Here are 10 Tips for Great Electronic Etiquette:
1. Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want your client to read.
We’ve all been there. You’re in the heat of the moment, arguing with your friend or significant other, and you send an angry text message. Months later, they cite your rudeness, and still have the evidence to remind you about it. Or maybe you sent some not so professional comments to a friend or associate via e-mail and accidentally hit “reply all,” or sent your message to someone who wasn’t supposed to read it. Or you made some notes to another agent, about a client, who was accidentally shown that agent’s notes at a later date. The bottom line is, writing isn’t secret, in most cases it isn’t private, if it’s catty or rude it’s not professional, and it’s available for the rest of eternity. Don’t put anything in writing that you would not want repeated, and credited to you. I offer the “24 Hour Rule” – draft everything you write in Word, or similar program (not text, e-mail, or anything where you can easily hit “send”), save a draft, and read it the next day to see if you still mean it.
2. Return calls promptly, and match the method of communication used.
We are all busy, and your clients know that you’re busy, but you have been telling them all this time that you put them first, right? Practice what you preach and show them the proof in the pudding. If a client calls you at 10am and you return their call at 8pm — three days later, chances are you probably have them at the bottom of your priority list. Even if you just call them back to say “You’re important to me, and I’m working on this. I don’t have an answer yet but I just wanted to give you an update,” you’re making it clear to them that they are a priority, and it’s the polite thing to do to not keep them in the dark. Additionally, some people hate texting as they feel it’s impersonal or it’s easy to misread connotation. Some people are very busy and hate phone calls. Snail mail is almost never appropriate because of time constraints, but the bottom line is that if someone texts you, you should text them back. If someone calls you, you should call them back. Match their preferences. If for some reason someone texts you and you feel like the information needs to be returned via phone call, you should shoot them a text saying “is it okay if I call you? I really need to discuss this over the phone.”
3. Avoid bad phone connections, especially when making a sale!
Can you hear me now? How about now? We all remember how funny that old commercial was, because it’s something we’ve all been through. Bad reception happens a lot less these days because of the cell phone towers everywhere, but it still happens. If you’re faced with bad reception, politely end the call, and try again. The last thing you should do is continue making a sales pitch. There’s no way your client would ever say yes to a sales pitch they cannot hear, and if they do, maybe they’re not the type of client you would want anyway. For clarity sake, and for reasons of etiquette, you should always make sure your connection is as clear as possible. This also includes background noise. It’s not okay to make a call if your dog is barking, or there is construction going on across the street. Things happen, but moving your location is totally within your control.
4. Avoid sending lots of spam.
Have you ever unsubscribed from an e-mail list? Blocked someone on Facebook? Chances are you have, and the reason was more than likely because they were sending you too many unwanted messages. The golden rule for social media is two posts a day, and this can vary business to business, but if you’re posting every ten minutes about what you’re eating or what quiz you just took, chances are people will not be around to see the new competitive priced listing you put up this afternoon. And besides separating your business and personal pages, you still need to be aware of spam on your business pages. Don’t post too much, make sure all of your content is worthwhile, choose content over length and frequency always. Use a site like Constant Contact or Convert Kit for your e-mail list management, they have trackers that notate how often someone is opening your post, clicking on your post, and interacting with your messages. And above all, have an easy and clear way for people to unsubscribe. Never follow up with someone to try to convince them to resubscribe, and make sure you follow the legalities of your region, state, and brokerage.
5. Save your eating, drinking, chewing gum time for when you’re off the phone.
As I mentioned before, my great-grandmother always used to say “a lady never chews gum.” Could you imagine how she would feel if she knew that people popped their gum in cars, on buses, in classrooms, and on the telephone? No one wants to hear you eat. There are actually people that are so averse to chewing noises that they have ended relationships over it. Be mindful of the noises you’re making on the phone, and wait until you get off of a call to have a snack. The one exception to this is if you’re on a long conference call, and you have the mute button on!
6. Don’t hang up when you’re angry, ever.
Often, we could call, which is a topic I have a lot of thoughts on in general, anyway (stay tuned for another piece about cold calling), and we may end up speaking to people who do not share our views or beliefs about their property value, method of sale, or life in general. Sometimes we are unable to close the sale. Sometimes we are unable to explain what we are trying to get across to our prospective client. When this happens, it’s frustrating, and it may seem like it doesn’t matter because you’ve already lost the sale, but it absolutely matters. Hanging up will further the idea in the prospective clients mind that you were the wrong choice, and they’ll likely tell a friend about you. That is not the kind of branding you need.
7. Use spellcheck.
You don’t have to be a grammar stickler to be annoyed that a sign is misspelled or someone claiming to be an authority on a particular topic has written a sentence that makes zero grammatical sense. People judge you and form opinions of you based on your appearance, confidence level, and the way you present yourself. When you present yourself in writing, grammar and spelling matters as much as having a shirt without a stain on it. Make sure you use a spell check program, many are free, or at least having a friend or colleague read over something for you if you aren’t sure. Your image is everything and you should always keep it as perfect as possible.
8. Maintain professional social media.
We’ve all seen the horror stories of someone going to apply for a job only to find that her boss found pictures of her topless in Mexico from college. It’s important to remember, just like the written rule, that anything you put in photographs, on social media, or out there for the world to see, will follow you around for life. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want as a headline of the local newspaper. Even if you have a separate real estate page for your business, your clients are curious and they know your first and last name. Highly consider making your profiles secret, open only to friends, and watch the kind of things you post. It may not seem like a big deal, but if a client sees that you were out drinking all night they may question your judgement at a closing the following morning.
9. Be aware of appropriate times to make communication.
As stated before, it’s a phenomenal thing to return a client’s call or text as soon as possible. But if you’re returning their messages on something that makes noise, be wary that not everyone may keep the same hours as you do. Acceptable business hours are 8am to 8pm. If you feel like your client is younger, it’s even acceptable these days to go to 9 or 10pm. I always advise that you ask a client what too late to call is, just to keep in their file for reference. If you’re not sure, it’s better to err on the side of caution. People do not enjoy hearing from you if you are waking them up. Also, remember what you know about a client – if they have infants at home, for example, you should also be wary of that before making a late-night phone call.
10. Use a personal touch, and be wary of the form letter.
Have you ever gotten an e-mail that was beautifully written, except for that it had someone else’s name in the subject line? Chances are, this probably made you doubt the intelligence level of the sender. It may have even made you angry. You should always do everything possible to give your clients the personal touch, and should never use a form letter if at all possible. But, if you have to- make sure you change the names and information to suit their situation. The last thing you want your client to think is that they are not important to you.
Cindy Bishop is the Managing Director and founder of Cindy Bishop Worldwide, LLC; a real estate education, coaching and consulting practice focused on transforming individuals, brokerages and leadership teams to achieve superior strategic business outcomes. Cindy brings extensive business development experience from her corporate and real estate career to guide her clients through educational processes to maximize their potential from start-up, survival, turnaround and growth modes.
Real Estate has changed a great deal in the 30 years that I’ve been licensed. We can use cell phones for everything, we have access to the MLS, and there are printers that can produce professional hand outs in the blink of the eye. I even talk through my computer now! Wow! These modern conveniences are amazing, but if you don’t know how to use them correctly, or the etiquette behind them, you can be perceived as an exceptionally rude real estate agent.
Every generation tends to have a unique rhythm, but we all need to learn how to have consistently good etiquette with each other and the consumer. My great grandmother always used to say “A lady never chews gum” – how would she react today?