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2008-03-31 16:14:00

Unified Messaging: How to Turbo-Charge the Daily 'Blah, Blah, Blah'

I have referred to unified messaging several times in previous articles and each article produces a new round of the same two responses:

  1. A question – “How does it work?” and
  2. A comment – “You’re crazy - REALTORS® will never give up their cell phones!”

Obviously, it’s time to explain unified messaging because my skin is not quite that thick.

First, let’s address cell phones. Give them up? No way! My cell phone is a permanent fixture wherever I go.

Unified messaging does NOT replace cell phones; instead, think of it as turbo-charging your cell phone.  Or, consider this comparison: you have a television which works with mere antenna (at least until March 2009), but when you add cable or satellite – wow, look how much more useful your television becomes! Likewise, unified messaging gives you more options when it comes to your cell phone (and actually any phone).

Let’s face it – cell phones have some drawbacks. They are expensive and require long-term, hard-to-break contracts. They don’t work well, calls are dropped, signals fade in and out, and voice message options are extremely limited. What’s more, batteries need to be recharged, and the question of whether they pose a long-term health hazard has not been settled.

It’s the nature of the beast. They’re little radios, after all.  Do you want to trust your communications, reputation and income to a little radio?

Of course not! Yet, instead of solving the problems, cell phone companies advertise around those problems, such as the popular “fewest dropped calls” declaration.  In other words, some cell phone companies are proud of the fact that on a list of poor service providers, they’re the best of the worst.  For a busy and serious REALTOR®, this is no solution at all.

Enter unified messaging which works with your cell phone while it simultaneously streamlines the way you do business.  Now, time for full disclosure: yes—my company provides unified messaging. But you don’t have to buy from us. A Google search will provide you with many options.

Back to unified messaging - This is the point where I generally rattle off a list of benefits that unified messaging provides. But, without practical application, my listeners (or readers, in this case) generally tune out.

So, to add the practical application, let’s compare how two REALTORS, Stella Stunted and Ida Innovator, conduct business.

Stella and Ida have a few things in common: They’re both REALTORS, both ambitious, both good with people. 

And, as with most REALTORS, they both have home, business and cell phone lines, but rely on their cell phones for most communication.

Much to Stella’s dismay, however, Ida consistently handles more transactions, delights in a higher volume of sales, has more free time, and takes more vacations.

What’s more, Stella is a frazzled mess, while Ida is relaxed and confidant.

Now, let’s take a look at how work differs for Stella (using cell phone) and Ida (using unified messaging and, therefore, any phone):

Stella uses cell phone only, which means a hefty monthly fee. Ida lowered her cell phone expenses by adding unified messaging.

Stella charges batteries each night, losing potential calls. Ida forwards her unified messaging number to land line while her cell recharges. She never misses a call, unless she chooses to. (She can pre-record up to 95 messages of convincing logic as to why she just can’t answer the phone at that moment!)

Stella lives with poor reception. Ida simply forwards calls to land line when cell phone reception is poor.

Stella experiences delayed messages. For Ida, this never happens.

Stella suffers dropped calls. Ida views this as a thing of the past.

Stella hates the low capacity of only 20 two-minute messages, kept for 21 days. Ida stores 80 minutes worth of messages kept for 60 days; each message’s length can be up to five minutes.

Stella is interrupted a lot by callers. Ida’s callers have the option of simply leaving a message even when Ida is available. (Research says 55% of callers would, if they had that option.)

Stella buys a separate line for faxes, then must run home or to the office to view them.  Ida eliminated the expense and upkeep; she receives/forwards faxes on the same unified messaging number.  She can access and print faxes using Internet and any computer, anywhere.

Stella is momentarily out of business if she loses, breaks or forgets her cell phone.  Ida’s business is never interrupted because all calls come to her unified messaging number which she forwards to any phone anywhere.

Stella cannot message interactively with other agents. Ida can send a broadcast message to the entire office (or multiple offices) which also uses unified messaging.

Stella’s prospects are annoyed because they never know which number listed on her business card to call. So they don’t even try! Ida pleases clients because, with one number, they can call or fax her anywhere, anytime thanks to a Find-Me-Follow-Me option.

Stella wastes time explaining, to her team, details of important voice messages she receives. Ida simply forwards those voice messages to her team (which also uses unified messaging), by email or phone so they can hear it for themselves.

Stella wishes she had proof of communication to show clients, associates. Ida prints out complete call histories for her files.

Stella frowns because business never seems to get any better.  Ida celebrates top sales award. She gets the call the first time, every time, and taps into that desirable 68% of buyers and 64% of sellers who contract with the first agent with whom they make contact. (NAR statistics)

Stella wishes she could forward voicemails via email. Ida does!

Stella is amazed that Ida can listen to voicemail and view faxes in email.

Stella thought that relying on a cell phone would put her ahead of her competition; however, National Assn. of REALTOR statistics say that 95% of REALTORS® use a cell phone.  So where’s the competitive edge?

Ida, on the other hand, enhances and streamlines all her communication (including cell usage) by adding unified messaging. 

Stella wishes she could be more organized, and better grasp the concepts of collaborating and communicating online and practicing transaction management. Ida can copy voice messages, faxes, photos, and all electronic files to a transaction file on her laptop, set up by street address. When she goes to closing, she has everything on one flash drive, a true electronic library and archive of all documents.

So there you go – (1) how it works, and (2) why you use unified messaging with your cell phone.

Bottom line – Unified messaging helps you turbo-manage the daily “blah, blah, blah.”

(Debra Traverso is the author of hundreds of articles and five books, published in eight languages, a speaker, marketing consultant for Fortune 50 companies, regular lecturer at Harvard University, and vice president of OneCall. She can be reached through

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