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Chatty Kathy, Beware! The Don’ts of Chat for REALTORS

August 29 2011

In today's virtual world, the concept of a workspace has become – er – relaxed. More people are working at home, in coffee shops, on airplanes. This presents obvious communication challenges. With that in mind, it's easy to understand the soaring popularity of instant messaging (IM) or chat. You'll see it in every industry – real estate included.

Sometimes, chat works. Sometimes, it really REALLY doesn't. Let's focus on that first.

Chat/IM Don'ts

  • Don't completely lose your professional demeanor. Chat is not a traditionally professional tool, although many professionals are using it these days. So, when you're on chat, don't forget that you are a professional.
  • Don't forget it's in writing. This is similar to my first point. Chat histories can, under many circumstances, be printed out. I don't recommend saying anything in a chat that you wouldn't want printed out and circulated around the entire office.
  • Don't lose track of whom you're chatting with. I typically have at least 3 chat windows open. If you're like me and like to juggle multiple chats, don't make the mistake of sending the wrong message to the wrong person. Even if you're not discussing sensitive information – and you shouldn't be (see my point above) – it doesn't feel good for someone to receive a message not meant for them.
  • Don't stop picking up the phone or meeting in person. Real estate is a business that is largely about personal relationships. Those relationships aren't going to get built via chat. In-person and over-the-phone communication are absolutely essential. Keep THOSE lines of communication open.
  • Don't try to IM information that should be sent via email so it can be recalled later. One of the (many) things I love about email is that I can save it and pull it up later for reference. Most people don't save their chats, and thus will probably lose any information sent to them through that channel. If you have important information, send it via email.

Chat Done Right
I love using social media as a sounding board for articles I'm writing. I sent a Tweet out, asking my TwitterTwitter followers to tell me about their experiences with chat. What I got back was a good example of how chat actually can work. Interestingly enough, this is an instance of chat between agent/broker and consumer. This example comes from M Squared RealtyM Squared Realty in Washington, DC.

Dominic Morrocco, Co-Founder and Partner at M Squared Realty, shared their use of Live Chat on their brokerage website. He explains, "Incorporating Live Chat & SkypeLive Chat & Skype connectivity into our website makes communicating with our agents in DC quite simple."

He continues, "Agents can log-in to 'Virtual Floor Time' and make themselves available for chat. Once logged in, the agent has a real-time display of every site visitor and the action they are currently performing on-site. Throughout our website, we have buttons which allow the site visitor the ability to initiate a Live Chat with one of our consultants. If a client is spending a long time on a page, or looks as if they need assistance, the agent can initiate a chat request with the visitor, offering assistance."

Buttons for Live Chat are most visible in the footer of each page (first image below), as well as in the sub header on the Property Detail & Property Photo Gallery pages (second image below).

live help avaiable

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"In today's real estate marketplace, the brokerage website is no longer an extension of your office, it is your office," says Mr. Morrocco. "More people will learn about your company, interact with your agents, and utilize your services via your online presence. Live, web-based chat is floor time for the 21st century."

Another good example of chat being integrated into the workflow of real estate agents is MLS-Office. This is deployed and frequently used in two very large MLS markets, SoCAL MLs and Centris (Montreal MLS).