Voice Mail "Triage" - Do you simply return calls in the order in which they were received?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Austin Texas Homes, LLC 453249

I am the owner and broker for a relatively small company in west Austin (we have 14 agents currently). I also handle my own sales, most of which come from referrals, past clients, and friends at this point, since I have been in business for just over 11 years.  Additionally, I do a lot of networking, both locally and now nationally, through my involvement with ActiveRain.

As such, there are days when I get a LOT of phone calls.  Today was a good example.  I had some friend calls, along with calls about two separate items that are currently being repaired (our TV and one of our notebook computers).  Turns out the TV cannot be repaired at all, but the notebook is an easy fix.  I managed to spill a soft drink on it TWICE. 

At any rate, when I get a lot of voice mails all at once, I typically write them down along with the pertinent info for each call.  Then comes the fun part - voice mail triage.  If you are not familiar with this term, it's because I just made it up today.  I then Googled it, and apparently this was not a completely original thought.  Oh well...

 

If you are not already familiar with the concept of triage, it is a medical term that they use in emergency rooms to describe the process of determining who to see first.  If you have a detached limb, you will likely be seen very quickly.  If you have a respiratory infection, prepare to wait at least 12 hours to see a doctor.  If your last name is Crouch, prepare to sleep on a cot. 

 

So, in order to best handle voice mails, I have my own version of triage to determine whom to call back first

 

Here's how things typically go:

First message.  "Hi, Jason, this is Audrey with Advanced Dental.  I was calling to re-schedule your appointment."  Yuck.  Skip. 

Let's see what else we have here.

Second message.  "Hey, Jason, this is Steve.  Gimme a call, man."  That one can wait for the moment, too, I suppose.  Skip.

Third message.  "Hi, Jason, this is Donna.  I have a closing that is supposed to happen...well, right now.  The buyers are threatening not to close - call me PLEASE."  I guess that one sounds important.  Better write it down.

Fourth message.  "Jason, this is James.  I have some questions on a contract I am writing for some clients.  Call me when you have a second."  Also sounds important.

Fifth message. "Mr. Crouch, this is Joe at Centex TV Repair.  We ordered the part and installed it, but it turns out that the LCD screen is out, too.  We can't repair your television.  It would be cheaper to buy a new one.  Please call me."  Well, dang.  So much for going with a "quality" brand.  That lasted about two years - they really don't make them like they used to.

Sixth message.  "Jason - How are you today?  This is Karen.  Could you please re-fax a copy of your license to the apartment place?  They are giving me a lot of grief over sending a $300 check.  Sorry to bother you.  Thanks for your help.  The number is 343-XXXX."  I need to take care of that for her.

I could go on like this, but I think you get the point.  It may sound like I never answer my phone, but I do.  However, if I am at home, and my cell phone happens to be downstairs in the kitchen, I don't feel like breaking my neck on the stairs (or straining my MCL by falling, which I did about two years ago), so I will let it go to my voice mail.  Otherwise, I am generally pretty responsive. 

So, with regard to these particular calls, even though James clearly needs some a little bit of help with writing a contract, it doesn't sound like he is in imminent danger of losing money, so I will call Donna first (neither of these are their real names, by the way).  After a few minutes on the phone, I think we have a good solution in place, and I didn't even have to call and serve as a mediator with anyone else this time, or ease a skittish  seller's nerves, or explain to a buyer's agent why his client will not be seeing his earnest money should they decide to cancel 20 minutes before the closing, or break someone's legs.  Whew! 

James' question is very easy and takes about 45 seconds.  So, that clears the most pressing stuff.  I re-assure Karen that I will re-fax the license within five minutes, although it turns out that I don't get it done for a few hours.  More phone calls just happen to arrive in the interim.

The point here that I am clumsily trying to make is twofold:

 

  • Make the hardest and least desirable phone calls first.  As Zig Ziglar famously stated, "If you have to swallow a toad, you don't want to have to look at him on your desk all day.  Get it over with early."
  • Have a mental system in place for sorting calls.  Personally, I can make several quick business phone calls in the car on the way to the grocery store, but I may wait until I have a larger block of free time to call my friends.

Thanks for reading!

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If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at www.austintexashomes.com.  Thanks!

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Rainmaker
565,685
Mike Saunders
Lanier Partners - Athens, GA

Jaon, Good post.

I have been doing forms of voice-mail triage since, well, let's just say a long time. (I was an early adopter, it was great to have but then started sucking when everybody else got it).

I don't quite prioritize like you. I handle emergencies/urgents first, then the low hanging fruit (things that I can resolve quickly). Then the difficult stuff, things that will take time, and maybe some research before the call ( and even then I often hope that I will get a voice-mail so I can say "Norm, got your call. I am working on it, call me at......").

Ok, sometimes the hardest calls can be low-hanging fruit too.

May 01, 2008 10:46 AM #23
Rainmaker
212,573
Jennifer Monroe
Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Real Estate REALTOR®/Broker in Beautiful Charlotte

Nope. I have an iPhone, so I listen in the order that I prefer. Obviously, you didn't hear this message:

"Hi Loveseat! I can't believe we keep missing each other. I've been dying to tell you that I'm going to have a baby! We're considering naming it after YOU! (chuckles in the backround). Let's talk soon so I can tell you all about it! I know you miss me as much as I miss you!"

NOT a grocery store conversation!! ;-)

MWA! 

May 01, 2008 04:14 PM #24
Ambassador
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Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)
JENNIFER - Yes, I missed that one.  Is there ANY truth to that?  If you name it after me, you must use my middle or last name - that is my sole stipulation.  Too easy to use my first name.
May 01, 2008 05:13 PM #25
Rainer
48,039
Jolynne Photography, Creative Wedding Photography, Family Portraits, Bar Mitzvahs
Jolynne Photography - Hemet, CA
Bat Mitzvahs, Senior Pictures, Event Photography

Yeah...I can't WAIT to have my new full-time admin. We'll start interviewing soon.

Other than waiting for the winners of the movie songs contest, it's about all I think about. :P

May 01, 2008 06:05 PM #26
Rainmaker
212,573
Jennifer Monroe
Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Real Estate REALTOR®/Broker in Beautiful Charlotte

Loveseat... If I use your last name, won't your wife be a tad bit suspicious? And what would all these nice people out in ActiveRain land think?


May 02, 2008 01:46 AM #27
Rainmaker
151,731
Carol Lee
Dilbeck Real Estate - Oak Park, CA
Realtor - Agoura, Oak Park, Westlake CA Homes
Triage is a great way to look at call prioritization.  (I was an RN in a previous life).  Sometimes I will just answer the quickie calls first- get em out of the way, and that way I can look at a list with things crossed off it.
May 02, 2008 03:52 AM #28
Rainmaker
157,322
Sandra Cummings
William Raveis Real Estate - Guilford, CT
Real Estate Agent, Guilford Connecticut
My Jen....You can not have a baby walking around being called "Loveseat" .... Jason is one thing, but "Loveseat"? Stop listening to Jason.
May 02, 2008 04:36 AM #29
Ambassador
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Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)
Jennifer - If you are really having a baby, then I am super-happy for you.  If not, name it Loveseat.
May 02, 2008 04:38 AM #30
Rainmaker
212,573
Jennifer Monroe
Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Real Estate REALTOR®/Broker in Beautiful Charlotte

Even if it's a girl? Poor little Love Child...Poor Sardi Child

 

May 02, 2008 04:55 AM #31
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Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life
Yup, the kid has my looks:-)
May 02, 2008 08:12 AM #32
Ambassador
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Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)
Um..on second thought...name it whatever you want to.  Yikes!  So, any truth to this, or just having fun?
May 02, 2008 08:16 AM #33
Rainmaker
217,380
No Longer Active
Real Estate - Fallon, MT
All this planning is making me fat.... Which is coming first?
May 02, 2008 08:29 AM #34
Rainmaker
212,573
Jennifer Monroe
Savvy + Company Real Estate - Charlotte, NC
Real Estate REALTOR®/Broker in Beautiful Charlotte

OMG Dano! That's my actual gym (!!) and I LOVE St. Cupcake! Their red velvet is the best ever!! They have these little 'dots' that are weee little cupcakes and that's all I ever eat because I don't wanna get fat either! (Except with the ugly love child ;-))

I would answer, but that's a loaded question! 

 

** the word is MAYPOP! Hilarious!!!! ** 

May 02, 2008 08:40 AM #35
Rainmaker
157,322
Sandra Cummings
William Raveis Real Estate - Guilford, CT
Real Estate Agent, Guilford Connecticut
The baby does look just like Jason....on second thought maybe the name "Loveseat" fits
May 02, 2008 08:40 AM #36
Rainmaker
217,380
No Longer Active
Real Estate - Fallon, MT
From my perspective that ear is a little low.....  I'd guess Lenza was the one laying on that loveseat...
May 02, 2008 11:00 AM #37
Rainer
44,887
James Jeter
Cardinal Financial Company, Limited Partnership - Carrollton, TX
James Jeter
Or you can hit delete!  Not really!  Great tips Jason!  (that is your real name isn't it?)
May 02, 2008 12:03 PM #38
Rainmaker
643,395
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro
Jason, it sounds like you have a good handle on the phone calls.  There are those days where they can get a little crazy.  I have a lot from my family sprinkled in also.  There are very few days that go by that I don't talk to my parents and sister.   
May 02, 2008 03:43 PM #39
Rainmaker
558,115
Jeremy Blanton
Myrtle Beach Homes Blog - Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach REALTOR®- myrtlebeachhomesblog.com
Good to see you use writing also...As for the president thing...seems nobody else agrees with my nominations...oh well.
May 02, 2008 04:25 PM #40
Rainmaker
137,633
Scott Cowan
RE/MAX Professionals - Olympia, WA

Jason- Excellent way of handling the voice mails that begin to stack up. I tend to respond 1st in first out but I think your idea is a better way of handling the important tasks.

Best,

Scott 

May 03, 2008 05:08 AM #41
Rainer
137,332
Hope Goss
Ventura Property Shoppe - Ventura, CA
Ventura Real Estate
I do this all the time - voicemail triage.  Now I have a name for it, thanks!
May 06, 2008 03:51 PM #42
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