If your lead response time is above 5 minutes, it not only creates a bad experience for them, it means the sale has gone to your competition.

Lead Response Time and The Need for Speed

Are Slow Agent Lead Response Times Hurting Your Bottom Line?

What do customers want? Attention! When do they want it? Now!

Ever gone to a restaurant, decided what to eat, but no one came to take your order?  Maybe you had to flag a waiter down, or worse, you simply gave up and walked out? Not a good feeling.  Now apply that experience to slow agent lead response time during the home-buying process.  You go online and find a property that matches your needs, but there’s no easy way to get more information. You’re told to fill out a form and in 1 to 3 business days someone will get back to you. Or, you’re told to call a number but it’s nine o’clock at night and your best bet is to leave a message on a machine.  Reversing the roles in this last scenario, inattentive service won’t just lead to bad customer reviews for brokerages, it translates to lost opportunities because those customers will simply find another brokerage who responds quickly.

Let’s break down the real estate sales process into the winners and losers:

High Lead Response Time

Slow responses mean lost sales. Unless you “stop the search” and respond to an inquiry promptly, your competition will.  An audit of over 2000 companies revealed that if companies did not respond to leads in under five minutes, then their chances of converting that lead decreased by 400%.  Do things improve if your prospect is asked to leave a voicemail? Not quite.  A Marchex study revealed 31% of calls to real estate companies and agents are abandoned if the caller is directed to a voicemail or the call takes too long to answer.

Contact Us Forms

The brutal truth is that the modern shopper assumes the information they submit via a “contact us” form will disappear into a black hole.  As your customers’ buyer journey gets more sophisticated, what is old is new again when it comes to building relationships with customers.  Be there for your customer in real-time, don’t make them wait. Referring back to our restaurant scenario, diners expect their server to arrive at the right time to ask what they want to order. Apply the same expectation to the home-buying process but multiply the need for attentive service by 1000 in a hot market with limited inventory, or where the sales cycle for a rental can be a matter of days.

In a recent survey of 74 of the top US real estate brokerages

  • 91% only provide online forms for customer communication
  • 41% never responded to their online inquiries and only
  • 50% respond within a three-day time frame

Real-time, Personalized Communication

Successful business people know that the best time to engage a customer is when they are actively searching for a product or service.  In our digital world, that means responding to customers …in their moment of need. So, not surprisingly, real estate agents are more apt to develop a sales relationship with a customer through real-time, personalized conversation based on their product preferences.

And, when searching for a new home, 99% of millennials turned to the internet. This is a generation that’s grown up with the internet, it’s only natural they begin there when shopping for a product—even when that product is a home—and they expect the shopping experience to deliver the instant gratification of their other eCommerce experiences, think Amazon.

In fact, studies show that 9 out of 10 people expect to use messaging tools, such as chat bots or texting, to communicate with a business.  Furthermore, 95% of buyers said when they contacted an agent, they already knew pricing information about their properties of interest, and were ready to take the next step. In other words, they want to engage not with a form, not with a voicemail, AI-enabled chat but with an available agent knowledgeable about the property. But to simply respond quickly is not enough.  If your customer has done their homework and is armed with information about the property they want, they will become annoyed if they have to immediately answer a series of questions to profile them.  Tools that not only route new leads quickly to available agents must also provide qualifying, publicly-available profile data about them at the same time, to give agents the competitive edge.  Let that sink in. What would your bottom line look like with that type of increase?

Are slow response causing you to lose out opportunities?

In a related blog post, we dive into the true cost of lead generation and qualification, and the basics of calculating ROI on your advertising and marketing investments.  As reported by Inman, real estate brokers and agents spent nearly $8 billion on online advertising in 2016 to drive traffic to their brokerage site or leads from 3rd party sites.  Currently, many leads are routed to a third party call center (ISA), which can take days to qualify, and by that time, that potential customer has moved on.   So, because the delay prevents agents from capitalizing on a higher volume of leads, the additional cost for a 3rd party to qualify them further drags down your overall ROI.

The world isn’t at a point where most homebuyers buy a home online without seeing it first, but we are at a point where most homebuyers start their home-buying search there.  So if you aren’t leveraging the best lead capture and qualification tools available, your competition will become the real winners.

Winners and Losers by the Numbers

  • Lead conversions decrease by 400% if inquiries aren’t responded to in 5 minutes
  • Sales conversions are 391% higher when inquiries are responded to in the first minute
  • 78% of customers buy from the company that responds first
  • Agents who respond to online leads within 1 hour outperform peers by 64%