Answering services are great resources for real estate agencies! They can make sure you aren’t missing calls from your listings, handle your calls while you’re on a showing, provide lock box codes to your properties, transfer calls to any agent on your real estate team, and schedule appointments. If your real estate firm is using an answering service to answer your phone, we’ve put together 5 tips to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Having someone answer your calls 24/7 is huge. Like elevator in your house, 5 car garage huge. If any potential clients call your number and get your voicemail, you’re leaving it up to chance that they’ll leave a message – or call back later. To properly route calls, we recommend setting up conditional call forwarding on your phones during business hours, after hours, and holidays. Conditional call forwarding is included as a free feature with 99.9% of all phone providers, so you’ll need to contact your provider (like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast) to get it activated and configured. With this feature activated, if you are too busy to answer, your phone can be configured so instead of routing to voicemail, it will roll over to your answering service. During after hours, weekends and holidays you can roll them directly over to the answering service instead of having the phone ring at all on your side. While voicemail is perfect for when you’re screening calls from your in-laws, it’s not great for capturing leads.
If your answering service is just passing messages to your office, see if they can do more – as most answering services often can do significantly more than just answering calls. Most services also double as virtual assistants. Virtual assistants can answer questions, dispatch calls, schedule appointments, and do basically everything else a normal receptionist can do. For example, an answering service agent should be able to schedule showings. If you want your answering service to schedule showings, most can pop out to your web based software to schedule, or they can often schedule on popular calendars like Google Calendar.
If your real estate company also manages rental properties, you may be receiving calls from tenants that have maintenance issues. With a virtual assistant, you can have them field and dispatch urgent calls any day or time. Many services can text, email, fax, page, and/or dial out to the assigned on-call technician to relay the appropriate message. If your tenants are looking to pay rent, virtual assistants can also usually take payments over the phone, or assist callers in paying via an online portal. Essentially, the less you have to do yourself, the better.
Pro tip: Usually the more an answering service does, the more they will charge. If you are paying your answering service by the call, there will most certainly be extra charges for things like accessing your website to schedule, accessing FAQs, etc. For services that charge by the minute, there usually won’t be extra charges as the cost of the call is a function of the length of the call – and if the agent is doing more than taking a message, the call will cost you more.
If you manage more than one property or have more than one listing, you should set up different numbers with your service to help keep calls moving quickly and to help you understand which channels are generating your call traffic. See if your answering service can provide multiple local or toll free numbers. Assigning one number to each property will give your callers a streamlined experience so that they can be efficiently managed. Or, you can have one number for property management and another for your real estate services. Having one number for all properties to call with issues can result in errors and confusion. This could lead to longer than normal calls and frustrated callers.
Even if you don’t manage properties and strictly sell them, having multiple numbers is great for lead tracking. For example, all of the houses you’re selling in one area can be directed to one number, whereas the houses you’re selling across town can be directed to another. Or, if you happen to sell both commercial and residential real estate, you can have two different numbers for both. This way, you can understand which phone calls are coming from which properties to give you stronger customer service insight.
Just like you would want your receptionist to answer questions about your business when asked, you should expect the same from your answering service. It’s best to provide them with as much information as possible. For people asking simple questions like: “what are your business hours?” or “what are your fees?”, you can save a lot of time by having the agents answer those questions for you. The more information the agents are equipped with, the better they’ll be able to handle your calls. This also means less messages they’ll have to take, and less time you’ll have to spend returning calls.
Pro tip: Update your FAQs frequently to keep up with the properties you have available. For example: “Is the house on Peach street still available?” “It sure is, would you like me to schedule a showing?”
Continuity is a great thing. When someone calls your office and speaks to your receptionist, you want them to have the same call experience when they get your answering service. We suggest customizing your scripting, or your call handling, to reflect your business as much as possible. For example, you can have a call option for people looking to put their property on the market, a call option for people looking to buy, a call option to schedule a showing, etc. You should also see if you can set up screening questions to see if the caller is a new or existing client. Then, you can have new clients transferred to you so that you can capture the lead ASAP, whereas existing clients would just leave their information with an agent for a call back. See what works best for your business and run with it!