Real estate is a people-driven business. To close a sale, face-to-face interactions are necessary. But increasingly, the initial communication between a real estate agent and a potential homebuyer happens online.
Online communication has its benefits—speed, reach, ease of use. However, if something goes wrong, you could lose a customer long before they cross the threshold at your open house.
Luckily, live chat can help real estate agents avoid the pitfalls of digital customer service while simultaneously boosting sales.
Factors of a poor digital customer experience
In the past, the bulk of a real estate agent’s interaction with a customer happened in person. Whether it was a consultation at your agency or a Sunday open house, you built a rapport with homebuyers with a handshake, some charm, and your expertise. But in today’s millennial-driven market, it’s all about what the customer can discover before making contact.
“Property listings, photo galleries, historic sales prices, school ratings and neighborhood crime rates are freely accessible to anyone with just a few clicks,” writes Los Angeles Times’ Carren Joa.
Once homebuyers have finished their research, they start reaching out to agents, and they expect responses just as fast. But several factors prevent agents from meeting their digital expectations.
- They don’t have the tools to respond quickly—they’re relying on email or other antiquated means to interface with customers rather than today’s correct form of customer experience and face to face interactions.
- They don’t have enough time—they don’t have a process in place to handle every inquiry in a timely fashion, or at all.
- They don’t understand common communication mistakes - they leave several messages unanswered.
It’s absolutely crucial that agents respond to every customer as quickly as possible, or they risk losing that buyer to another agent or agency. Your response time can be the difference between closing a sale or losing one.
Benefits of a quick response time
Of course, a quick response time is a key to attracting potential buyers to your business. But digging a little deeper, the benefits are more plentiful.
The Real Estate Trainer, a popular resource for agents, suggests responding to all inquiries within 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, your chances of securing a new client drop significantly. Nearly 78% of prospective homebuyers stick with the agent who answers them first.
If you miss that 5-minute window, you need to invest a significant amount of time in following up. It could take 6-8 separate attempts to make contact with the buyer. Beyond this, you don’t have a shot.
Furthermore, the bulk of today’s homebuyers are millennials, and as digital natives, they expect things to happen quickly. Instant gratification via text messaging and chat apps is their way of life, and they’re looking for the same quick responses from their real estate team. By utilizing and integrating the right tools, such as productivity management tools for real estate agencies and chat-boxes, you can transform your customers’ digital experience with just a few clicks.
Chat boxes and real estate: a case study
A 2015 study from Real Trends, “The Efficacy of Online Live Chat Services for Real Estate,” demonstrated the true power of chat boxes. For real estate agents who want to remain competitive and continue elevating their businesses, this is the way to go.
The study offered a 16-question survey to a group of real estate agencies that had employed third-party chat services to handle their online inquiries. Some of the questions asked respondents to compare how their leads increased after installing a chat service and to assess their conversion rate for those leads.
The response from agents was overwhelmingly positive, with nearly 60% of respondents stating that live chat services were an integral part of their businesses.
Also, for best results, 71% of respondents initiated the chat after clients spent a predetermined amount of time on their websites.
Here is a real estate website, powered by SweepBright (a productivity management tool for real estate agents) with a live chat functionality:
And their business results?
When it comes to generating new leads, chat boxes led to a 36% increase in contacts. Nearly half of those contacts were qualified leads, and roughly 8% of those leads resulted in a transaction. That rate is 3 times higher than other methods of converting customers. It’s clear that live chat services are a must-have.
Looking for a real estate live chat app? Try LiveChat for free!
What to do when tools are already in place
Once you’ve incorporated new communication tools into your digital strategy, use the following tips to provide the best experience possible and give your Live Chat support a personal touch:
- Personalize automation: if you’re setting up automated responses, do your best to make them feel real. Add emojis or relatable language so your customers still feel a connection.
- Clarify expectations: it’s important to answer inquiries quickly, but make sure you understand the customer’s expectations before you do so.
- Be appreciative: politeness goes a long way; make sure your customer feels appreciated from the start of your interaction by thanking them, using pleasantries like “please”, and being respectful of their time
- Be friendly: ask for your customer’s name so you can add a touch of familiarity to the conversation
- Be clear: proofread your messages so you can avoid any confusion in your responses
- Take action: never end the conversation without understanding next steps, whether that’s setting up a meeting at your agency or meeting at a property
Adapting to change
As the real estate industry shifts and changes along with today’s technology, it’s important for agents to adapt. A large percentage of today’s homebuyers are millennials - they’ve grown up during a period of unprecedented technological advancements.
They process information quickly, and when they’re hiring someone for a service, they expect the same speed. Text messaging and chat apps are the key to reaching millennial homebuyers.
It gives you the ability to meet their expectations, without being a tech expert. The vast majority of your potential buyers will contact you online first. Research indicates that live chat services are the best way to increase lead generation and conversion when they do. It’s important to be ready for that first contact and maximize the opportunity.
Your customers have changed, has your real estate agency?