By Stefanie Hahn
In a recent post here at the YPN Lounge, Jessica Hickok encouraged us to avoid becoming the “Real Turd” who can’t separate his or her work life from anything else. She offered some great tips for managing our daily lives so that we don’t stand out as “that guy” or “that girl” with the annoying Bluetooth thingy and the loud phone screaming all the time.
What I came away wondering, however, was whether there wasn’t another angle to be considered here…the online component of being a REALTOR® in a world where the consumer isn’t willing to wait anymore to be served. According to the most recent survey conducted by the California Association of REALTORS®, 96 percent of Internet home buyers expected contact from an agent within 4 hours of their initial request, while 31 percent of them expected an IMMEDIATE response if they were going to have a relationship going forward.
So how can we offer immediate response AND be the ideal spouse/friend/restaurant patron? Here are some tips I think will help, along with a few things I am pretty sure will just get in your way.
1) Give more information, not less: I know our industry thrived for generations on making sure we were the “keepers of the keys” but now it is time to make sure those consumers who come to us are not just coming because they can’t find our info online.
2) Maximize the power of text messaging: You have a form where people can ask you a question, why not ask them for their cell phone number? Then when you get the info transmitted to you, even if it is in the middle of dinner, you can reply with the classic 140 character retort. My opinion here, but if you text the person back and tell them you are sharing an important family event but that you will either 1) forward their request or 2) get back to them as soon as you are finished they will stay with you…so long as you live up to your word.
3) Depending on how your phone-based e-mail works, consider having an e-mail signature already built that can be used as a quick reply to sales inquiries. You may need to personalize it a bit each time (we’ll talk about robo-replies later) but at least you can quickly fire it off without having to QWERTY your way through the same answer several times during dinner.
4) Consider a “virtual assistant.” As long as the answer is genuine and your assistant doesn’t cross the lines of your state agency laws you can achieve instant response and personal harmony.
That said, here are the things you don’t want to do or risk looking like a big dope in the eyes of those online consumers.
1) Auto-Reply: Please don’t think the answer to your internet inquiries is a robo-reply telling the consumer you are thrilled for their message and asking their patience as you are too busy to reply. This may have worked in the 1990s, but today’s consumer despises auto-replies and considers it equivalent to no reply at all. Truth is, if that’s the best you can do, you are better taking your chances waiting until later to write them back.
2) Calling with an excuse: If you are going to take the time to pick up the phone and call the person, that person is going to expect that you have the time, the energy and the care to really speak to them professionally. Calling just to say you are busy isn’t going to get you very far; especially if your answer is that you are busy with other clients (as if they are less important).
I agree with Jessica – you need to compartmentalize a bit; and you need to have a life outside of the office. Hopefully, though, you are still able to give those new clients – the most eager clients – some love and affection while you are enjoying the rest of your day.
Stefanie Hahn is the education director for Coldwell Banker Hearthside, REALTORS® in Malvern, Pa. Visit her Web site: www.StefanieHahn.com.