A client texted: ‘Let me know if you hear anything.’ “I later texted him,
‘You got it,’ meaning I’ll tell you as soon as I hear. He wrote, ‘I can’t believe
we got it; I’m so excited!’ He thought he got the house.”
Sending a text to a client might have more consequences than you think. Clear communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, and usually, the more detailed you can be in your message, the less chance there is for misunderstanding. Brief texts—which might inadvertently strike the wrong tone during a serious moment in a transaction—can easily lead to disgruntled clients and lost business.
“We lose the communication and connection to our clients by using a tool that’s easy for us,” says Debbi Jacob, an associate broker in Pittsford, N.Y. “Be sensitive to your client’s needs, and respect the fact that they need a personal touch.” It’s critical to know the situations when it’s not appropriate to send a text.
When you’re first establishing a relationship. After an initial consultation with a prospect, a follow-up by text rather than a phone call or in-person meeting can downplay the emotional connection you made. Turning to texting this early in the introductory period shows a lack of individual attention and a disregard for that one-on-one connection.
“If you don’t maintain that good connection—which is with a phone call—you haven’t created a relationship that, in real estate, is more important than one transaction,” Jacob says. “They’ll say, ‘She made me feel like one of 500 because she only texts,’ or, ‘She won’t take my calls, but when I text she answers.’ What does that say? You’re not important enough to take a call.” Because the process of buying or selling can be fraught with emotions, a text could lead to tension before the agent-client relationship has a chance to grow.
When your client’s offer is rejected. A rejected offer is “harsh news for clients,” says Nicole Bunbury Sjowall, a broker-owner in Wisconsin. “A further explanation on why it wasn’t accepted helps them move forward while giving you the opportunity to discuss next steps.” Your clients need to hear in your voice that you share their frustration—something a text can’t achieve. Then a conversation is necessary about a possible counteroffer and next steps, Sjowall says.
When your client’s contract is accepted. This is a much happier moment in the transaction—but one that still requires more recognition than a text. Winning a home means the hard work you and your client put in together paid off, and hearing the excitement in your voice is paramount to the customer experience.
Lindsay Katz, a sales associate with Redfin in Los Angeles, learned the texting pitfalls the hard way. “I was texting a client, and he said, ‘Let me know if you hear anything.’ Then, without seeing his text, I put my phone down since I was with other clients. I later texted him, ‘You got it,’ meaning I’ll tell you as soon as I hear. He wrote, ‘I can’t believe we got it; I’m so excited!’ This was an eye-opener. He thought he got the house, and I had to call to say he didn’t.”
When you need to relay important feedback to your client. “If there are issues like inspection, financials, closing, or title, you need to call the client first,” says Joey Tucker, an associate broker in Athens, Ga.
Katz adds that during these types of conversations, clients may have questions they would rather not ask in a back-and-forth text exchange. And because tone can be lost in texts, making it difficult to get to the heart of what the client wants, speaking by phone or in person strengthens your relationship while ensuring your client’s preferences are recognized.
When you need to save face after a bad text. If you texted something your client misunderstood—or worse, took offense to—pick up the phone and apologize. “Say, ‘I know this text came off the wrong way, and this is what I actually meant,’” Tucker says. “If [it’s a particularly] bad situation, have your broker call or mail a personal note apologizing.”
By listening to clients and confirming that you won’t make the same mistake again, you can keep misconstrued words from sinking a sale.