THE MOST POWERFUL SKILL agents can develop to build trust with their clients is communication, according to both research and popular opinion. But sadly there is a dramatic difference between how the majority of real estate agents define ‘good communication skills’ and the definition held by consumers. Kylie Davis provides four ways that you can improve your response times and delight your customers.
According to the Consumer Perceptions of Real Estate surveys held in 2015 and last year, both buyers and sellers define good communication as responding promptly to queries (response times), following up and doing what you say you will do (reporting in), and being friendly and empathetic (good listening).
Agents, in contrast, tend to define good communication as having a great sales spiel and talking a lot – about themselves.
The chart shows findings from research carried out by the California Association of Realtors and was shared with me by @CAllActionco at the INMAN Connect Conference in New York.
This graphic shows the expected behaviour by consumers as to an appropriate response time for the real estate agent to return their inquiry about a property, compared to the actual time it took for the agent to get back to them.
Here’s the thing to notice: 94 per cent of consumers expected the agent to get back to them within an hour of their inquiry, but only 36 per cent of agents did so. Almost two-thirds of agents (64 per cent) took two hours or longer to get back to the customer, with 10 per cent taking more than a day.
Now, as an agent, you can insist that such expectations are unrealistic and your definition of communication is the correct one. But here’s the thing. As Harry Selfridge, founder of Selfridge’s department store in London, said in 1909, ‘the customer is always right’. Choosing to define what success looks like in a way that is different to your customers comes at a cost.
That cost is an absence of trust, and that absence of trust has a negative flow on across the transaction, impacts on the types of referrals you get and seriously affects the likelihood of repeat business.
One of the simplest ways for agents to stand out from the crowd of their competitors is to do things differently. This doesn’t have to be radical – sometimes just getting good at the old-school skills like communication can have a huge impact.
The Consumer Perceptions research found that very few agents have excellent communication skills; but those who did really stood out for their clients, who spoke highly of them to friends and referred a lot of business, establishing a long-term relationship.
The research shows only 11 per cent of buyers said agents had good follow-up skills, compared to 33 per cent of vendors. Equally, 12 per cent of buyers said agents had good response times while 35 per cent of vendors said their agent performed well in this area.
So if you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s easy. Respond quickly to buyers’ calls, and you’ll outperform nearly 90 per cent of your competitors.
Respond quickly to vendors and you’re ahead of 65 per cent of the competition. Build trust and the relationship starts from there.
Time to pick up the phone!
4 WAYS TO RESPOND FASTER TO CLIENTS
You’re busy. Really busy. And client demands that you always respond quickly are unreasonable – especially if it’s 2am or you’re taking an hour to attend your child’s school concert.
But there are a host of ways to help clients feel you’ve heard their inquiry and helped them out. Here are some tips:
1 Put on Out of Office or an updated voicemail: If you’re unable to respond to requests for information for a few hours, put your out-of-office on and let clients know when they can expect a return call, or who they can talk to if the issue is urgent. That’s all they really want. And it really is that simple, but so few do it. An updated voicemail message is also more helpful than a generic one and resolves the number one issue clients have. Did you get my message? How long should I wait to expect contact?
2 Get a bot: Chatbots can provide a great service to both consumers and agents. They can start the ball rolling on an inquiry, provide basic information, send reports and help you qualify genuine leads. Check out Holmes from Structurely. (structurely.com)
3 Send a personal video: Your phone shoots video. So if you’re out with the family taking some well-needed time off, shoot a very short video at the park or beach to respond to your client. Tell them you got their call, that you’re with family but their business is important to you and let them know when you expect to be able to call them back. The combination of them being able to see where you are and see your face adds to the sincerity and creates a better connection than an email.
4 Send a report by SMS: Client X desperately wants information about 27 Jones Street. You’re out of the office. Your options are to ring your assistant and ask her to send it, or wait until you’re back in the office, right? Wrong. You’ve got your client’s mobile number, you know the property. Go to your RP Data Pro mobile app, build a report with a click and send it in seconds. Minds blown.