When I first entered the world of business there was no Internet, no email, and no text messaging. When we needed to communicate with someone, we picked-up the phone or met face-to-face. Deals were closed by looking each other in the eye and shaking hands. We got to know one another and develop business relationships, and even friendships based on a foundation of common courtesy and respect.
OK, so I age myself. But I’m experiencing a new level of disrespect and lack of courtesy that I’m having a difficult time dealing with as a professional – and I blame much of it on the Internet and the technology we all take for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology and can’t imagine how I did business in the pre www era. However, I believe the very nature of a real-time, worldwide marketplace is removing the obligation to at least be courteous and respectful of people’s time and efforts.
I’m a Realtor and mortgage broker and receive my leads both through referrals and Internet marketing. For example, I used to receive mortgage leads from Lending Tree…you know, “When banks compete, you win.” What most borrowers don’t understand is that we’re paid nothing, unless we close your loan by working hard and finding the loan that is right for you. The professional courtesy I expect in exchange for the work I’m fronting is for a borrower to be honest with me and tell me if they are getting other quotes and where I fall in the competition for their business. Recently, I had a borrower, unbeknownst to me, still getting quotes from others while I had her loan locked, appraisal completed and ready for approval! I thought she was committed to working with me, but largely I believe because of having such a broad, anonymous marketplace, she was still shopping the loan to other brokers! Because we had never met, or had an opportunity to shake hands, I feel it was easier for her to go behind my back. Again, some common courtesy and respect for my time and efforts is all I ask.
Real estate also has its share of discourtesies based on access to a very broad marketplace. Because anyone can search for properties online, some buyers think they are experts and that my services as a buyer’s agent aren’t really that complicated. They email me with pages of foreclosure listings, and wonder why I’m not showing them these properties. Those of you in the industry are nodding your heads and sighing. Many buyers again don’t understand the countless hours of research that goes into helping a buyer find the right property. The courtesy I expect is to trust me as a professional. I’m happy to evaluate the listings a buyer might send to me that they found on the Internet….but trust me, most are inappropriate for a variety of reasons and just a waste of my time, and their time. If the property had met the buyer’s search parameters, I would have found it. Just trust me and let me do my job and please have respect for my time.
My final gripe has to do with email. Do you remember what a business letter used to look like? I remember learning the very distinct formats and acceptable salutations that helped provide a professional framework for discussion. Now, I’m not advocating that emails resemble a snail mail letter from the early ’80s, but the casual nature of salutations, “Hi Bob,” the use of abbreviations, lack of punctuation, use of all lower case letters and general lack of any niceties, such as inquiring about someone’s family, demonstrates a lack of respect for the recipient. And don’t even get me started on text messages.
Do I believe that the Internet and associated technologies are changing our business relationships? Absolutely. But I think that the change can be good. I love the fact that because of the Internet and email I can do business all over the country and meet people I would have otherwise never encountered. I have never met 95% of my mortgage clients face-to-face, and yet I count many of them as my friends and look forward to their Christmas cards each year. I just hope we all remember that there is a live human being with thoughts, feelings, and a need to feel respected behind the website, or at the other end of the email before we hit send.