Business 101: How much money do you lose not answering the phone?

Managing Real Estate Broker with Full Circle Property Management

Its more and more common these days with all the electronic gadgets that companies and small business people have, like Realtors, that they now rely on technology instead of people to answer their telephones. Why? Ask them and they will tell you that it works better, they can be found 24/7, it is a great lead capturing technique, etc. But the real reason: They don't want to spend the money hiring someone!

But do you really save money or is it cutting off your nose to spite your face? Let me tell you about my friend the roofing company owner. I hired him to do a roof on a bank owned property because his prices are good, and he does good work. So I called on Monday to get an update on the job. I got an answering machine, with the standard press 1, press 2, etc. on it. So none of the choices I wanted were listed so I held, and then it clicked, beeped, more silence, then ringing again while the machine must have tried to find him. About a minute later (seems long when you are on hold) another voicemail came on and I left a message. On Wednesday they called me back, saying they were sorry but they found my message on their machine. Wednesday.

So here is the Business 101 question: Had I been a customer seeking a new roof, would I have left a message or just went to the next company I found on the internet or phone book? In the off chance that I would leave a message, would I have still needed a roof estimate 2 days later or would I have found a roofer? So is the $10 an hour they pay the receptionist that they saved better than the new roof they may have installed? 

Bottom line: How much money does it cost you to not have your telephone answered, no matter what your business is, if you are selling something or providing a service. If you have a listing, do you think they will leave a message or call the next person on the list? If you have a vacant rental ti fill will they leave a message or if you call back 2 days later will they say they found something?


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Allison Stewart
St.Cloud Homes - Saint Cloud, FL
St. Cloud Fl Realtor, Osceola County Real Estate 407-616-9904


I understand your frustration. Untold amounts of business are lost on a daily basis.  In every trade, profession, and certainly Real Estate is no exception to that rule. Customer service has given way to laziness, ineneptitude, and genral malais in the workplace.   The good news is- for those people who really put in 100% effort, they will get the business the others are missing!  It works for us all the time.  


Dec 16, 2011 10:47 PM #1
Phil Leng
Retired - Kirkland, WA
Phil Leng - Retired

Hi Dennis,

I have to admit, I have caved in to technology.

When my phone was preventing me from getting work done, I sent my number to our phone system. During office hours it is answered live. After hours you get the annoying "press 1" etc.


Dec 16, 2011 10:49 PM #2
Dennis Swartz
Full Circle Property Management - Columbus, OH
MBA, GRI...experience counts!

Phil-any idea how many people just hang up? I understand after hours but many companies use that during regular hours.

Dec 17, 2011 12:30 AM #3
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD


Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!

Your friends in Maryland, Roy and Dolores Kelley

Longwood Gardens IMG_2200

Photographs by Roy Kelley.  Canon PowerShot G11 camera.
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs


Dec 25, 2011 04:40 AM #4
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome
I am one who answers my phone. Many times the caller is surprised and thought they would get a machine. Many good clients have started with that call.
Dec 25, 2011 06:02 AM #5
Patricia Kennedy
Redfin - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hey Dennis! 

I included this post in Last Week's Favorites.  Have a Merry Christmas!

Dec 25, 2011 12:42 PM #6
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

I managed my families business for twenty years without automated answering. I refused many pleas from the staff to use a machine. My answer was always " not just No, but Hell No".

Dec 25, 2011 12:54 PM #7
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

I agree with you.  A year and half ago I tried this.  I forwarded my phone to a virtual assistant and figured out the extra cost for her to answer the calls/cost of the phone and how much biz I needed to get to break even.  Within a week, I had more appts and it more than paid for itself, so I knew it was the right decision.

I think the issue for many is going from 0 to 40 hrs...and the truth is, there are more creative ways to do this.  Now, she is working w/ me 45 hrs a week.

Dec 25, 2011 10:01 PM #8
Dennis Swartz
Full Circle Property Management - Columbus, OH
MBA, GRI...experience counts!

Tom-its okay for afterhours but not during the business day!

Debbie-Good idea! How much does that cost?

Dec 25, 2011 10:59 PM #9
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

I have to agree but then slightly disagree. Our office has a live person the entire time it is open vs our other offices that gets answered in voice mail. We felt years ago that it was just rude & changed over quickly. I don't know if it helped our business but it just 'feels' better to us. More consumer orientated. But, if I am not in the office, then they have to leave a message. I don't feel that clients need to get a hold of me 24/7. Clients are just too rude. I have people that stay up ALL NIGHT on my website which pages me so there are people figuring they can talk to me at 3am?

I know that whenever I call a contractor it's just a job to get them to call back. All these people 'say' they want the business but then never call to get it.

Dec 26, 2011 03:00 AM #10
Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

The only reason to have a cell phone is to answer it. How many don't in this business way to many. There is absolutely no reason to have a voice message if you are a professional Realtor. I challenge anyone to call me (561) 247-7376 (24/7), you will never get a message that should be the motto.

Dec 26, 2011 10:46 AM #12
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

Thought provoking post, Dennis. All my calls get sent to my cell phone. I turn it off at night, when in meetings, or with clients. But--I ALWAYS return calls the same day (or in the morning if they come in at night.)

Dec 27, 2011 04:03 AM #13
Dennis Swartz
Full Circle Property Management - Columbus, OH
MBA, GRI...experience counts!

Lyn-its incredible how many times I have given business to the second or third contractor cause my first choices won't answer or call me back for days.

Lottie-Thanks and I do the same, but I wonder how many won't leave a message. Almost better to let my secretary answer.


Winston-thought about taking you up on that offer, right around 4 AM! :)

Dec 27, 2011 01:11 PM #14
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Dennis Swartz

MBA, GRI...experience counts!
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