I was shocked, not so long ago, by an out of office reply I received upon sending an email to a PropTech founder.
I won’t divulge their name or company, but I was so taken aback by it that I shared the reply on LinkedIn.
I did so not to shame or embarrass, but to ask for people’s opinions on it.
Would they themselves have the audacity to post such a brusque and, to my mind, arrogant message to anybody who might happen to send them an email?
The out of office reply read as follows:
“Hi there, I’m away till the 1st September, during which time I will not be checking my e-mails, and upon returning all unread e-mails in my inbox will be deleted. Please resend your email after 1 September.”
My LinkedIn post gathered 3,000 views very quickly and a lot of people offered their opinion.
It was, to my surprise, a mixed bag of responses with many coming out in support of such a message.
Most, however, agreed that it stepped over the line from forthright to arrogant.
But, as was pointed out to me a couple of times, arrogant or not, the message certainly acted to filter out the quality from the quantity in the founder’s inbox - only those who really needed to email would choose to email a second time.
It could be argued that this was the founder’s intention, filtering the rubbish to make their job more efficient, avoiding the tyre-kickers and the time-wasters, pushing away the people who suck the will to live from deep inside you because they have no idea of what they are really asking you.
This concept of quality over quantity is an interesting one. And while I still believe there are much more eloquent and amenable ways of doing it, there might be something to learn from the founder’s tactic as a whole.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of an estate agent.
One revolution to come from this new age of real estate is 24/7 agency. Even in our sleep, we can still generate leads.
This has, inevitably, led to an intensified and ongoing battle to win valuations because potential clients are now coming in around the clock.
With this 24-hour access now commonplace, the tactic that most agencies have gone on to pursue is that of getting as much stock on the books as possible, trusting that the applicants will, thanks to the internet, find their way through.
While this may sound like a dream scenario for an agent, isn’t it also creating new problems?
There is, for example, no filter anymore. Online agency has democratised the ability to contact an agent at any time of the day, and so the number of people doing so is going through the roof. This new paradigm of quantity does little to guarantee quality.
There are some firms out there which, very commendably, pledge to respond to every incoming lead.
Such is the importance of trying to do so that a number of PropTech companies have sprung up to help firms manage their inbound leads from the likes of Rightmove because agents simply can’t find the time to keep up.
And so I come to you all with a question (rather than try and answer it myself, I think you are much better placed):
Should we just do what the founder did with their curt email? Any lead that comes in after 9pm is automatically deleted and a (more polite) message sent out saying ‘please apply again tomorrow’?
Would this work to filter out all of those people who aren’t at all serious about their intentions?
This tactic could work especially well on Saturdays and Sundays when we know people are in aspiration mode rather than reality mode.
Perhaps a couple of mid-afternoon pints at the local have inspired dreams of selling the old house and getting a new one in the country.
We all have those this time next year, we’ll be millionaires moments in times like this, don’t we?
If we don’t follow a tactic like this, what other methods are there for filtering out of hours leads?
Has anyone tried to measure the quality of these leads? Are they better than those that arrive during office hours?
Furthermore, do we really need PropTech companies to help manage the volume? Maybe.
Especially if some bright spark out there has found a way of using artificial intelligence to work out which leads are reliable and which are from tipsy dreamers (great band name).
There are a number of possible ways of filtering the quality from the quantity, and I want you to tell me your thoughts on the matter.
I’m also interested to know if anyone has measured the value of out of hours leads? Or maybe you’ve reviewed the cost benefit analysis of responding to them all without fail?
If you have something quantifiable to help support the qualitative opinion that out of hours leads are needed, please also share.
I, for one, suspect there is a sliding scale of quality. Between 6pm and 9pm, quality is fantastic. Post-9pm, maybe there’s a slip in standards.
A slip which could well even get me reaching for some kind of ‘leave me alone and call me back in the morning’ message.
But would I be wrong to do so?