What We Should Know About Industry Communications, But Don’t

February 14, 2024

By Todd Hougaard

How much of your workday is spent communicating? Communications are the lifeblood of the title industry and play a vital role in the home purchase transaction. Indeed, it is the primary means by which all parties involved in the process can effectively collaborate and ensure a smooth experience.

According to the Microsoft 2023 Work Trend Index Annual Report, 57% of Microsoft 365 users’ work hours are devoted to communications and 68% of people say they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday. People report that they spend too much time on communication activities and not enough time doing their productive work.

While title office staff work isn’t the same as that of the typical Microsoft 365 user, the daily experience is much the same. Staff experience the constant strain of spending each workday moving between email, portals, apps, texting and other communication channels, while their primary work happens inside a production system. But do title professionals spend anywhere near 57% of their time in communications?

What Do We Know?

Communications are a big part of the workday and invariably have a dedicated location in the workspace. Typically, staff dedicate one screen or section to their production software, another screen to a web browser, and a third to email. Throughout the day, staff flip between screens to get their work tasks done in a process referred to as “context switching.”

According to a study from Cornell University, such context switching causes a lack of cognitive function. Human brains are not wired for a working day of glancing between an inbox, various documents, web portals and more. No wonder that 45% of people report that this makes them less productive, and 43% say it is very tiring to continually switch between tools and communication channels.

After many years of combatting a continuous flow of phishing attacks the industry is well aware that email is a major source of risk to all the transaction parties. It is no surprise that studies have shown that 91% of all cyberattacks start with a phishing email. Yet email remains the most common communication channel, used for 81% of exchanges of pre-closing documents and data and 90% of CD collaboration. As a result, we know that the primary communication channel used today is also the source of the vast majority of the cybercrime issues that agents must deal with through training, technical solutions, and insurance.

What Do We Not Know?

Unfortunately, very little data is available about the effects of industry communications title agency operations or that of their trading partners. In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know. Without more data, it is difficult to know whether specific changes would improve productivity, security, or the working environment.

The First Step Toward Change Is Awareness

Knowing the answers to these questions would help the industry increase awareness and formulate effective strategies:

  1. How many different communication methods are used every day, such as web portals, messaging applications, SMS, email and so on?
  2. How does a multi-channel communication environment affect operational expenses, quality of service and response time?
  3. How much time is spent in a typical workday on any sort of communication, including email tasks such as reading, processing, archiving and responding to emails?
  4. Are users, managers and owners satisfied with the current state of communications? If not, what changes would they like to see?
  5. Are today’s communication methods capable of safely providing the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right place?

It has been suggested that modernized and improved communications would help the industry evolve by lowering labor expenses, reducing security vulnerabilities and enhancing the overall experience. However, a deeper understanding of the current circumstance is needed to direct this change. Empowered with greater knowledge, targeted investments in the right transformative technologies and directed upskilling of industry talent will accelerate the adoption of any upgrades to title industry communications.

How Much Time Per Day Does Email Cost?

Share your experience on the ALTA Community by answering two questions:

  1. How many emails do you receive each day e.g., 100? 300? 500?
  2. How much of your work time is spent on email e.g., 10%? 40% 75%?

Let’s have an online (not email!) conversation on the ALTA Community

Todd Hougaard, president and co-founder of BLITS.IO, can be reached at [email protected].

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].