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Responding to coronavirus: A playbook for adapting to digital workplaces

How to maintain strong client and professional relations during times of uncertainty

During one of the most difficult times in our world’s recent history, the coronavirus pandemic has demanded a shift toward a digitized workplace.

While everyone is scrambling to learn how to navigate the way we do business and live life in a “socially distant” environment, mortgage and real estate professionals have an opportunity to expand their digital skills and bring leadership to their communities

Opportunity in crisis

As if the economic recession and health emergency weren’t enough, a Vox article describes what is expected to be a “social recession,” in which people experience the negative effects of isolation as a result of social distancing. The author explains, “Human beings evolved to feel safest in groups, and as a result, we experience isolation as a physical state of emergency.” 

Kristin Messerli,

Unfortunately, as many people feel isolated or stressed, they turn to their news feeds for comfort and distraction, which often exacerbates the problem. Studies have shown that passive scrolling on social media has a negative impact on mood and stability, (and our news feeds at the moment are certainly not uplifting). 

Herein lies the opportunity for the strategic digital leader. In the midst of a crisis, you have the opportunity to be a consistent presence and connection in your networks. And with conscious effort, you can stand out as someone who provides a sense of humanity and safe advice during a time of isolation and chaos. 

In this article, I have outlined a playbook for professionals to maintain strong communication with consumers and partners, improve productivity (and sanity) while working from home, and leverage the opportunity to bring leadership to your communities. 

1. Host video meetings

Host meetings over video every chance you get. It doesn’t require much additional effort to join over video, and it allows you to look your customer in the eyes, which is significantly more effective at building trust and connection than a phone call. 

For example, Colorado real estate agent Jamie Nevers said the coronavirus has forced her to adopt video conferencing, and she will continue using it in many ways after the pandemic has passed. “It has been pretty eye-opening,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’ve been using tech as robust as I could, but I have done more Zoom and FaceTime meetings than I ever have in my business.” She performed an inspection over FaceTime last week, and while she said it wasn’t as great as being in person, “the ability to look at her eyes had a real impact.” 

Here are a few strategies for an effective digital meeting: 

  • Choose a platform: Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.
  • Set an agenda, and keep each meeting focused and project-based
  • Have meetings in a quiet space and mute your line when not speaking
  • Give your full attention (don’t surf the web or multitask)
  • Discuss next steps before ending the call
  • Send follow-up notes and action items after the call

2. Send video follow-ups to meetings or tasks

Rather than send a follow-up email or text (or nothing at all), text a short video that explains next steps following a meeting. Especially during a time of high stress, this can be critical to ensuring your customers feel secure and connected in their next steps with you. 

Keith Collins, a producing regional leader at Movement Mortgage, explained on a Mortgage Coach webinar yesterday that he sends follow up videos after every meeting as a tool for customer retention and satisfaction. In addition to using Mortgage Coach, he uses BombBomb to deliver video messages with personalized updates or follow-ups. 

3. Be strategic with social media

Social media can be both harmful to our health and productivity if it is used as a source for zombie-like scrolling, rather than true social connection.

Alternatively, it can be an incredible tool to combat social isolation and stay connected with consumers and partners. 

First, consider sharing relevant advice, rather than noise. Another loan officer said he keeps track of the questions he gets from borrowers and releases a daily video to respond to these questions. It doesn’t have to be perfectly edited, but this kind of humanized social media content can be a great tool for marketing as well as improving efficiency when you’re getting multiple people asking the same question during a time like this. 

Secondly, use social media as a tool to connect with individuals. Leave comments, respond to personal “stories,” and send direct messages to stay in touch with people in your network. This will have a positive impact on your personal health and keep you connected with people you may have otherwise seen in your community (pre-coronavirus). 

4. Use collaborative software with your team

If you didn’t previously work with a remote team, you may be tempted to simply pick up the phone rather than learn to use collaborative tools like Slack and Trello. While these tools do not replace phone conversations, they add efficiency and organization to a remote work lifestyle, which are well worth the time investment required to learn them.

I use Slack with my team to stay connected outside of virtual meetings, and we use GoogleDocs to review and collaborate on all content and strategy. Additional project management tools like Asana and Trello are also helpful in keeping the team organized. While they shouldn’t replace video meetings, these kinds of tools create a transparent and collaborative experience in real-time. 

As professionals are forced to adopt strategy and technology to work remotely, many are likely to remain remote after social distancing measures have been lifted.

In an interview with Dave Savage, CEO of Mortgage Coach and digital leader, he said, “The coronavirus will accelerate the digital transition… Many of the [newly] remote workers are never coming back. They will take time to learn the workflow, massively accelerating the way we adopt digital collaboration platforms.” 

5. Use auto-responders and virtual assistants to add capacity

While some people are completely out of work, most mortgage and real estate professionals have more work than they can manage. Rather than miss a deal or frustrate customers who are trying to reach you during a stressful time, consider employing a virtual assistant and setting up an auto-responder to emails. 

There are many agencies designed to offer on-demand virtual assistants, and in today’s economy, there are likely many people in your network who would love some remote work. An assistant can help manage responses and organization of emails, social media messages, and even texts. 

If your inbox is getting flooded with frantic emails, consider using an auto-responder. For example, Jeremy Forcier, a top producing loan officer, has an auto-responder that includes an explanation of the number of emails he is receiving, a personal video and an explanation that his team is there to provide support and advice within 48 hours.

Silver linings

Times of crisis offer with it a unique opportunity for growth and leadership. While everyone experiences varying degrees of social distancing, economic hardships, medical fears and undoubtedly losses, technology can be a tool to maintain business growth and community support.

Professionals should use this time to invest in social media (strategically), video communication, and digital tools that provide some level of organization and normality in a chaotic world.

Lastly, consider donating to your local food bank, and reach out to people (on social media) that may feel isolated or fearful. These are the moments when people remember how you showed up for your community. 

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