There’s always something to howl about

Common Sense Office Policy

Have you ever called an agent’s office and asked, “May I please speak with John?”, and find yourself sent directly to John’s voice mail? Does it irritate you? It is one of my pet peeves. Or how about email? How many times have you sent information by email, or a series of questions to someone during an escrow, only to have them call you with several questions which were answered in your initial message — Or answer only two of the five questions you asked.

Ever found yourself after lunch waiting for a response from an email you sent in the morning, only to find out they hadn’t even looked at their mail yet? Often these are the same people who fancy themselves as being part of a ‘hi-tech’ operation.

Tin Can Phone

Faxes too have become a major headache in our business. By the time a document has done a few fax-laps it may resemble pages copied from the Red Sea scrolls. With the cost of scanners down these days to just above a case of Pepsi Vanilla, (Less that is unless you’re selling it to The Phoenix Real Estate Guy :-)) scanning signed docs for emailing makes a lot of sense. It also has saved hours of needless conversations between agents and escrow, lenders, and other agents. How many times would you have given serious money just to have a readable contract when time mattered? This is where scanning, and the use of pdf’s are simply a no-brainer.

All this can cost the agent money, and worse, clients. In the short run clients will accept the fact that others are slowing you down through poor performance. But eventually the failures of those upon whom you rely will be associated with you. And if the offender is you, your clients will not long think of you as a real pro.

I offer the solutions we’ve installed in our office. They’re surely not the only way to go, but they work for us.

  • With rare exception the phone will be answered before the third ring by a live voice.
  • If the person called is unavailable, a time for the returned call is established.
  • If someone else can help the caller immediately they go out of their way to do just that.
  • Our email programs are set to send & receive every five minutes. Furthermore, they are set to appear in front of anything else we might be working on if there are in fact messages.
  • Unless on the phone or with clients all emails are to be returned immediately if not sooner.
  • If good judgment dictates, emails are sometimes answered by phone to avoid confusion.
  • All docs will be emailed and not faxed if the choice is available.
  • Lenders, escrows, transaction coordinators, title companies, and inspectors who work with our firm all agree to adopt these policies when dealing with us or our clients.

Our clients have often commented how nice it is to get their calls answered by a human voice 90% of the time. And love getting the vast majority of their emails responded to in 2-15 minutes. Their transaction file folders contain contracts, disclosures, and other documents which, unlike previous experiences, are actually readable. They feel spoiled – which was the goal in the first place.

Related posts:
  • Creating an Online Policy and Procedure Manual
  • Writing an office policy manual for Real Estate 2.0
  • New NAR policy allows “objective” exclusion of certain listings from members’ presentations of IDX feeds . . .


    18 Comments so far

    1. Phil Hoover December 29th, 2006 5:51 pm

      Terrific post, Jeff!
      My favorite question: What’s so hard about answering a phone or returning a phone call, anyway???
      It is amazing to me that this day in age, success too often comes from:
      1) Showing up (on time)
      2) Telling the truth
      3) Keeping your word.
      I continually remind myself of the opportunity that exists for those of us who do those simple things for our clients.
      Happy New Year!

    2. mike December 29th, 2006 6:11 pm

      By the time a document has done a few fax-laps it may resemble pages copied from the Red Sea scrolls.

      Umm, that’s the Dead Sea scrolls.

    3. Kevin Boer December 29th, 2006 6:30 pm

      If you have access to the original document in electronic form already, then e-signatures are the way to go. Scanning and then emailing is really only necessary if the document in question exists only in paper form.

    4. Dave Barnes December 29th, 2006 7:28 pm

      One of the things that irritates me is the use of crappy PowerPoint clip art.

    5. Jonathan Dalton December 29th, 2006 8:04 pm

      Had this debate with my wife Christmas night. I had an e-mail from someone 3 p.m. Christmas day. I returned it the same evening. And that helped me get in the front door for a listing I hope/expect to get tomorrow.

      Phil’s right … simply responding to someone in a timely manner seems to be cause for shock. It’s sad, really.

    6. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 10:11 pm

      Not only is my face RED, but since I’m a preacher’s kid there’s zero excuse for a lapse like that one. The only possible explanation is I’ve been down with sinus troubles for a couple weeks.

      Naw, that’s lame. I knew it was the Dead Sea when I was nine.

      Thanks for not totally piling on. :-)

    7. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 10:17 pm

      Kevin – Your point is absolutely correct. Unfortuneately I do business in a couple other states, and most of the time their office set-ups don’t, uh, support e-sigs. The closer we can get to literally being paperless the better off we are.

      Pretty soon going totally electronic will be the norm, don’t you think?


    8. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 10:19 pm

      Phil – Where you been guy? Great to hear from you. Every time I talk with you, or read you, I become more convinced you bleed ‘old school’, just like I was taught.

    9. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 10:23 pm

      Happy New Year Dave!

    10. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 10:27 pm

      Jon – I had two client conversations just before leaving for Christmas Eve dinner at my daughter’s place. I was able to solve a client’s dad’s exchange problem.

      Arrived at the dinner smiling.

    11. Brian Brady December 29th, 2006 11:51 pm

      Great service offering. You set the bar high.
      The basics of speaking to a voice and getting timely responses are unfortunately becoming a “good service offering” today.

    12. Jeff Brown December 29th, 2006 11:57 pm

      You said a mouthful. There’s just not enough ‘old school’ to go around these days.

    13. Russell Shaw December 30th, 2006 12:48 am

      Totally agree, Jeff. We are in a service business. Our expertise and speed of delivery of what is wanted and needed by the client IS the only thing that establishes our value.

    14. Jay Thompson December 30th, 2006 9:10 am

      Funny Jeff… :)

      Great post. This job is all about customer service…

    15. Phil Hoover December 30th, 2006 9:12 am

      Here’s another revolutionary idea that I use ~ CALL FORWARDING !
      Our office staff is very competent and efficient, but I run all of my calls through my home office number to prevent a human being from screwing things up.
      I want people to be able to reach me without anyone running interference for me and getting in the way.
      If I leave my home office, I activate Call Forwarding to my Treo 650.
      I answer all of my calls the same way so callers never have to wonder where they are calling.
      End result: I am easy to reach, answer my own calls, people don’t have to talk their way through a screener/assistant/receptionist to talk to me.
      Best of all, I have ONE phone number on my business card and website.
      How silly is it that some Realtors have several phone numbers on their business cards ~ office, home, cell, pager, etc?
      The key is to be available and make it easy for people to reach you.
      Doing business the old way is like trying to teach a pig to fly.
      It doesn’t work and it annoys the pig :o)

    16. Jeff Brown December 30th, 2006 9:19 am

      Jay, my wife, son, and I are on the lookout for the bannished Nirvana Juice.


    17. Todd Tarson December 30th, 2006 11:03 am

      All documents handed to me are now scanned into my computer at the office. I simply ‘turn in’ the hard copy doc’s to the brokers files. As I look around my little office I still see file folders that are about a year old. They are basically decoration at this point.

      I was at a title company yesterday turning in an earnest money check, when the officer asked if I wanted the receipt I told her to email it to me. I’ve since emailed it to my client and to my broker for his files. Done.

      A document scanner is essential in TODAY’S business.

    18. Jeff Brown December 30th, 2006 11:07 am

      And the only thing cheaper is a coffee at Starbuck’s that takes 20 seconds to order – and how much longer will that be true? :-)