-mail address should I use? How often does each of us check e-mail daily? How long after an e-mail is sent should we expect a response? What are our emergency contact numbers? We also establish a call-back time frame for calls other than the weekly update. We recommend to all Realtors® at the orientation program, and at our new agent training, that a communications plan be established as soon as an agreement to work together is reached.

Technology enhances our ability to communicate, but as far as I know, my cell phone won’t make the call for me. Now, where are my car keys?