No industry stays the same forever.
The businesses which survive long term are those that can adapt quickly to a changing environment.
Estate agents are no different.
The internet and the ability of buyers and sellers to connect directly online has meant estate agents are competing in a new space – and must be able to adapt to different customer expectations.
This means reviewing services and figuring out how to make them more flexible to fit into a business model that is more agile.
One function that is primed for a change is call answering.
The days when you needed someone at a desk to meet and greet people coming through the door are less common now with buyers and sellers able to do much of their communication online, over email and over the phone.
Today, quite often the first time a buyer goes to an estate agent’s office is to pick up their keys.
Much more of the house buying process is done online today.
Buyers are viewing more properties on websites and either calling an agency to arrange a viewing, or are arranging them directly online.
This means that the call answering function is arguably more important, but not in the form it has in the past.
So how can you retain and improve your call answering without sticking to the rigid model of having a full-time member of staff sitting behind a desk?
One way is to outsource your estate agent’s call answering.
Here’s a few reasons why outsourcing your call handling can make your estate or letting agency more agile.
Save money on call answering
Having a full-time member of staff just to answer the phone isn’t a good use of resources anymore.
It will cost tens of thousands of pounds, and you’ll likely need to hire more than one person to cover holidays or sick days.
With outsourced call handling you’ll only pay for the time you use the service.
This frees up more money to invest in other parts of your business, like extra sales people, more marketing, or in a better website.
More easily scalable than hiring in-house
When you hire a full-time member of staff you’re responsible for paying wages and covering other costs regardless of how busy you are.
It doesn’t matter if they’re answering one or a hundred calls a day.
This means during quieter times of the year you’re not getting the most out of your investment.
Let’s look at a typical scenario of an in-house receptionist.
You have your receptionist behind the desk ready to take calls, and then one comes in.
They answer it, but businesses rarely only get one call at a time.
While your receptionist is on the phone, someone else calls.
But now your receptionist can’t answer the call because they’re already on the phone.
So either the call goes unanswered, or another member of staff has to stop what they’re doing to pick up the call.
Either way – you’re not getting the call answering service you need, except you’re still paying a full-time salary.
Or your receptionist goes to lunch and calls keep coming in while they’re out.
Those calls are now going unanswered – but you’re still paying a salary for call answering.
One option that will solve this is to hire another full-time member of staff – or a few more members of staff to deal with the phones.
But does that make financial sense?
If you’re paying £18,000 a year for one receptionist (the lower end of the pay scale) you could end up paying £36,000 or more, just to have someone available to answer the phone.
By outsourcing your call answering you can easily scale the amount of resource you need based on how busy you are.
This means during those quieter periods you can scale down your call answering and reinvest the money in marketing to build up more new business.
Extend opening hours
Many buyers and sellers aren’t able to deal with housing enquires during regular office hours.
Often they need support in the evening, or at weekends when they have more time and aren’t in work.
Outsourcing your call answering allows you to easily extend your office hours beyond the 9-5 (including opening at the weekend) without the additional staff costs.
Your call answering service can handle incoming calls and help book appointments and viewings for you, even when you’re technically closed for the day.
For example any urgent appointments booked on a Saturday can be forwarded to be dealt with immediately, or that can be added to a calendar to be dealt with on the Monday.
Help your agents get out of the office
When you’re reliant on a constant flow of sales and new business to make money, the last thing you want is staff chained to a desk.
You want them out meeting people and developing new business contacts.
It takes an average 25 viewings to sell a home, according to research by estate agents Strutt & Parker, so you need to have your sellers out of the office arranging these viewings and moving a house towards a sale.
Outsourced call handling lets you do this, without the concern that calls will go unanswered if your staff are out of the office.
Instead you can have messages taken and directed to the right people, or have important calls transferred directly to staff.
Plus, your outsourced call handling acts as a screen between your staff and unsolicited sales calls that take time out of their day.
Add diary management and appointment booking
In an ideal world, you’ll have your sales agents out in the field meeting people and on viewings while new appointments are being made for them and added to their calendar.
That’s exactly what you get with an outsourced call answering service.
As well as taking calls, you can give your virtual receptionist access to your’s and your team’s diaries and have new meetings or appointments added in real-time.
Plus, because your diary is synced through a client portal, it’ll be updated instantly so you don’t have to worry about double booking viewings or appointments.
Adapting your business to meet new challenges
Of course outsourcing call answering isn’t the only thing you’ll need to do to make your estate agency more agile, but it’s a significant step in the right direction.
The fact is the need for a physical receptionist to meet and greet visitors or answer the phone is far less than it has been.
Instead, outsourcing your call handling can free up money and resources that you can invest in other areas of your business and make your agency more prepared to meet any challenges that come up in the future.