In our business, it is very tough to take a break. We don't need to sit in an office all day, but providing great customer service to our clients means we must be available for them when they need us. I find Realtors are good at taking 2 day trips, but seldom take a week long trip without a ton of stress. I have some advice for Realtors. The
main priority leading up to the trip is to make sure you are extremely organized, and review all of your listings to make sure that you're caught up on all of your files leading up to the day you take off. Below are the additional tips that I offer the Realtors that work for me in my office:
1. Access your email via webmail. If you don't have one already, I recommend that you set up a gmail account. Gmail has a very easy to use interface and it is a dream to use on a limited or spotty internet connection compared to others. It is important to use a company branded email, but it is even more important to be able to quickly access all of your files from multiple devices. Gmail has mastered email.
2. Call the hotel ahead of time to make sure you have a great internet connection. You can go so far as to ask them to go to www.speedtest.net and run a speed test. Test your office connection to compare, but you'll likely be used to 3.0MB download speed or larger, so you'll want at least that on your holiday.
3. Book your hotel room as close to the Wifi Lobby as possible. You'll need to check your email frequently, and the easier it is for you to grab your computer, download your messages, and put your computer back in the room, the better. Take a Belkin Skype Phone or download Skype to your iPhone. When you're at your hotel, you can just stand in the lobby, and use your iPhone to make calls as you normally would via Skype. You can test these services on your home or office wifi.
4. If you don't have one, consider buying an iPhone or Blackberry, or Android, smartphone with at least a 5 or 8 Megapixel camera in it. Not only can you use the camera to take vacation photos, but more importantly, you can take photos of documents, easily convert to pdf and email them, just as if you were using a scanner. I use DocScanner for the iPhone, and it works great. Allows me to send the real estate listing, purchase contract, buyer's waivers, and other files in PDF format.
5. Pack lightly. Coordinate all of your clothes so that every shirt matches with every pair of pants. A friend of mine who sells Residential Real Estate in Calgary, gave me this tip, and he says he brings black underwear, black undershirts, black socks, black belt, and black shoes. He matches everything from there, and says it really lightens his suitcase.
6. Hire a temporary real estate assistant for the time that you are gone. Find someone in the office who agrees to be on call for you 24 / 7. Chances are you'll need their help outside normal office hours and you may need them to make phone calls, send faxes, deliver documents, print out contracts, waivers, amendments, etc and meet clients to sign. You'll be surprised at how little you actually need this person, but how handy they are when they can help when you need them. I usually give the person $100 before I leave, and settle up with them when I'm back if I've used over $100 of their time. You can offer to pay $20 to $60 per hour. Believe me, just knowing that they are there to help is worth the $100. You'll be surprised how little you need them.
7. Make sure you have all of your clients faxing you to your electronic fax (myfax.ca or efax.ca). You have to change your business card, your website, your listing and purchase contracts, etc so that they reflect your new electronic fax number, but it will be well worth it. Another important step is to put your email address on your voicemail. My voice mail says "Hi, you have reached Bob Sheddy. I'm either with a client, or away from the phone. Please leave a
message or email email@example.com and I'll get back to you as soon as I am able. I've found about 25% of people prefer to email me, than leave me a long message. Leaving my address on my voicemail gives people permission to email me, which makes it very smooth to communicate with them when I'm away.
8. Sign up for visual voicemail or google voice "voicemail to text email" conversion. When you are away, you'll be able to easily view and forward any voicemails to your assistant for them to deal with. You can easily forward the message and say "Call him back and say Yes" or "Ask this person if we can meet on Monday". Your assistant back
home can play the voice message on their mobile device or computer, see the phone number the caller called from, understand who's calling and hear the tone of their voice.
9. Either notify your current Mobile Telco provider you are leaving and set up for a travel plan or… Buy an unlocked phone, or unlock your existing phone Research your destination's Prepaid Cell Phones, International Sim Cards, International Calling Plans, Prepaid wireless aircards, etc. In Canada, Bell, Rogers and Telus all now allow you to
unlock blackberry and android phones for $75. Canada has expensive mobile phone minutes, so in comparison, I'm always thrilled at how affordable it is to call back to Canada, and have access to my email and internet on my handheld. Every airport I've been in in the last 5 years has had kiosks that sell Sim cards. You need to research what frequencies your cell phone accepts, and what frequency the phone companies use.
10. Last minute details before you go: Are all of your keys accessible (especially the ones not in a lockbox)? Is someone checking your SMS text messages or are you able to get them at your destination? Do you have a multi-national power converter with a small power bar to power all of your devices at once?
Enjoy your trip knowing that you are well prepared to continue serving your clients while you are away.