Communicating with your customers may be faster and simpler via text message, but there are certain times during the transaction when they need to hear your voice.
Sending a text to a client might have more consequences than you think. Clear communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, and usually, the more detailed you can be in your message, the less chance there is for misunderstanding between you and your customer. So brief texts—which might inadvertently strike the wrong tone during a serious moment in a transaction—can easily lead to disgruntled clients and lost business.
“Texts can be misread and misunderstood because they’re to the point and can be taken out of context,” says Nicole Bunbury Sjowall, broker-owner at Bunbury & Associates, REALTORS®, in Madison, Wis. Although texting may be good for providing quick updates to clients, she adds, it can come off as a cold and detached form of communication.
“We lose the communication and connection to our clients by using a tool that’s easy for us,” says Debbi Jacob, associate broker at Nothnagle, REALTORS®, in Pittsford, N.Y. “Be sensitive to your client’s needs, and respect the fact that they need a personal touch.” When a phrase, abbreviation, or even an emoji can strain your client relationships, it’s critical to know the situations when it’s not appropriate to send a text.
When you’re first establishing a relationship. After an initial consultation with a prospect, a follow-up by text rather than a phone call or in-person meeting can downplay the emotional connection you made. Turning to texting this early in the introductory period shows a lack of individual attention and a disregard for that one-on-one connection.
“If you don’t maintain that good connection—which is with a phone call—you haven’t created a relationship that, in real estate, is more important than one transaction,” Jacob says. “They’ll say, ‘She made me feel like one of 500 because she only texts,’ or, ‘She won’t take my calls, but when I text she answers.’ What does that say? You’re not important enough to take a call.” Because the process of buying or selling can be fraught with emotions, a text could lead to tension before the agent-client relationship has a chance to grow.
When your client’s offer is rejected. Sjowall believes texting is never the appropriate communication tool to break bad news. A rejected offer is “harsh news for clients,” she says, “A further explanation on why it wasn’t accepted helps them move forward while giving you the opportunity to discuss next steps.” Your clients need to hear in your voice that you share their frustration—something a text can’t achieve. Then a conversation is necessary about a possible counteroffer and next steps, Sjowall says.
“Give them the respect of a phone call versus a text because it’s something they felt good enough to make an offer on,” says Anthony Gibson, ABR, owner of Austin Properties Group at Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas.
When your client’s contract is accepted. This is a much happier moment in the transaction—but one that still requires more recognition than a text. Winning a home means the hard work you and your client put in together paid off, and hearing the excitement in your voice is paramount to the customer experience.
Texting during the tense waiting period for a response to your client’s offer can also pose hazards, which Lindsay Katz, a sales associate with Redfin in Los Angeles, learned the hard way. “I was texting a client, and he said, ‘Let me know if you hear anything.’ Then, without seeing his text, I put my phone down since I was with other clients. I later texted him, ‘You got it,’ meaning I’ll tell you as soon as I hear. He wrote, ‘I can’t believe we got it; I’m so excited!’ This was an eye-opener. He thought he got the house, and I had to call to say he didn’t.”
When you need to relay important feedback to your client. “If there are issues like inspection, financials, closing, or title, you need to call the client first,” says Joey Tucker, GRI, associate broker at Coldwell Banker Upchurch Realty in Athens, Ga. “The professional way is to talk by phone to relay everything and make sure they understand the issues.”
Katz adds that during these types of conversations, clients may have questions they would rather not ask in a back-and-forth text exchange. And because tone can be lost in text, making it difficult to get to the heart of what the client wants, speaking by phone or in person strengthens your relationship while ensuring your client’s preferences are recognized.
When you need to save face after a bad text. If you texted something your client misunderstood—or worse, took offense to—pick up the phone and apologize. “Say, ‘I know this text came off the wrong way, and this is what I actually meant,’” Tucker says. “If [it’s a particularly] bad situation, have your broker call or mail a personal note apologizing.”
Gibson says you can also sit down with clients to address and validate their concerns. By listening to them and confirming that you won’t make the same mistake again, you can keep misconstrued words from sinking a sale.