Responsiveness Drives Differentiation

Are your prospective clients having to act like abalone divers to interact with you? Abalone divers furbish themselves with an abalone iron to pry off abalones from submerged rocks. These divers are committed to their task, as abalone is considered a divine delicacy to some. But if prospective clients have to work like an abalone diver to communicate with and engage you, chances are they’ll dive elsewhere.

Concierge service is not a new topic, it still resonates. Let’s assume you have a robust lead acquisition strategy that runs the gamut from SEO, SEM, social media, targeted print ads, etc. Let’s assume too that this strategy yields a healthy inbound inquiry pipeline. Let’s also assume that–if you’re a brokerage–you have a decent eCommerce, relocation, and/or Internet lead management team that responds in a timely manner to these inquiries whether they’ve come in by email, telephone, or live chat. Finally, let’s assume that as an agent you get lead inquiries directly (from your blog, website, broker, etc) and/or leads are routed to you via a relocation or lead management team. What’s the average response time to these direct-to-agent or eCommerce-to-agent leads? If it’s over 15 minutes, I posit that is too long (for eCommerce-to-agent leads, I say response time should be under 5 minutes).

According to the 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers:

  • 21% of home buyers say reputation is an important factor when choosing an agent, which is the second most important factor out of eight factors polled, the number one factor (at 29%) is agent honesty and trustworthiness
  • 93% of home buyers rate responsiveness as “very important” when considering agent skills
  • 84% of home buyers rate communication skills as “very important” when considering agents skills
  • 67% of all buyers interview only one agent in their search process

Do prospective clients visit the following types of sites more often than real estate websites: BassPro.com, Cabelas.com, Zappos.com, Craigslist.com, Geico.com? I’ll posit that your prospective clients are visiting these types of sites more often than any one real estate site. Thus, their customer service–their concierge service–expectations are being set by these entities. Where does your service level measure up related to these companies?

Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer who goes to BassPro.com and contacts their customer support staff and gets a response within one minute or less (especially if he/she used live chat). Would you say this consumer has a higher likelihood of being satisfied and that BassPro likely created a good vibe for its brand in the mind of that consumer? I’d say yes. Now what would happen if that consumer had to wait for 48 or 72 hours for a response to his/her question that common sense tells him/her should take only a couple of minutes? I’d say a bad vibe is created. Granted, if the customer is committed enough, he/she may try to pry a response out of BassPro by recontacting them. But the more he/she has to try and pry the customer service abalone shell off the rock, the less likely this customer will remain with BassPro. And if prospective clients have to pry a response out of you, the less likely they are to engage with you.

Prospective clients expect responsiveness. And their expectation for this responsiveness is being set OUTSIDE the real estate industry. Thus, it’s incumbent upon real estate professionals to step up to the client concierge service plate and respond as quickly as possible to inbound lead inquiries.

Where do you want your trustworthiness and reputation factors to be slotted in a prospective client’s mind: as uncaring and lazy because you don’t typically respond in a timely manner, or that you’re concerned about prospective clients’ needs and desires? Thus, meet 93% of home buyers’ expectations and set a standard to respond to inquiries in a timely manner. If 84% of home buyers consider communication skills as very important, how are you demonstrating your communication skills–as ignoring a prospective client’s requests, or by addressing him/her with alacrity and professionalism?

Don’t make prospective clients pry a response out of you. Remember that 67% of prospective clients contact and interview only one agent during their search process. Increase your odds of gaining a client’s trust and business by quickly responding to their inquiries.

Photo attribution: Abalone divers, Queue

8 Comments

  1. Eric,

    I couldn’t agree more, getting others to believe this is the issue (some agents). We’ve closed some transactions for the this very reason, response time and many people comment that they didn’t “expect” a response so quickly, I really think what they mean is that they want it, but don’t often get it in our industry. In fact, I received a showing request this week indicating that the customer had contacted the listing agent & company, but didn’t get a response & could we assist him, I responded from my palm within 5 minutes & he’s set up to look at homes with one of our agents this weekend. Something to be said about the early bird (maybe it should be the quick bird gets the worm)!!

  2. eric, i’ve been browsing your site for a few weeks now and you’ve got some damn good stuff here.

    with this post you make an interesting connection between a realtor’s website and websites more commercial in nature. and yeah, the commercial sites are framing the expectations for interaction with consumers. i think it’s worth noting here that these commercial sites view their website as a web business… how many agents think of their own websites that same way?

  3. Eric Bryn says:

    Thank you Mark. Agree, many agents need to begin treating their own websites as web businesses; doing so goes a long way towards creating competitive differentiators.

  4. Zane Burnett says:

    Eric-

    Good stuff, man!

    As the industry shifts more towards a more consumer-centric ideology, agent’s need to follow suit if the expect to be successful. The era of “agent ego” is over, and what was once about the individual (agent) is becoming about the plenty (consumer).

    The sooner agents recognize what you’re saying, the better- for them.

  5. Eric Bryn says:

    Well stated, Zane.

  6. Sarah Cooper says:

    It may also be important to offer a variety of contact choices. People have different ways they feel most comfortable communicating, and whether that’s by text, phone, email, Twitter or anything else, they’ll be thrilled to hear from you quickly through their preferred medium.

    Just found your blog today, Eric – GREAT resource and I look forward to meeting you at REBCCHI. :)

  7. Eric Bryn says:

    Excellent points Sarah. It’s a channel marketing strategy. Thanks for the feedback on my blog. Looking forward to REBCCHI too!

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