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RISMEDIA, September 28, 2009—Numerous times during the past several years, this column’s main topic has been communication. We have more ways to communicate than ever before with technology providing a seemingly endless variety of devices, networks and styles (Facebook vs. Twitter vs. LinkedIn, etc.). But is communication actually improving? Are these new innovations a benefit or a hindrance? 

These questions were posed to several brokers, agents and Realtor Association staff involved with dispute resolution. The response to the first question was a resounding, “No.” 

The issue is not whether or not the technology works—it does. The problem is with effective implementation and usage. When agents are meeting with customers, the first questions typically concern the type of home, area, schools, financing, etc. Then telephone numbers and maybe cell phone numbers are exchanged and everyone goes on their way. 

Here, in my opinion, is where the first breakdown in communication has occurred. That first meeting with a customer or client should include these questions: 

“How shall I contact you?”
“Do you prefer cell phone or office or home?”
“At what time may I call you at these numbers?”
“What is your e-mail address?”
“Do you use any network, i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, Namyez to communicate?”
“Would you like to communicate via any of these networks?” 

These questions should be followed by giving the customer/client a list of your contact numbers, e-mails and social media you use. Agents also need to include the best time to contact them at the various numbers, and how quickly they will receive a response to messages left by telephone, e-mail or social media. 

Many of you are probably thinking this is a basic part of everyone’s discussions with new customers. It is not. I have personally received calls from consumers asking me to call an agent and tell them to stop calling them at the office. Another favorite is requests to have their agent call them. Discuss with customers your policy or system for returning phone calls. Are they returned right away or do you return all calls at a certain time of day? How frequently do you check e-mail or other social media? When can a response be expected? 

Statistics from Realtor.com indicate that the average consumer expects a response to e-mail within 20 minutes. The average response time based on these reports was more than a day. By that time, the prospective customer is on to someone else or feels that their agent is not being responsive. 

A word about e-mails and postings on your social media of choice: when writing any e-mail, blog or posting to a network, ask yourself, “Would this be okay for my Minister, Priest, husband/wife or son/daughter to read?” If not, rethink what you’ve written. Also, remember things written and distributed take on a life of their own. They are never really deleted from a computer or network. This includes texting. Remember the Detroit Mayor. 

Walt Baczkowski is president of the Metropolitan Consolidated Association of REALTORS®. 

To contact him, please e-mail walt@mcaronline.com

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