Updated: Feb 11, 2021
The life of an agent is hectic, and most of us struggle to find enough time to devote proper attention to the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of our client communications. We send over proposals when we can, not when we should; we respond to queries when we’re free, not when we receive them.
But this is a serious problem: while the average customer expects their communications to acknowledged within 60 minutes, but the average reply time is over 12 hours.
The reality is, there is a huge body of evidence suggesting that the timing of our communications often matters even more than the actual content itself. And in this article, we’re going to explore exactly why that is – and what you can do about it.
First response wins
Between 30-50% of all sales go to the vendor that responds first: this is the finding of a series of detailed experiments done by Strategic Management researchers in Toronto and Seoul.
In research following over 1,000 firms’ lead generation efforts, those that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to enter into a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.
Partly, of course, this is simple signalling: those that respond quickest demonstrate diligence, care and a higher level of professionalism. But this doesn’t explain the huge bias towards the very first respondent; after all, no one can seriously think an hour’s delay indicates a radical difference in professionalism.
Instead, to understand why responding quickly is so important we need to look deeper.
The decision making brain
Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has spent nearly half a century researching human decision making, looking at how our brains process information. And his findings can be summed up fair straightforwardly: we are continually looking for ways to make decisions quicker and easier.
Our brains are biological entities with limited resources, and are therefore always looking conserve as much energy as possible. Rather than wasting energy weighing up ever decision we make, they instead look for ‘heuristics’ – rules of thumb that take simple contextual cues and allow us to make generally effective decisions with relatively little effort.
The first response is the easiest to approve. Rather than rationally considering the merits of each offer they receive – which would take a level of effort and attention most simply aren’t interested in exerting - they can simply say ‘yes’, telling themselves your speed of response is indicative of professionalism.
The reality is few landlord’s love the process of finding an agent – it’s a chore for them. And the quicker you respond, the quicker they can accept your proposal and be done with the whole thing.
Perhaps counterintuitively, this also means that responding quickly matters more when a property is particularly lucrative and competitive; the more proposals received, the harder it is to choose between them on rational grounds, and the more cues like speed of response become to draw distinctions.
But a fast response doesn’t only make the decision easier for the landlord: it also catches them when the proposal feels most relevant.
Relevance equals attention
Our brains experience around 11 million discreet bits of information per seconds, yet we only become consciously aware of up to 40 of them – almost all the information we are faced with is essentially screened out of our minds in order to allow us to focus on the most vital stuff.
What we become consciously aware of – what we pay attention to – is decided by its perceived relevance to us. Neuroscientists call this ‘goal-orientation’: at any given moment, humans are headed towards a specific goal – get food, find glasses, eat food – and whatever that goal is will determine what is and is not paid attention.
The famous ‘invisible gorilla’ experiment illustrates this perfectly: a group is shown a video of children passing basketballs of different colours, and told to count how many each colour of ball is passed. Half way through the video, a man in a gorilla costume walks across the frame, beats his chest, then walks off again. But because participants were orientated towards the goal of counting the passes, roughly 50% of them failed to notice the gorilla – and were shocked when they were told about him!
The takeaway is clear: capturing attention is not just about the content of the message – it is about the relevance of the message to our current goals. If you are extremely hungry, every mention of food, cutlery, cooking will demand your attention, while even the most persuasive message about working out will likely pass you by.
Conclusion | Sending the right message at the right moment
An immediate response – within minutes of an appointment, or moments after a query – catches the customer while they are still ‘orientated’ towards property. Even five minutes later, they will likely have moved on to another goal, and their interest – and therefore attention – will likely have waned.
That’s why, for example, interactive proposals are so much more effective than offer letters: they allow clients the instant gratification of accepting an offer when they want, not when your office happens to be open.
And there are plenty of other instances where timing and relevance can improve your agency’s impact, such as:
Sending competitors’ clients a ReContact email at the exact moments they are likely to be putting the property on market again
Giving existing customers relevant messages on special occasions – anniversaries, birthdays and the like
Replying to queries immediately – not even necessarily with a detailed response, but simply an acknowledgement that the message has been received and will be responded to soon enough
By improving the speed and relevance of your communications, you can double your conversions. So if you’re interesting in making that happen, book your free demo of Active Agent today.