Washing your baby while you do the dishes may not be a good example of ways to be efficient, but here’s something that is:  Hook your cell or landline phone into a system that transcribes your voicemails into text.  You’ll get your voicemail as an email that you can read, with audio attached.  It’s kinda like magic.  You can still listen to your voicemail by dialing a number, but you won’t want to.  In fact, you’ll wonder how you lived without this new system for so long.

At the last RE Barcamp DC, I gave a session on how to do just this using several different solutions. I got some of the best thankful hugs after that session I’ve ever received.

There are a few providers that you can use to swap out your standard Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc. voicemail out for.  You almost certainly didn’t realize that you even could swap out your voicemail system, right?  I mean, isn’t voicemail just part of the cell phone?  Wrong – they’re 2 different systems.  When you miss a call, it’s routed from your phone to the voicemail system.   The carriers would love you not to realize you have the power to swap your VM system out for a 3rd party provider that does the job better, but you do, and you should take advantage of that.  And you can do this with many landline phones, too, not just cellphones.

Here are a few solutions for switching to a transcription-based VM system: Google Voice is free, but the transcription quality is poor.  It’s also still in a private beta, so you’ll need a well-connected friend to send you an invitation.  Another option is SpinVox.  However, the solution I like the best is PhoneTag, which is usually $29.95/month.

VAR has been able to work a deal out with PhoneTag for VAR members, for unlimited transcriptions at $25.49/month and you get a 1 month free trial.  You can sign up for the preferred VAR rate here.

I don’t have any relationship with PhoneTag; I’m paying just like everyone else (in fact I have 3 accounts for 3 user’s phones) but I’m sure what I’m about to say is going to sound like an ad, because it really is that amazing:

Voicemail Transcription Will Make You a Better Realtor and Save You One Week in Productivity Every Year.

And I’ll go further out on a limb and say that if you don’t do this, you have nobody to blame but yourself.  You can lead a horse to water…. well, you know the saying.  Something about an ostrich in the sand, too.

Most of the most successful, productive and moneymaking Realtors I know are already doing this.  In fact, they probably won’t be too happy that I’m publicizing this tip, because we all consider it a secret weapon that gives us an advantage over our colleagues in the rest of the industry.

Here’s why it’s so important that you do this, now:

1) Have you ever had to listen to a 2 minute message from a home inspector, listing agent, buyer’s agent, client, etc. with another 25 messages waiting for your attention, only to find out at the end of the VM that it should really be handled by someone else?  If you’ve been active in the business, I’m sure you have.  That doesn’t happen to me anymore.  In fact, I haven’t listened to a voicemail in over 2 years.  I read all my VMs as emails.  And since the audio is attached to the email, I can just forward the email to the party that has to deal with the issue and ask them to read / listen to the VM.  I can scan a 2 minute VM literally in seconds while you’re spending 2 minutes listening to it, frantically trying to jot down that phone number while you’re driving.

2) I can forward my clients the text of messages left for me that pertain to them.  There’s nothing that convinces clients like actually being able to read the actual words spoken by a home inspector, settlement agent, lender, etc.  I spend a lot less of my time relaying information and instead just pass it along from the source.

3) The people who left the messages are impressed when I forward them their own VM as an email.  I know this sounds kind of dumb, and this won’t last forever as it gets more popular, but for now people have a kind of sense of wonderment that you were able to read their VM.  And when you’re competing against other agents in multiple offer situations, you need all the props you can get.  Showing that you’re a technologically sophisticated agent goes a long way.

4) You can even specify specific VMs for specific people.  So if you’re doing a deal with a certain agent named Sally, for example, you can leave a greeting message just for Sally to hear when she calls!  Talk about impressing Sally – when she calls you she hears something like “Sally, thanks for calling, I really want to make sure we get this deal done, so please don’t hesitate to text me or call me until midnight tonight” type of thing.  As far as I know, Frank LLosa of FranklyRealty pioneered this approach.  Sadly, PhoneTag doesn’t offer customized greetings as far as I know, although some of the other providers do (maybe add them in the comments section).

To be perfectly frank, switching to voicemail transcription is something that NAR should be helping all its members do.  There’s just no reason to listen to VMs on your phone anymore.  You can always listen to the attached audio in the transcribed email if you want to get the intonation of the person who left the message.  So NAR, if you’re reading this, having NAR members read their voicemail would be a huge boon to our industry in many ways – we would be seen as more credible, it would cut down on miscommunications between parties, it would make us all more efficient, and it would impress clients.  And to to top it all off, it’s not an incredibly complicated infrastructure project that costs millions of dollars!  It’s just a simple switch that gives agents vast, immediate benefits.

And to you companies out there like SpinVox and PhoneTag – you should be marketing to the real estate industry hard, because we can all really benefit from your products.

Here are some example photos I pulled randomly from the web showing how the voicemail transcription works:

Above is an example of a PhoneTag account, with the VM’s waiting for you in the account.  You can also just read the VMs in your email; you don’t have to log into your web-based account (i rarely do).

Above is an example of a VM that came in as an email.  You can read the transcribed voicemail where it says “Their Message” and see the attached audio where it says “Listen To The Audio”

_______________________________________

This post was written by Daniel R. Odio, broker/owner of DROdio Real Estate, Inc, based in Washington, DC and licensed in VA, DC, MD & NV.  Daniel is on VAR’s Board of Directors and wants to hear from you about what VAR can be doing to make you more productive, efficient, and successful in your job.