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Agents: Remove Old Systems That Are Driving Your Customers Crazy

6 minute read

We now live in such a fast paced world with customers expecting faster response times, more information & almost immediate accessibility to a real estate agent via mobile phone, email which all creates an expectation that agents are available to respond quickly to all enquiries at almost any time of the day.

Yet with all this accessibility, the most common complaint from real estate customers is that agents don’t contact them back.

And unfortunately, the way some agents approach their online marketing & enquiry response systems only helps to exacerbate the problem.

1. Providing limited information can hurt your reputation

Many agents still believe that it’s best to provide limited information about a property over the internet & only upload the minimum information they can.

These agents will only feature a couple of photos & a brief description of the property, just enough to get the client to contact the office by phone/email or call the agent’s mobile phone.

Some agents do this either through laziness or as a marketing strategy because the agent wants to speak directly to the prospective buyer & qualify them over the phone or see if they can sell the customer into something else, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, this approach is way too time consuming & in most instances causes more damage to an agent’s reputation than good.

Often, all the buyer wants to know about the property is basic information like, the block size, the address of the property, council rates or strata levy fees, etc.

But to receive this information they often have to go through an interrogation of questions or jump through lots of hoops from the receptionist.

Once the receptionist has captured all their information the buyer becomes disappointed when they hear those all too familiar words. “I’m sorry but I can’t give you that information, you’ll have to speak with one of the salespeople.” Or “Sorry none of the salespeople are here right now, but I’ll get the first one to call you as soon as they get back into the office.”

This approach frustrates the hell out of your customers & needs to change.

2. Don’t leave the door wide open for customer complaints.

When you consider lots of the tasks that an agent has to do like: calling to follow up buyers after the weekends OFI’s, providing vendors with feedback, showing buyers through properties, following through on pending sales, negotiating offers, chasing new listings, doing market appraisals/listing presentations, dealing with negotiations with solicitors/conveyancers, market research, attending sales meetings, group inspection, attending open homes, etc, etc, is it any wonder that a buyer often doesn’t receive a call back from the agent?

But buyer’s don’t see what happens behind the scenes within a real estate agency & they really don’t care. All they think when an agent doesn’t return their call is that the agent’s obviously making too much money or the agent doesn’t want to make a sale.

To make matters worse, unfortunately, the policy within most agencies is that a salesperson can only answer a buyer’s questions. Still today there are agents who have this archaic idea that the receptionist can only take down the details of the buyers & is not allowed to answer any questions about the property.

This often leaves the customer frustrated & means that your receptionist often cops the brunt of the buyer’s anger.

Plus, the longer the buyer waits for the agent to get back to them, the more likely they are to complain about your agency to their friends or relatives & leaves your company open to online criticism as the buyer vents their frustrations about your companies poor response on sites like twitter, facebook, etc.

Whilst, I understand & appreciate why this sort of system was put in place years ago, in today’s fast paced world it’s a ridiculous system that starts a chain reaction that leads to giving most real estate agencies a bad reputation.

For instance, when the buyer doesn’t receive a call back from the agent, the receptionist will often receive another call from the buyer & ends up copping a blast from the buyer. The apologetic receptionist then gets annoyed at the salesperson & then has a go at the salesperson for not calling the customer back.  So, by the time the agent calls the customer back everyone has a level of anger or dislike for each other. Does this sound familiar?

It’s not a great way to start a good customer experience, is it?

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. What’s wrong with the receptionist saying, “Can I just grab your details & I’ll give you the information.”

Then let the receptionist give them the information the buyer wants (or at least answer some of their questions & provide as much information as they can). Then afterwards get the agent to follow them up with a phone call to see if they have any further questions about the property and/or to ensure that they received the information they were after.

That way the buyer’s not waiting for the agent to call them back & they get an unexpected, pleasant surprise when the agent follows them up later in the day or even the following day. (Now that would have to be a better start towards providing a good customer service experience, wouldn’t it?).

3. There are benefits in providing more information upfront.

Even better still, make as much information as you possibly can, freely available on the web. By providing lots more photos, virtual tours, floorplans, videos & lots more detail about the property you’ll find that the buyer enquiries won’t be based around asking basic property related questions.

By providing more information over the web, you won’t have to rely on your receptionist to give out the information & you’ll find that most of the buyer enquiries will pre-qualify themselves for the property & end up calling the office or the agent simply to book a time for an inspection.

Embracing this online marketing approach can help to avoid frustrating your customers, plus it should save your receptionist & agents a lot of time & aggravation.

Also, if you do a good job of presenting a property online, potential sellers will often like to have their home featured in a similar way and improves your chances of being called out to do an appraisal.

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16 Comments

  • Nick
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 9:35 am 0Likes

    I’ve been thinking that for awhile.

    If I’m a customer, and I see a potential property I’m interested in, but I cant easily find some information that I need then I will simply go elsewhere – there are other properties with the information I want.
    It has to be a very attractive property for me to bother jumping through hoops to find out more.

  • Craig
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 11:10 am 0Likes

    I think it is important to remember that customers aren’t stupid and don’t like to be treated so. They know when they see a listing if the agent is trying to entice them to ring so they will be ‘on the books’. People don’t like this and will deliberately avoid these advertisements. With the amount of data that goes through the major portals they could come up with some very interesting reports on the effectiveness of certain ad types, although REA would probably just try and use this data to up sell.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 10:28 am 0Likes

    Nick, when a buyer does call the office, another thing that some agents do is simply recite the text within the advertisement back to the buyer.

    If the agent is going to withhold info about a property so that the buyer calls the agency with questions, surely it would be good to be able to tell the buyer something they don’t already know.

  • PaulD
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 11:53 am 0Likes

    It’s a fine line that we have to walk regarding provision of information. The more information you provide the less enquiry you get. However it could be that it is batter enquiry. People don’t enquire because they think they know everything about the property. We provide as much information as we can including floorplans, videos, great photos, address etc etc. As a result our enquiry rate from REA, Domain etc has fallen through the floor. In October 2005 ( when we didn’t provide nearly as much information as we do now) our enquiry rate was that 2% of the UB’s, emailed us to ask for more information. In that month we had 90 emails from REA enquiring about property for sale (not including rentals). In October 2009, our response rate is down to one half of one percent. That is 25% of the numbers we used to get. We got 9 emails in Oct 09 enquiring about property for sale. That is 10% of the numbers in the same month, 5 years ago. In addition we are now paying three times as much to REA for 10% of the enquiry. I have spoken to other agents and apart from those who haven’t a clue about their response rates, many agents have a similar experience. I notice REA are still boasting about their UB numbers, but they don’t mention their email numbers anymore, like they used to. I wonder why that is ????

  • PaulD
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 12:11 pm 0Likes

    I forgot to mention in the previous post, that it is very interesting, that the rental enquiry rate has remained the same over the last 5 years at approx 2% – 3%. I have my own ideas about why that is, as opposed to the sales enquiries, but it just a repeat of what I have said before, and is a bit repetitive.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 12:45 pm 0Likes

    Great post – Greg. So long as the information is relevant and accurate then the buyer and agent relationship is a happy one. Which is where Google Analytics is so important especially with Site Usage data – which identifies exactly how consumers respond to ones online content.

  • Rachael Lord
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm 0Likes

    PaulD interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

    Nice post Greg, always look forward to your articles

  • Jenni
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm 0Likes

    Great post!. It is almost impossible for the agents though to let go though. It is now included as a topic for our next office sales meeting. It will be interesting to see what the reponse will be, especially from those agents who have been doing it for 20 years !!! 🙂

  • snoop
    Posted November 25, 2009 at 4:40 am 0Likes

    Intensely annoying
    Not posting price on ads.
    Agents windows full of sold listings
    Junk mail with look what I sold and a mugshot instead of something useful.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted November 25, 2009 at 10:07 am 0Likes

    Paul, Thanks for your insightful statistics. I always find your data from the front line very informative. It’s great to see that you have your finger on the pulse.

    Jenni, testing & measuring is so much easier on the web. (as per Robert’s comment).

    For your sales meeting I wouldn’t go in suggesting that they change all their ads because you’ll find it extremely difficult to get any agreement with that type of approach. At your sales meeting suggest they trial a form of ‘Split Testing’.

    Rather than adopting an across the board change, you could suggest that they try adding more photos & more content on just a few of their existing listings & see what response you get & compare the response you’re getting from the properties with less information.

    Also, if you feel the need to have the phones ringing you can always revert some or all of your listings back to the old ad & fewer photos. You could even change the same property from old way to new way once a week if you wanted to. (flexibility is one of the best parts of marketing on the internet).

    Hopefully, this might help you to open their minds a bit more that “Less isn’t more”. Less usually means more frustration for buyers PLUS more work for the agents & the receptionist.

    PS: Another simple thing you can do to keep your listings looking fresh is change the main photo around from time to time too.

    Images catch the eye & if you feature an inside photo, often times people will click open the listing to see what the front of the house looks like. I hope this helps. 🙂

    PPS: Rachael, Snoop & Craig thanks for your thoughts on this too. 🙂

  • Allan
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm 0Likes

    As someone who recently purchased my first home I have to say I was totally amazed at the lack of follow up from some agents and how hard it it to get information sometimes.

    I agree that as someone on the other side of the fence, looking at realestate.com.au & domain and trying to work out our saturday to view as many properties as possible during a limited time (looking at houses a 90 minute drive from where we lived) I want as much info as possible, detailed description, photos, land size, whether there is a lease in place etc. Waiting for a salesperson to contact me which in some cases was more than a day and sometimes not at all! can get frustrating.

    When ive explained my circumstances – a young child, and requisites – a back yard etc and im driving across suburbs like a madman only to get there and see that its a 350sqm block with barely enough room to swing a cat, I feel I have not only wasted my time but potentially missed out on viewing a property that may have fitted the bill and doesnt endear the agent or agency to me. Likewise, making calls & waiting on callbacks only to find out the property wont be suitable is just a waste of both of our time

    Something not mentioned in the article which I found annoying was enquiring on a Monday or Tuesday about a property and been told the agent doesnt work today but will be able to get back to me Wednesday!

    and lastly, calling up about 8 properties to try and view, only to find 4 of them have been sold can get a little annoying, im sure there is reasons for not updating it on the internet as ‘under contract’ but annoying none the less.

    /rant

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 1:58 am 0Likes

    Thank You Allan. This is exactly the sort of feedback agents need so they can understand how difficult & cumbersome some of their current marketing strategies are for the consumers.

    One of the simplest principles of marketing is ” Make it easy for a customer to buy”. Jumping through hoops should be left for the circus.

    When someone is about to make one of the most important & emotional buying decisions of their lives it’s important to try to make them feel as special as you can & streamline the process to the best of your ability.

    As I mentioned in the article, not calling back simply gives the agency a bad reputation.

    One agency I know has a policy that they call back all enquiries within 4 hours (during work hours) & they are doing extremely well in their marketplace.

  • Nick
    Posted November 28, 2009 at 9:04 pm 0Likes

    PaulD if a agent is measuring their success based on the level of inquiry then they are stuffed.

    Inquiry stats don’t sell properties and don’t earn a commission. 😉
    Quality over quantity is what matters here.

  • PaulD
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:42 am 0Likes

    Nick,
    I do not measure success based on the enquiry we get in any way. That is a number that I keep an eye on so that I know where we are going. Our sales have remained relatively constant eventhough the enquiry from REA has reduced substantially, and our enquiry from Domain has all but disappeared. I agree that quality over quantity is everything. My point was, that the huge UB numbers are what REA use to justify their continuing push to extract more and more money from agents, eventhough the enquiry has dropped. We are finding that people turn up to open for inspections in droves, without any prior contact with the office. I’m thinking that it is precisely the quantity AND quality of information that we provide that encourages them to turn up. They already know the house before they get there, and yes, it is all about quality. We have had many examples of people making offers at the OFI, whereas this rarely happened in the past. The other point that I raised is that many agents have no clue as to whether or not their enquiry is up, down or sideways. The trick is to identify where the enquiry is coming from and concentrate on that source.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:21 am 0Likes

    Well said – Paul I agree 100 per cent with you on this. As I have said many times over that we use Domain and REA as secondary to our very own online business – which out performs both.

  • PaulD
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 11:56 am 0Likes

    That’s a great situation to be in Robert, and one we should all strive for.

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