July, 2008
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Last month, in my bare-all article about being a good ol’ boy, I wrote about my struggles to keep up with the new technologies and changes in our profession.

Another area where there have been major changes is communications. Some of my clients do not remember typewriters or carbon paper. They don’t know why I talk about taping a program or dialing a telephone number. I don’t have a MySpace page or YouTube account. My phone may have a text-messaging function, but I don’t know how to use it. Communicating now means “shoot me an e-mail” or “send me a fax” or even “text me.” It’s almost frustrating to have to use the U.S. Postal Service “snail mail” to send or receive information or material. If I tell clients (or real estate practitioners) that it may take a day or so to get them the 35-page report with digital photos, sometimes they are curious and even frustrated as to the reason for the long delay. 

It is amazing how dependent I am on my cell phone, fax machine and computer to feel as if I’m actually communicating with or connected to the people I deal with. If I go for more than a few hours without checking my phone messages or an entire day without checking my e-mail, I can get stressed about maybe missing something important. If my Internet connection goes down for more than an hour or two, I get anxious about all the incredibly important things I need to do that can only be done with my computer! And, I can hardly remember how slow-paced my world was when I only had dial-up. If my fax machine doesn’t work, there is no way to send important paperwork back and forth with my clients. OMG!

In addition to my need to be connected at all times, I am in a continual state of information overload. I receive way too much information from way too many people. Every time I buy something online, I get on a new list to receive more information. I am inundated constantly with material and links that I really don’t want.

But … I can dish it out, too! It’s easy to send large files and attachments over the Internet so I can really load up my inspection reports. My reports have diagrams, pictures, drawings and links to other Web sites. The report may be loaded with boilerplate information that my clients don’t understand, but I am certain each report is a masterpiece that will become a cherished heirloom, used again and again, as a valuable home-maintenance resource. Yeah, right! 

Is more information delivered faster really better? Is it possible that by providing so much information, my clients cannot find the items that are important?  
I am going to take a fresh look at my reports, with an eye to information overload, and try to evaluate the report based on my client’s needs. Perhaps there are things I can remove from my reports without compromising liability and thoroughness issues. Maybe I add so much boilerplate to my reports that the important stuff gets lost in the overflow. May I suggest that each of you do the same?

Communication is not a one-way street. It requires effort from all the participants. Whether it is written or spoken, there is always room for improvement.