Residential Magazine

In a World of Bots, Be the Human

Embrace the efficiencies of AI while maintaining personal connections

By Jay O’Brien

Earlier this year, a NerdWallet reporter tested ChatGPT — an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI — on its ability to offer financial advice. A certified financial planner described the chatbot’s answers as 70% to 80% accurate.

One part of this experiment was absolutely right. ChatGPT pointed out that financial advisers need “emotional intelligence, empathy and the ability to build trust and rapport.” These are qualities that cannot be easily replicated by artificial intelligence.

“How do mortgage professionals embrace technical automation solutions and balance them with a personal touch? It starts by looking at what’s important to clients.”

AI and similar tools are poised to become the standard in modern business, but human touch is still critical. Businesses should take advantage of these tools, as well as automation, to free up time to focus on the strategic and personal touches only a human can provide. Creating the space to layer in a personal or human touch can take a business to the next level, and it can be a true competitive advantage for those who get it right.

So, how do mortgage professionals embrace technical automation solutions and balance them with a personal touch? It starts by looking at what’s important to clients. You can then understand where AI and automation can best support your business, and where human touch can add even more value.

Vital tools

Over the past year, across nearly every industry, there has been a huge shift from “growth at all costs” to efficiency — driven primarily by macroeconomics. Rather than pouring more money into growth initiatives, many mortgage lenders are tightening their purse strings and looking at their expenditures, processes and systems to figure out how to operate more efficiently.

ChatGPT couldn’t have entered the scene at a more perfect time. It has felt like an answer for many businesses and employees as they try to figure out how to increase output while decreasing costs. AI is still relatively new, but automation has been around for a while. At its core, automation has always been one of the most effective ways to optimize operations, increase productivity, lower operating costs and save time across an entire business operation.

“Clients want to work with people and businesses that understand them and treat them authentically, rather than a cookie-cutter approach.”

A 2020 research report from McKinsey & Co. revealed that automation can even be a powerful tool for a sales department. According to the report, early adopters of sales automation consistently found increases in time spent with customers, higher customer satisfaction rates, efficiency improvements of 10% to 15%, and potentially higher sales of up to 10%.

As more companies integrate these tools into their workflows, automation becomes even more vital in their bid to stay competitive. A 2017 study from Redwood Software found that 70% of IT experts think that a switch to automation is mandatory for business evolution.

New opportunities

For legacy industries built on relationships and trust — such as real estate, mortgage and financial planning — the transition is bound to be a bit slower. It’s also sure to include hesitancy from both professionals and their clients due to the nature of these industries, but automation can unlock new opportunities and improve the overall client experience. The trick is to understand and integrate the right tools that will enhance business and foster opportunities to develop relationships with clients.

Clients want to know they are getting the best interest rates, advice or service in a timely manner regardless of whether it comes from a machine or a person. This makes it smart to leverage automation where it can make a difference — whether that’s delivering a quick response to acknowledge receipt of a document or analysis of client information to make sure nothing is missing.

Building rapport requires seeing things from the client’s point of view, actively listening to their worries and empathizing with their concerns. Professionals can’t just rely on their credentials; trust is established gradually by following through on commitments, being transparent and showing dedication to the client’s success. A Vanguard report found that clients were more likely to trust their advisers when they believed that their functional, emotional and ethical needs were being met. When the right tasks are automated, it frees up bandwidth to engage clients directly in a manner that increases their confidence in your expertise.

It’s also important to create personal touchpoints that aren’t always sales related, such as sending resources to help their business, thank-you notes or even a birthday gift — simple things that show you care beyond just making a sale. Each client has unique needs and preferences, and it’s important to tailor your offerings, services and approach to meet them effectively. This is especially important when it comes to building client relationships.

Clients want to work with people and businesses that understand them and treat them authentically, rather than a cookie-cutter approach. For example, surprise your client who is a dog lover with personalized treats for their pet, or get them tickets to see their favorite sports team. (Check with a compliance expert before handing out any gifts.) It’s these personal touches that impress clients, earn loyalty and increase referral business.

Careful balance

To get the balance right, there are principles to follow when walking the tightrope between automation and personal touch. Automation can bring many benefits (including increased efficiency, time and resources for creative tasks), but it can also help to facilitate valuable touchpoints with clients.

Whether it’s an automated birthday reminder or a handwritten note, the impression will not be missed by the client. For example, sending a small gift to a prospective client is a task that can be automated, yet it still creates a highly personalized connection.

During an urgent or sensitive situation, clients should be attended to in personal ways. Offer them a way to reach you or an associate with pressing matters. It could be as simple as sharing a cell phone number or an after-hours answering service that relays messages. Automation is great for supplementing processes whenever possible, but it shouldn’t compromise relationships or the human element of business when it matters most.

Maintaining a strong partnership with clients requires finding the right balance between using technology to automate processes and providing personalized service. It involves consideration about which parts of a business can benefit from automation while staying deliberate in areas that still need a human touch. Here are a few easy ways to immediately begin integrating automation in your daily workflow.

Scheduling tools. Leverage automation tools to schedule appointments with clients. These tools allow clients to easily book a time, limiting the time spent on back-and-forth conversations to schedule a meeting while freeing up time spent on administrative tasks.

Messaging and communication tools. Automate and schedule communications to provide additional information, status updates on applications or answers to any common questions.

Customer engagement tools. Improve relationships with clients and business partners by leveraging automation tools that can manage, track and enable regular interactions and touchpoints. You’ll stay on their radar and make them feel valued.

● ● ●

In reality, humans and machines have to work together to provide optimal service to clients. Automation and tools like ChatGPT are not a replacement for human connection, but they are powerful tools that can address tasks, boost efficiency and make time to foster even better personal relationships. ●


  • Jay O’Brien

    Jay O’Brien is the co-founder of Client Giant, an automated engagement platform for client care and employee happiness. A driving force behind the company, O’Brien consistently ensures unrivaled client experiences for business owners in diverse industries. Before launching Client Giant, O’Brien excelled as a leading real estate agent in California, earning accolades such as the 30 Under 30 award from the National Association of Realtors.

You might also like...