Communication Preferences - What's Yours, and Theirs?
The world of communication is filled with different types of people. Some prefer to text, some want to email, others want to call, a few may even prefer or need face-to-face. And then there are some non-responders…the most challenging.
With communication being such a critical aspect of working effectively with buyers and sellers, it’s important to understand what our clients prefer so we can communicate effectively with them, and in a timely manner.
And of course we have our own preferences, which may vary depending on the situation, what we are doing, what needs to be communicated, and when it’s taking place (e.g., mid-day versus 10 pm).
The easiest thing to do is to ask clients what they prefer. Most will tell you, especially if they want a certain form of communication, or don’t. I’ve had clients tell me they do NOT text, and a rare one who does not email – rather important to know, don’t you think? Others prefer a text message or email to a phone call.
The key thing, I think, is to not make assumptions about what buyers and sellers like, especially if you are just getting to know them. To do so could be annoying to them and start you off on the wrong foot. And worse, they might not even receive it, which would look like you are not communicating.
Asking about what the preference is simply a courtesy, and sometimes a more lengthy discussion about communication is warranted. With voice mail, email and texting you could, potentially, do so at any time without disturbing someone, unless they keep their phone on at bedside. But it may make sense to set some expectations about when communication will happen and how will occur, as well as your availability. And asking a client how late, or early, you can call is a good practice.
It’s also essential to let clients know that while they may have certain communication preferences, some information really should be shared in other ways. Sometimes a personal call is essential, versus sending a text or responding to their text.
A follow-up email for a paper trail can always be part of the mix, and is always a good idea.
Non-responders are a different issue, and I have found it more of a problem on our side of the business, and not just agents, than on the client side.
The problem is, that you just don’t know where things stand with a non-responder:
Are they just not responding?
Did technology fail?
Did you accidentally text the wrong number or mistype the email address?
Are they tied up and cannot respond?
Did you use the wrong method, or only 1 way, to try to contact them?
And what about timing? How quickly can one, or should one, expect the other party to respond. Seconds? A few minutes? An hour? The next day?
What’s reasonable may depend on the situation, as well as the person. A time sensitive matter would lead one to expect, or need, a fast response, whether it’s the client, a lender or someone else involved in the transaction. In that event that could be a good time to pull out all the stops and use several methods to get in touch.
I have found some clients are not power users of email and texting, checking them only occasionally…seems to be true of some agents, too! I always remind buyers and sellers that once we are in escrow there will be a significant flow of emails and other communication that must be attended to so they will be checking more often.
I also find it helpful to send a text message, if I know texting is OK, to let them know I have sent them an email they need to review and respond to. A phone call is often appropriate, especially if there is something that is important or time sensitive, or a matter that would benefit from personal discussion such as negotiations.
Bottom line, timely and regular communication is essential throughout our transactions and there are a number of ways to accomplish this effectively, including face to face. What works best will vary by the situation, the people involved and the nature of the communication. What’s key is that we make it happen, and often.
I’ve never had anyone complain that I communicated too much, have you? But I sure wouldn't want a client, another agent, or a vendor to complain that I am not communicating enough!