The Communication Disconnect
In today's world - business is rarely done face to face anymore. Between cell phones , email, websites, and chat help - customers typically choose not to deal with people directly anymore. In many ways this is very convenient - and can help to speed things along. I know for a fact that using e-signature contracts saves a lot of time for me and my clients and I am happy to have that option. But there is something to be said about looking a person in the eyes and shaking their hand. Face to face business is still important even though we don't practice it often anymore. However, one of the problems with dealing with people electronically is that it can make it easy for things to fall through the cracks. If I ask a person a question to their face - there is a certain level of accountability that goes along with that - but when I call someone and leave a message - the sense of urgency seems to fade.
Do you ignore your calls?
As of late - it seems like all the companies I call have a problem with calling back. I deal with realtors , insurance agents, contractors, clients, and and array of other professionals on a daily basis. When I make a phone call - it is because there is something important that I need to share or I need some pertinent information to get to the next step of a transaction . It is the same when they are calling me - they need some information from me. When people don't call back - it holds up the process and much like a domino effect , creates a chain reaction of work stoppage. Returning phone calls and getting back to people is not only courteous, but practically mandatory. You know how it feels when you are waiting for something important and you get no feedback on it - it's like sitting on pins and needles waiting on other people to finally decide to get back to you. It prevents you from being able to pass on new information or take action on it if needed. It's not fair to make other people feel this way.
The Waiting Game
My car was recently hit by another vehicle and it took over a week to get the insurance companies attention so they could pay out the claim. Each day my call would go straight to voicemail and I would have to leave a message and then wait for a return call that never happened. I had a name and an extension and was very polite when I called - but no one ever got back to me. At the same time , I was waiting for another phone call from an agent that I submitted an offer to. An offer to purchase a house. So I have a client waiting to find out the results of his offer, and the agent has not returned my call in over two days so far - that may not seem like a lot - but in real estate - things move fast - while my client is waiting on an answer - he could be making offers on other properties instead of playing the waiting game. I have to followup with my client now and tell him that I have no new information for him - and meanwhile I can't get the agent to call me back with an answer - this is very inconsiderate and holds up the process for everyone involved.
Why people don't call back
I try to get back to people as soon as possible - even though sometimes slip through the crack. I cant explain why OTHER people dont answer their phone or return calls - but I have a few ideas. There was a time when I was notorious for not taking calls and many of my friends and family commented on how no one could ever "get a hold of me" - ever since I became a real estate agent though , I have worked to shed those bad habits and become more reliable and accessible. Back when I was less than sterling, I had my own reasons for not taking or returning calls -
- was too busy at the moment to concentrate on a phone call
- didn't want to talk to the person calling
- knew it would be an uncomfortable conversation
- had no further information to provide
- still waiting on a phone call myself
- walked away from my phone and didn't hear it
- already on the phone with someone else
- traveling on the road and couldn't take the call
- simply forgot to call back
Some of these are good reasons - others are just excuses. At the time, I had so many things going on that I wasn't prioritizing my time - and phone calls seemed more like an intrusion and time waster. Now however , I try to take my calls no matter who it is - even if it someone who takes up a lot of my time - I simply use better tactics to get them off the phone sooner - but I still take the call. Many times - I didn't want to talk to to somebody because I needed to give them information that I did not have yet - maybe hadn't done the thing they asked , or was waiting on someone else to get me more information and I didn't have it - either way, I still owed to these people to take their call and and at least update them rather than keep them waiting in suspense. I didn't take it as seriously back then - but after years of being an agent and having so many things things dependant on people communicating properly - I have become sensitive to to the subject and always do my best to keep the lines of communication open.
Professionals know better
I find it infuriating when other professionals don't give the same considerations. I may not have had any excuse - but at least people weren't dependant on me getting back to them to conduct business. The bulk of the people I deal with now are all professionals who's livelyhood depends on working with others and who should know better than to let a phone call languish.I find it infuriating when professionals do not return calls in a timely manner - and today there are almost no excuses for not getting back to people - we have email right on our phone as well as text messages - if you cant take the call or call back then you can at least leave a text to let me know that you've acknowledged me and will reach out to me later.
One of the things I learned about taking all of my calls is that it relieves the anxiety of having something hanging over my head. I know that when I have phone calls to return , that I cannot relax until I have gotten that out of the way - if you have several unreturned calls to get to then it can cloud your mental state with unresolved guilt and keep you from relaxing. Not only is it good for the people calling you, but is good for yourself too since you will have resolution instead of uncertainty.
Just answer the damn phone
Too all of you in the sales or customer service industry - do everyone a favor and get back to your clients - don't let clients , vendors and other business partners go without some confirmation that you are going to deal with them. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement can stave off issues for several days as long as they know it's going to be dealt with. One thing that clients say is most important to them about an agent is that they communicate with them regularly - I think this is universal to all businesses. So don't be afraid of what's on the other end of the phone - just take it and deal with it like a professional - it could be money on the other end!
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