Real estate industry publications like Market Leader suggest that 44% of online home buyers prefer to work with an agent who’s “most responsive,” rather than one who’s academically qualified or aggressive. And with property prices fluctuating in response to prevailing economic conditions, the ability to identify likely prospects, cement relationships, and close deals requires individuals and organizations in the real estate sector to have access to rapid and reactive communications channels to facilitate that response.
Managing property databases, client lists, and agent rosters introduces another element into the communications mix, and the need for a system capable of integrating and coordinating all these demands.
Cloud-based telecommunications solutions such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony and hosted PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems can contribute real benefits to subscribers in the real estate sector.
Presence, Mobility & Call Routing
With real estate agents habitually on the road, they need to have an office in the palms of their hands – and VoIP technology makes this possible.
The “presence” function of VoIP communications puts a panel on the desktop (smartphone or tablet screen, or desktop/laptop computer monitor) of each user on the network, and enables agents to post their own current conditions and monitor the status of their colleagues (“On A Call”, “Available”, “Do Not Disturb”, etc.).
Mobile apps and a centralized control panel in the cloud ensure the distribution of calls to whoever’s most appropriate to handle them – and the Auto-Attendant (virtual receptionist) feature can be configured to route calls based on pre-set rules, reducing the pressure on human receptionists at head or branch offices.
Find & Follow
The “Find Me/Follow Me” feature enables real estate agents to configure their telephony system to route incoming calls to any device they specify, so if a client is unable to reach them on one number, the call can be redirected to the agent’s cell phone (for example) rather than their having to wait to replay a voicemail message.
Calls may even be set to simultaneously ring on several devices at once until an agent picks up – severely reducing the chance of a missed call and missed opportunity.
Hosted PBX services based on VoIP technology can also host virtual phone numbers, which operate independently of a specific cable link or hardware device. With these, agents can assign two or more additional numbers to their phones, assigning each (for example) to a different client base.
Real estate businesses can also choose virtual numbers to establish a presence in certain locations with a local, regional, or international area code, or toll-free numbers for customer access via websites, directories, billboards, and other public channels.
Call Monitoring & Recording
Call recording and monitoring tools can provide transcripts and performance statistics for evaluating and educating agents in more competitive sales environments. From an operational standpoint, call transcripts can also provide clarification and documentation of what was said or agreed upon by whom, in a particular transaction.
Unified Communications & Messaging
The Unified Communications or UC aspect of VoIP telephony involves the integration of different digital data streams (voice calls, office productivity applications, information processing, etc.) on a single platform. So it’s easy to co-ordinate customer databases, property lists, and transaction histories.
Real-time communication becomes possible over a number of channels and media types, such as email, SMS, Instant Messaging, live chat, and video conferencing. Agents can also pull in data from their company’s accounts, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), sales and marketing platforms, without having to terminate a call.
Features like email to fax transcription make conveyancing and the transfer of legal documents an integrated part of the communications process.
Co-ordinating Branch Office Activities
VoIP and hosted PBX systems make it possible to easily co-ordinate operations between multiple branch offices, remote, or international sites. Calls and messages can be transferred seamlessly between locations via the internet, with the caller being unaware of the true location of the agent dealing with their case.
Since communication takes place on a single platform, it’s easy for real estate organizations to create and present a consistent and unified brand image across their entire global presence.
Easy Management Options
Account management and provisioning for cloud-based telecommunications systems like VoIP and hosted PBX typically takes place via a user-friendly software console that may be configured to assign phone lines and telephony features without the need to install hardware.
Systems can be scaled up or down in minutes to accommodate new hires, staff turnovers, and changing market conditions.
Availability & Business Continuity
Call routing, presence functions, and mobile apps ensure that workers in the real estate sector can be reached at any time of day, and in any location. Hosted PBX providers should also have options in place to allow for continued business activity and communications in the event of local network outages that might occur in the event of a severe weather incident, human or natural disaster, or security breach. Typically, this would include the automatic re-routing of calls to designated mobile devices, or the transfer of network services to the provider’s mirror locations.
There’s no need to purchase, install, manage, or maintain an in-house PBX with a hosted solution – a fact that saves significant amounts in capital expenditure, at the outset. Call charges with VoIP telephone systems are significantly lower than their traditional network equivalents, with calls within the organization typically being free, and local rates applying to long-distance and international calls over the internet.
With rapid or real-time response capabilities, a wealth of features, customizable settings, reduced costs, and ease of management, VoIP and hosted PBX services are a winning proposition for organizations in the real estate sector.