HousingWire’s Real Estate Expo (REX Annual) kicked off Tuesday on an exciting note, as HousingWire CEO Paul Jackson and President Richard Bitner announced the winner of an all-inclusive package for REX 2014 next year.

The morning panel session, "The Human Element: Beyond Tech," was led by Nicole Nicolay, co-founder and chief creative officer of Agent Evolution; Jeff Lobb, vice president of technology at EXIT Realty Corp.; Austin Allison, CEO of dotloop; and Chris Smith, co-founder of Curaytor.

Human companies win. It’s as simple as that, according to Allison. Most businesses are not wired like human beings, they’re wired like robots, he said. For most real estate agents, behavior is driven by the opportunity at hand. But Allison advised the crowd that personality and passion need to come through in order to become a "human business."

"The world is now more connected than it’s ever been before," said Allison. But in a technology-driven world there is a need for real estate professionals to differentiate themselves with service.

"When your existing customers keep coming back, they’re less expensive to retain," Allison added. 

While most companies are increasing their hold time, dotloop is increasing its interaction time, said Allison. 

"Technology is not responsible for our success, people are," said Agent Evolution’s Nicolay.

Nicolay, who is currently training for her first IronMan race, said achieving success with your business is a lot like achieving success in sport or athletic training. It’s crucial to design a plan in order to succeed in both. 

"No amount of technology can directly bring success to you, but you can design a plan to achieve the type of success you want based on your goals, your expertise and your natural abilities," she added. 

Lobb advised the group of real estate professionals that it’s still about the consumer experience. "I think we need to change the way we deal with the experience," he said. 

For real estate agents, it’s important to make the customer’s experience as comfortable as possible. "Your office has now become a meeting place," said Lobb, who advised the audience to convert their office into a place where consumers and agents feel comfortable meeting. 

What it really comes down to is the customer. If you have more usernames and passwords than you do customers, you’re not in a good place, said Smith. If content is king, communication is God, he joked.

While many believe technology has curved the need for real estate agents, statistics prove otherwise. In 2011, 69% of people were using a Realtor, while 89% of people today are using a real estate agent. 

Become the company you’d want to do business with… or die trying, Lobb said.

The session concluded with Allison and Smith announcing the launch of their book via Kickstarter titled "Peoplework." HousingWire’s Bitner informed the crowd that everyone in attendance would receive a copy of the book, a $4,000 contribution to the book’s release.