With the real estate market in its current state, reducing costs while maintaining productivity is high on broker's lists. One of the ways that they are doing that is to go virtual. It is a decision that makes sense for many. The technology available today makes it possible for brokers to cut costs and still run a productive and lucrative business by getting rid of their office.
One of the major expenses for brokers is the brick and mortar office space. With agents being the mobile professionals that they are the office space is often not utilized enough to justify the overhead. Real estate is a face to face business. If an agent is sitting around the office, then they are not out doing business.
If a broker no longer has a brick and mortar location, the issue of communications will be one of the first things that needs to be addressed. Eliminating the physical location also eliminates the central office number where all of the agents could be reached. As well, voice mails, emails and faxes no longer have a destination where they can be accessible to the agents.
Technological advances, specifically in the telecommunications industry, makes going virtual a reality for brokers. If a broker would like to get rid of their brick and mortar location, they will need to give their agents the tools they need to keep productive while maintaining a unified professional image. This means a professional phone number to give to their clients and prospective clients and access to voicemail and faxes while on the go. And at the same time, a broker needs to be able to keep their finger on the pulse of their business.
The technology that is going to make the virtual office a reality for a broker is a virtual telephone number that uses call capture technology. By using call capture technology the broker is able to accomplish a number of things:
1. Present a unified professional image for the brokerage. A virtual number will give the broker one telephone number where all of their agents can be reached even though they are not in an office. Callers will be able to choose from a number of options presented to them by the automated attendant that has been personalized for the brokerage. They can be forwarded to an agent and/or have access to property listing information.
A call capture system uses call forwarding technology that will track the agent down at their location, and the caller will never know that they have been redirected to another number. As well, the toll free number that comes with the call capture system can receive calls as well as faxes which means agents only have to give out one number for both.
2. Give agents access to voicemail and faxes while on the road. Call capture systems will forward voice mails and faxes to an email address or store them online for later retrieval by the agent. They can also have their voice mails played to them over the phone or even transcribed and sent to an email address.
3. Capture all incoming calls. Call capture virtual telephone systems use toll free numbers. Just one of the advantages of using a toll free number is that they are able to capture the caller ID of all incoming calls. Because the call is being paid for by the broker, they have a right to know who is calling - even if the number is blocked or unlisted. Often times, call capture systems will also include a name and address of the caller.
4. Track advertising efforts of their agents. Using informational extensions on the call capture system agents can create recordings on properties or even offer free reports to prospective clients. The goal of these recordings is to inform the callers while generating leads for the agent. These informational recordings are mirrored into other extensions so that the agents can have the same recording in multiple extensions and advertise the different extension numbers in multiple advertisements.
For example, an agent records information about a property that they are representing on Elm Street in extension 100. That recording is copied into extensions 200, 300, and 400. The agent then advertises that property on the sign rider, in a homes magazine, online and on a flier. When the caller dials into the toll free number and presses the extension found in their ad, they are taken to that specific recording while the agent captures their phone number and what extension they called on. Looking at reports generated by the system, it will be obvious which ad was pulling in the leads and which was not based on how many times an extension was entered.
5. Manage leads coming into the brokerage. Because the broker can maintain administrative control over the call capture system, they are able to see all incoming calls, generate reports, get copied on call notifications and more. As leads come into the system the broker can be notified. They can keep note of the leads coming in, make sure those leads are being followed up on, and/or distribute the leads to agents themselves.
For a broker thinking about going virtual there are a number of things to be considered. At the top of that list will be how to make it possible for their agents to keep up communications with their clients while maintaining a unified professional image for the brokerage and keeping their finger on the pulse of their business. A call capture system will allow them to do all of those things at the smallest fraction of the cost of the office space they were renting.
Brandi Cummings is an expert author on the unique issues facing small and home based businesses, including real estate agents. She recommends checking out RealtyOne800.com a leading provider of real estate call capture systems.