- Licensed assistants are often new or up-and-coming agents learning the ropes from top producers.
- Do consumers feel duped if they hire an agent and only work with an assistant?
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“Am I working with you or not?”
That’s what I asked our previous mortgage broker when she finally called us back after missing an important phone call about locking rates.
Her poor assistant took the brunt of our ire, spending 30 minutes excusing why she still wasn’t available. We even hung up and called back. Crickets.
We had the same uncomfortable conversation with an agent who also lost our business. She simply wasn’t available.
Why do agents hand off business?
I’m surprised that so many agents hand off new clients to assistants or junior agents.
In our case, new listing alerts, questions about pre-qualification and inquiries about location preferences all came from someone whose name wasn’t part of the logo.
The assistant was licensed, but that shouldn’t matter.
The assistant wasn’t the top producer our friend recommended we work with. She was also not the person through whom we initiated the relationship.
Why is this so often the case?
“I think we’re trying to divide and conquer,” said Christy Mond with Allison James Estates & Homes in Truckee, California. “In my team of people, we each have our own strengths, like paperwork, or showing people around. I’m really good with getting listings.”
(Disclosure: Ms. Mond is the real estate agent we subsequently hired.)
Mond made it clear that there is a difference between a team of agents who can expertly pick up a need and those who work on their own and use assistants to interface with clients.
Mond added, “I think it comes down to the same thing other professionals deal with — just being really busy.”
Where can clients draw the line?
When it comes to communicating with clients in California, state law says: “A non-licensee may not communicate with the public in a manner which is used, designed or structured for solicitation purposes with respect to a specific property, transaction or product.”
That means they are limited mainly to coordination and support tasks, all essential to keeping an office up to speed.
For agents who use up-and-coming licensees to handle clients — at what point in the transaction could a client justify that they’re not getting the expertise of the agent at the top?
I worry about being misled about the level of market insight I’m receiving. What’s the point of the assistant if every tough question has to be relayed to the top?
If I hire the Jane Adams Success Team, I want to speak with Jane Adams. Every time.
Does that make me an unreasonable client?
Assistants are vital
In this Inman article about the habits of mega-producers, Bernice Ross noted, “… virtually every top agent I have ever interviewed says they experienced a huge uptick in business after hiring their first assistant. Furthermore, almost all of them say they wish they would have hired their first assistant sooner.”
I think satisfaction with assistant interaction varies based on the level of property the players are working with.
Luxury buyers are more likely to exist in their own world of assistants, so they likely expect it.
Additionally, luxury agents know which of their customers needs that one-on-one attention, and make sure they get it.
Communication and delegation as solutions
Delegation is a critical business skill, and few people in any industry are really good at it.
Ross’s column cited a book by Steve Kantor, Billion Dollar Agent – Lessons Learned, which stated one of the reasons agents tend to suffer mediocrity is a lack of listening and communications skills.
This is why I think assistants communicating too often with clients can become a detriment to business: Who is really hearing the client?
If a customer need is too often routed through a cavalcade of assistants, how clear a message is the actual decision maker receiving?
Like in all forms of business, it can be fixed with communication, of course.
If a client is told clearly from the beginning that not every email will come from the top, and the client accepts, business can be completed with utmost satisfaction.
Mond told me she understands how important personal attention can be during an emotional buying process such as ours.
“What I would want is someone who I can call and will pick up. The information is out there, everyone is finding it on their own; what we need to do is be good guides. We can only set ourselves apart by the professional service we give.”
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