Failure to communicate
Nobel Prize winner for Literature, George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” What we find a top consumer complaint to be regarding Realtors is poor communication. A psychologist recently recounted to us her experience with a Realtor and noted that she found the agent to be abrasive, borderline rude, but they were pleased with her service because she was a pit bull at the negotiation table, and most importantly, she communicated with her clients frequently, even to simply report that there was nothing to report.
When we ask consumers what they don’t like about Realtors, it is never that they find agents to be cocky, stupid, or anything derogatory, rather complain that communication is terrible in their experience. Why is this the case? Why do consumers have this perception?
The panicked feeling about having no news to communicate
In a down economy, many agents know that panicked feeling when the phone rings and it is their listing client on day 120, wondering why it has been weeks since anyone toured the home. Clients don’t believe that no news is good news, nor do they believe that no news is bad news, rather are putting their biggest asset into an agent’s hands and are nervous, even in a hot market.
Shaw hits the nail on the head about communication, in our opinion, in that many agents often feel as if they have communicated because nothing has changed with a listing since the last phone call. For consumers that are pleased with communication levels from their agent, like the psychologist, they typically point to communication that is predictable. In this case, she said that every Wednesday night, they knew their agent was going to call and tell them not only the status of their home, but the status of the market.
For example, “your house looks good” is far inferior to a call that says, “your home had two tours, one agent gave feedback that the second bedrooms are too small, and I am still expecting a call to be returned from the other agent to get his feedback. The flyer box was refilled three times this week, and we need to meet this week to prepare for the broker open in two weeks in case it is still on the market. Two houses in your subdivision have gone up for sale this week and one has a pending contract and the agent who sold the house works in my office and said the offer accepted was within $2,000 of the asking price, so that’s good news. Because your home was built by one of the town’s founders, I have some calls in to local reporters to see if they would be willing to write about it.”
Having a game plan
When communicating over the phone or over email, it is ideal to do so on a regular basis with clients, and offer the following:
- Summary of all activity pertaining to the client (listing info, loan status, etc.)
- Summary of neighborhood activity if pertinent
- What actions you have taken since you last spoke
- What plans of action you have for the coming week (set expectations)
- Offer to answer any questions
With a plan of action, that panicky feeling will be far less, because you will have set expectations and have something tangible to deliver, because in this market “nothing is going on” is the most common answer, so agents find themselves not checking in with clients (thus driving them crazy). So, take the anxiety out of communicating with clients and have a game plan, because phoning a client three weeks ago to tell them no news is, as Shaw alluded, an illusion that communication has taken place, thus communication has failed.