Seth Godin asks “Where have all the agents gone?” in a recent post and makes the point that the anonymous middleman is fast becoming unessential for a good portion of the population. Agents today (real estate, travel, stock brokers, publishing, etc.) are competing with a substitute for their services in many markets – the internet. Customers now have access to information whenever they want it thus allowing them to not only shop around for the best price but complete the transaction themselves.
“To thrive in a world of self-service, agents have to hyperspecialize, have to stand for something, have to have the guts to say no far more than they say yes.”
With so much information available today, consumers will most certainly try to educate themselves as much as possible. It will be up to the agent to add value to the service they provide so the customer will want to deal with them regardless of the amount of homework they have done.
Seth also comments that “When markets change, agents can lead the way, not follow along grudgingly.” Markets are definitely changing but so are relationships, especially with the onset of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging. The agents that will survive in this new era of the self-serving customer will be able to form these new types of relationships, build a sense of trust with their customers and provide a service that the customer could not obtain from strictly dealing with a computer.
Have you relied on a middleman for a service lately? If so, did you find value in this relationship?