As someone who lives and breathes in a digital world, I regularly text, e-mail and use social media to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. However, I use traditional, commonly accepted modes of communication when it comes to substantive business correspondence such as:
- Telephone Call with Confirming E-Mail
- Business Letter Sent via Facsimile
- Business Letter Sent via U.S. Mail
Usually, I try to mimic the method of transmission of the message used by the other person. If you send me an e-mail inquiry, I typically will respond via e-mail to the e-mail address that you used to send the original message to me. However, I draw the line at texting and social media as a communication tool for agent-to-agent business communication. Here are a few reasons:
Papertrail: Texting doesn't create a papertrail that can be easily accessed or easily archived. There are programs and systems for doing so. However, only the real tech savvy do so. Whereas a copy of e-mails and letters are placed in the file and archived on my computer, text message aren't - except I do type out a written summary of substantive texts for the file.
- Security: Social media messages travel through unknown servers. I simply don't trust that the messages will be received, that the messages won't be intentionally or inadvertently sent to the wrong location (e.g. Facebook wall versus personal message), or broadcast to unintended recipients.
- Professional Content: Text and social media messages often have limited number of characters. It is difficult to fully communicate a position on a substantive issue in 140 characters or less.
More importantly, although I use multiple e-mail addresses for specific purposes, I only use a single e-mail address for business communication. I don't use a separate e-mail address for MLS, for my website, for my business card, etc.
Here are some simple examples of the poor use of technology tools to communicate with other agents:
- Example #1: Scanned counteroffer is sent to listing agent with cover sheet via e-mail. Telephone call is placed to listing agent to confirm receipt of offer. No response to voicemail mesage. No response to e-mail. Deadline passes for counteroffer. Additional telephone calls are placed to listing agent. Again, no response. After deadline has passed, listing agent sends reply to counteroffer via text message. At this point, deal is dead.
Example #2: Agent sends inquiry regarding contract via e-mail. Listing agent replies via e-mail to the e-mail address used by the first agent. No reply. Telephone calls are placed to agent inquiring regarding status. Agent, after claiming that amendment wasn't received, finds the e-mail and states e-mail account where the e-mail was sent is his bulk e-mail account and he doesn't check it regularly. E-mail address is the e-mail address listed on the local association roster and on his MLS bio or profile.
- Example #3: Broker sends text message regarding dispute. Listing agent replies "too lengthy to discuss via text... call me." Broker doesn't respond. Listing agent then places call and leaves voicemail message. No response.
My point is pretty simple. Stop texting... stop using social media... and pick-up gosh darn telephone for business communication. Send a confirming business letter or e-mail summarizing the conversation where appropriate.
The rise in instant communication has resulted in some circumstances in poor communication and lazy transmission of important contractual responses. While instaneous communication may have some benefits in timing, it certainly has some major drawbacks in terms of substance. If the tone of message is lost in e-mail, then it is even worse via text.
So... stop hiding, pick up the telephone and act like a professional. By the way, if you think "LOL" and a "smiley face" make you look and sound like a professional, I suspect that you are dead wrong.