A million years ago, I had a license to sell real estate. I was a Realtor® long enough to discover that being a Realtor sucks, because you’re dealing with people who are making the largest and most stressful purchase (or sale) of their lives. And invariably, you’re dealing with them at 10:45 p.m. on a Sunday.

I let my real estate license expire when I realized that the agent I was working for had an effective hourly pay rate of about minimum wage. And she had to work seven days a week to get it.

So I know how hard Realtors work (the good ones, at least.)

The non-good ones let autoresponders do the work for them.

I recently emailed a Realtor in Atlanta, where I’m interested in buying investment property to rent out. This Realtor came highly recommended to me by a friend who lives there. I want to buy in Atlanta because the metro area is littered with foreclosures and abandoned houses. Yessiree, it is a buyer’s market in Atlanta.

I went to the Realtor’s website, filled out her contact form, and wrote her a detailed description of my price range, areas, etc., and even mentioned that I was referred by a former client, and that I used to be an agent with the same company in Ohio.

Minutes later I got an autoresponder message about the relocation services her brokerage offers. Hmm. I don’t want to move there (well, maybe not yet…) I just want to buy a house there. But obviously her autoresponder is set to kick out the “relocation” message to anyone not in her local area.

No matter, I thought, she’ll call me tomorrow, since that’s what I asked her to do in my message (I gave her my home and cell numbers plus my email address.)

The next day I got an autoresponder message with packing and moving tips.

Thinking I’d better be proactive, I called her. Her voicemail greeting said that she couldn’t wait to get back to me, and my call was incredibly, mindbogglingly important to her. I left the same message that I had emailed to her.

Three days after that, I got an autoresponder message about prequalifying for a mortgage.

And a few days after that, I got an autoresponder message about how delighted this Realtor was that I contacted her, and how wonderful she is at finding people like me the homes of our dreams, and how successful her brokerage is at selling houses throughout the Atlanta metro area.

All of these messages had been carefully crafted to appeal to my emotions as a homebuyer, to position this Realtor as an expert in her field, and to make me feel like a moron if I were to even think of trying another agent. The copywriter had actually done a pretty good job. The graphic designer made it look like it flew right out of the agent’s laptop and into my in-box. Everything about the autoresponder series said, “I’m amazingly competent and I care deeply about you and your happiness…you are the reason I exist!”

So when the fourth autoresponder message arrived (this one with a “check your credit score” message), I deleted it, and when the fifth one came I unsubscribed.

There are (at least) three lessons here.

1. Technology is not a substitute for competence, integrity, thoughtfulness, responsiveness, or good customer service.

2. Technology allows you to deliver a bad customer experience much faster and less expensively than ever before.

3. Your prospects can tell when you don’t give a crap, no matter how great your marketing collateral is. So if you’re going to spend a lot of money on copywriters and programmers and web designers, make sure you get a return on your investment by delivering real customer service.

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