How to automate holiday communication so your team can relax [Management Series]

Uninterrupted, quality down time for staff, is a crucial factor in maintaining productivity in your real estate office.

Exhausted staff can lose focus, become ill, make mistakes and suffer from challenges to their mental health.

In this Management Series article, we provide four simple and cost-effective tips for automating office communication over the holiday period, so your team can get the rest they need, without losing leads!

Professionals in all fields work hard, but for real estate agents, often the term ‘after hours’ doesn’t really apply, as you must be at the beck and call of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants, at all hours of the day and night.

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, takes its toll. And for many of us, as the end of the year approaches, we can find ourselves feeling run down, overwhelmed, emotional or just so unfocused, we can’t do our jobs as well as we normally do.

Taking a break at least once a year is not just a good way to unwind, it’s a necessary way to reset. To close your eyes and stop seeing property data, switch off your hearing to the sound of incessant phone calls, and just breathe.

But how can you ignore the office? Your income depends largely on sales, and sales don’t happen if leads are missed or enquiries ignored!

Automated communication and marketing has come a long way over the last decade,  and now, with just a little time spent assessing your service patterns and processes, then setting up, you can minimise the work you need to do over Christmas and finally get that break you need!

1. Planning automation

In order to effectively automate communication, or any process really, first you need to know exactly what it is you do each day, the steps involved, what takes the most time, and of course, what can be automated — even temporarily.

To get started, collaborate with your team, ideally in groups of specialisation, to list and detail all manual communication undertaken regularly with clients, (this might be phone, face-to-face, text, email or other forms of communication).

Work through the list and determine which communications may not need to be delivered manually or in person. Look for communication that is repetitive and doesn’t vary much, or for which simple, consistent ‘if/then’ statements can apply to create a predictable flow of dialogue. For example, if the enquiry is about this property, then provide this information.

Now you have a list of communication tasks that can be automated, your next step is to set up your communication using cost-effective platforms and some simple scheduling or triggers.

2. Automating email communication

These days, automating email communication doesn’t just mean setting your out of office to let people know when you are away and when you will be back. With smarter technology, to a degree, it allows you to keep up communication and marketing as though you are still sitting at your desk.

A vast number of platforms exist that enable automated email messaging. At the more cost-effective end of the scale, Mailchimp is free for contact lists under a specified size (check their site for updated details).

Some applications for which you might use automated email include:

  • Upload an excel sheet of sales with settlements that will occur during your break, including contact details and settlement dates. Create one email that congratulates the buyer or seller or provides further instruction or marketing, personalise it with merge fields, and set it to send individually, according to the settlement date. Make it even easier by creating a sign up form, and you can quickly add new entries into the database from anywhere, and Mailchimp will take care of the rest!
  • Create a new list, with a sign up form, for a particular property. When a potential buyer sends an enquiry, they will receive a response that answers all the most common questions related to the property, helping the buyer start their research without interrupting your holiday.
  • Set up reminder messages or follow ups for potential buyers who are on your list and have viewed the listing page but haven’t enquired. This allows you to nurture leads and push them along that sales funnel… without even being in the office or on the phone!

3. Automating and sending bulk texts

Many agents use texts to communicate with clients, buyers or browsers with whom they have a familiar relationship. Texts might be used to highlight a new property, remind of an upcoming open, thank buyers for attending or follow up an enquiry.

Like email, texts can both be automated and sent in bulk using a variety of different platforms, many with text costs of only around a few cents, based on the number of messages being sent.

Depending on the abilities of your chosen platform, you might:

  • Set up automated responses that are triggered when a message is received containing a specified keyword.
  • Create reminders for events, like open houses (for sale or rent), segment your list to those relevant and set it to send a certain number of days prior to the open date.
  • Schedule follow ups that are sent to all open house attendees the following Monday, and automated responses based on keywords in attendee reply messages.

4. Automated online conversations

Emails are great. Texts are brilliant. But what happens when a potential buyer has questions they want answered right now?

Chat bots have become increasingly common on both service-based and e-commerce websites over recent years, with customers and clients able to type their question in and receive immediate support or answers.

While more advanced bots that can better simulate conversation can be quite expensive, affordable options scan the message/question for a keyword and pull an associated response from a database to provide an answer. Responses can also be triggered by the user selecting one of several provided answer options.

In many cases, tools like chat bots can give potential buyers the information they need to continue their research, so they are ready to take the next steps when you return from holidays.

An example of how you might use a chat bot on your site: Add a property address (or several) to the keywords that trigger responses from the chat bot. Once the bot has established the relevant property through qualifying questions to the buyer, use further keywords to determine what information is required, for example, ‘date’ or ‘open house’ to provide the potential buyer with exactly what they need.

For really simple solutions, Facebook Messenger can be added to your website for free.

Don’t forget, your customer relationship management software (CRM) may also have features that enable automation of emails and other communications, so check it out before spending on extra platforms you may not need. And if automation all just seems too difficult, you can always outsource cost-effectively with our partners at ASG.

While it can be difficult to tear yourself away from the office or the list of opens, taking an opportunity to have a break is crucial for managing your own well-being.

And if you’re worried the robots will take over while you are away, rest assured, most of these platforms and communications are accessible and able to be monitored by mobile apps, so you can always keep a close eye on the office, while lazing on the beach in Greece!

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