There’s a Epidemic Infecting Real Estate Agents: Tool Fatigue
And we all are to blame.
There’s a debilitating plague spreading through brokerages across our country. You’ve seen the symptoms in your own agents as this disease eats away at their productivity and success: Leadership brings in new technology with the goal of delivering value to agents, but new tools are eventually met with apathy and lack of adoption. Why?
Tech Tool Fatigue Syndrome (#TTFS or Tool Fatigue for short).
I’m not being facetious. This known threat has become a notable problem across all industries, and it’s taken hold of the real estate industry with sharpened talons.
Agents experience Tool Fatigue daily due to overwhelming technology requirements. Too many passwords to remember, too many new tools or changes, continuous upheaval to the brokerage workflow, not enough education, not enough information, pressure to keep up with the latest shiny tech — it’s enough to make even the most successful agents feel lost. Paradoxically, the tech that was supposed to help agents often ends up leaving them more frustrated.
“Symptoms of TTFS include a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by endless lists of tools, minor fits of hysteria when trying to remember all the logins for trial accounts, and a pitted stomach at the prospect of never having sufficient time to investigate or test out all the new techniques.”
– Massimiliano Brigida, The Digital Box
For real estate agents in particular, Tool Fatigue symptoms manifest as:
- Workplace stress, feelings of incompetence and underachievement (one step forward, two steps back feelings)
- Reluctance to accept new brokerage-level technology because they are distrustful of previous changes that felt unsatisfactory and the old way seems better
- A developing sense of negativity toward brokerage value services, contemplation of transfer to a ‘simpler’ company
- Complete rejection of brokerage-level technology due to complexity, lack of education, lack of resources, lack of value understanding (ending up as the rogue agent or the agent who finally leaves)
As brokerages work to compete for agents and customers, technology has been a legitimate way to add value and a competitive edge in the market. However, a heavier toolbox doesn’t always make for a better carpenter, and providing a plethora of technologies doesn’t necessarily lead to measurable success for agents.
How the Role of the Brokerage Contributed to Tool Fatigue
As a broker or manager, you’ve heard these thoughts at some point…
“We want our agents to have options!”
“Agents need to stay ahead of the current trends.”
“Clients expect us to be technologists.”
So in an effort to innovate and prove value, brokerages put the overwhelming pressure of tech options on the agents. However, rather than giving a wide array of choice to agents, brokerages can create the most benefits by evaluating and narrowing options for their agents. Why can that prove harder than it sounds? Because both brokers and agents are still adjusting to their new roles (which have been dramatically reshaped by technology).
NAR’s 2018 Member Profile found that the average American real estate agent is 54 years of age, meaning the majority of our active agents today understand how innovations in technology have drastically changed the industry over the last two decades. Few resources were directly available to the public, and the brokerage was originally the point of entry for real estate leads, loading up printed binders with listings and leads for associates to manage.
The turn of the century gave way to national search portals, real time listing data, online transactions, and a bundle of new expectations for real estate agents, shifting the role of a broker and the brokerage. Brokerages now assist associates with their individual business — becoming the guide and support rather than the leading force. That’s not a bad thing, not a loss of power, just a change in roles to better serve buyers and sellers. We see big and small companies thriving despite such drastic adjustments.
But because most of the active members of real estate, both brokers and agents, remember a different time in this industry, it can be difficult to completely embrace new roles and expectations, especially when implementing new technology.
How the Rapid Growth in the PropTech Sector Contributed to Tool Fatigue
It’s another typical day in real estate when a new tech provider enters the fray. Inman Connect holds an annual competition for startup proptech companies. Ads flood our Facebook news feeds, sharing another way to get new leads, reach out to our contacts, organize our lives, and more. Eventually, we all become numb to this constant stream of ideas.
On a personal level, the average smartphone user has about 80 apps on their device, but they aren’t using all of them on a daily basis (typically only about 40 apps on a daily basis). We are all easily overtaken by #ShinyObjectSyndrome to try out the newest app for chatting, ordering food, taking photos, or managing our money.
That same draw to bright, shiny objects happens for real estate agents two-fold: personally AND professionally. In addition to the personal apps, agents are sifting through mileage trackers, home valuations, photo editing, marketing material resources, videography tools, lead scraping, auto-responders, contact management… How do agents find time to sort through all of the tech out there?
Real estate agents (YOUR agents) are all starting to exhibit symptoms of Tool Fatigue.
Where can we find the the solution — the vaccine — to this epidemic?
It’s Time: Turn the Tech Stack into a Cohesive Tech System.
As vendors and as brokerage technology staff, we’ve been focused on the “tech stack” as the term regarding all technologies in place at a brokerage. In order to prevent that stack from falling over and crushing our agents, we need to start approaching it as a “tech system,” — a cohesive view of all the technologies in place at a brokerage and how they integrate.
Consider investing in technology services that automate processes rather than tools. Consider vendors that provide secure and reliable integration with other platforms to eliminate redundancies. Trust providers that look at eliminating unnecessary time-cost for your agents while ensuring consistency of the brand promise you strive to deliver.
As the broker, or the guide and support for your agents, think of your technology system like a map. Instead of giving your agents plenty of route options (overwhelming them with potential obstacles like toll roads and dirt roads), give them directions for the fastest, safest, shortest, easiest path. Automation of real estate procedures doesn’t remove the agent from the transaction, but rather empowers agents to serve their clients better.
The following is a hypothetical situation (based on actual conversations we’ve had with our clients) of brokerages facing Tool Fatigue among their agents. Perhaps these anecdotes will resonate with similar difficulties you face at your own brokerage and provide a vision of what’s possible with the right services.
When an agent has a listing go active, they may already begin fielding inquiries and showing requests. They need to prioritize marketing the listing on top of handling these interruptions, so that their client still feels like their property was adequately advertised. An agent has to come up with flyers, brochures, social media pieces, a video — all things that take time and energy.
The agent logs in to a software account to build the flyer. They have to find and upload the images, copy and paste the marketing remarks, and add in all the logos. An agent may use a basic flyer from the MLS, a copy-paste monstrosity built in Microsoft Word, or an web solution they pay for. They may not even have time to stitch together a video of the photos, even though it’s proven that video resonates on social media much more effectively than still photography. But, if they do make a video, that’s another login and password, another upload of the photos and copy and paste of the information. And of course, the digital-age-old issue of forgetting to include all of the required legal marks and appropriate brokerage logos across each of those pieces (equal housing, license, brokerage contact, etc.).
BUT, what if that agent woke up the day after their listing goes active and, without having lifted a finger, all of the marketing assets were created and delivered straight to their email for easy use? What if the auto-created assets included a brochure, postcard, flyer, video, website, social media ad, email, and more? That agent now has more energy and more time to devote to market research, negotiations, creative advertising solutions, networking, and closing deals.
Automation absolutely doesn’t remove the agent from the buying and selling process, but rather enhances their humanity and ability to serve their client. As the 14th Dalai Lama said, “I think technology really increased human ability. But, technology cannot produce compassion.” Automation services, like Imprev, increase your agents’ abilities, reduce their Tool Fatigue, and help them succeed.
What vaccine are you investigating to combat Tool Fatigue?
June Laves, Marketing Manager at Imprev, Inc
Before joining the creative minds at Imprev, June worked as the marketing specialist for a top performing independent brokerage helping over 200 agents grow their business.