Authentic Automatic

Is the way you think about Tech making you inauthentic?

I found myself mulling over the title of this blog. In what order should these (2) adjectives go? Do “authentic” and “automatic” even belong together at all? I felt like that kid again (or an adult in denial), fumbling over (2) AA batteries in the TV remote, switching them back and forth, trying to squeeze just a little more juice out of them. Maybe the analogy is spot-on, in its insightful fallacy if nothing else…

WTH do they want from me anyways?

Just today, and just about every other day, I find myself engaged in one conversation or another where a new tech solution is being offered for consideration. My casual, unwavering response over the years, after lessons learned from the Great Tech Boom of the late 90’s, is simply ‘how does this solution benefit our clients?’ Almost always the same counter salvos are fired back, i.e. ‘it enhances the customer experience,’ or some other industry jargon. My next volley usually signals the ball boy return when I comment ‘so…this is what our clients have collectively spoken?’

Often times, we take on this fictitious role of ‘the parent’ in the client-agent relationship, and notice I put the client first there. We might think we know best for our clients, but the relationship should be one of equality and reciprocation, and the best intel is always sitting right in front of us staring us in the face. So why are we constantly trying to squeeze our clients into clothes that may not even be a natural fit in the first place? Are we creating an inorganic, artificial, and inauthentic symbiosis here? Most importantly, are we creating just another problem in place of a solution?

Tech Stacks vs. AC/DC

I’ve been learning guitar, more so than playing, ever since I discovered upperclassmen’s acoustics laying around campus circa 5th grade or so. While I never got to tour Japan with my imaginary roadies, and most importantly groupies, or build my own ‘wall of sound,’ I did finally get the chance to spend some inheritance money on a Marshall full-stack  which I lugged about 3,000 miles to college.

Now that I look back on these life experiences in my newfound infinite wisdom, I say to myself, ‘WTH was I thinking?’ As an agent, I sometimes find myself in that same metaphorical music warehouse, being talked into the professional touring package by some quasi-shredder whose only claim to fame was a cover band senior year at a high school talent show. I despise the term ‘tech stack’ when used solely to boast you have something shiny & new, as opposed to questioning its utility as a piece in the puzzle that is often our industry.

The great irony here is, music production has become both more accessible and uncomplicated, where Pro Tools and studio time has been replaced with GarageBand and bathroom acoustics. Both sound just as aesthetically pleasing as let’s say the Albert Hall, but with two distinctly different ways in getting there. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with passing up something new if it doesn’t actually improve the end result.

Letters to Grandma

As a child I was expected to write to Grandma on birthdays and holidays. While at first it was a dreaded task, eventually I found we had some common ground. She was an artist, and I the ever-aspiring one, so we connected over periodical clippings of oilfields and waterscapes, something so simple that fostered that eternal interpersonal connection with another human being. Nowadays I compare that to the automated emails I receive from my doctor or financial planner or car warranty company on my birthday, and if I’m really lucky, a link to a generic .wav I’ve already received from a dozen other senders. Now I really understand the value of those clippings.

If I feel this way, just think how our collective clients might feel. In this Convenience Economy, we are so quick to automate processes that we foolishly neglect the copy that perhaps is the only thing left that makes us authentic, and we simply become copies of each other. Ultimately, an automated solution should maintain or enhance your genuine relationship with a client, not detract from it.

Sums It Up

If you haven’t noticed yet, my blogs tend to generally follow a certain pattern where I pose almost philosophical questions towards an industry which in itself is almost religious in its uniformity, down to the contract language we all derive a living from. Personally, I think you need the contrast of checks & balances, especially in the scope of industry tech.

Some of you out there may even be thinking, wow, this Mike character really hates tech, he must really be old school. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I actually embrace from within an industry that is in the midst of a revolutionary adoptive and adaptive transition. However, I consider it a fool’s errand to dive into the deep end without learning how to swim first in the shallows (and hey, maybe the shallows are actually better if everyone is swimming like sharks in the deep). Before implementing yet another automated process or piece of technology, ask yourself whether your clients actually want it, whether it truly provides value, and whether it enhances the unique services that brought your clients to you in the first place.

So, let’s bullet (3) this out:

  • Survey your clients’ expectations
  • Ask, “will this tech meet my clients’ expectations?”
  • Never compromise your unique voice

Blog Author:

Michael Tonsetic
President | CEO
Blanchard Insurance, Inc.
Altamonte Springs, Florida