In sickness or in health – It's viral.

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I want to call in sick. Some days I just want to call in disinterested or buried in dirty laundry or overwhelmed by life, but today I just want to call in sick. No can do.

And I am a crummy patient. At the first sign of biological attack, my brain kicks into overdrive. Suddenly my business and personal To-Do lists take on a DEFCON 1 level of urgency. Forgetting for a moment that my baseboards haven’t been dusted since King Arthur’s rule, all I see now are layers of soil suitable for strip mining. And, forgetting that I am routinely forced to be separated from my email for, say, minutes on end, I am now certain that the human race’s long-term viability is singularly dependent on me clearing my inbox.

So, yesterday morning, I crawled to the keyboard just to tie up some loose ends. It was to be my first and last official act of the day before taking my pathetic personal germ lab back to bed where it belonged. At 3:30 in the afternoon, there I sat, still, logged on to GoogleTalk, cell phone at my side, and with twelve windows opened and email in full swing. Sick? Yes. In more ways than one, but deep down I knew that at some point I would feel better, and I would want to eat again.

Real estate waits for no one.

Sure, younger parents out there are thinking, “I can’t be sick! I have children to take care of!” But, you must remember that mine are teens, and I began ignoring them years ago – just shortly after they began ignoring me. When I do want to see them, I simply leave a trail of large-denomination bills and salty snacks leading to my whereabouts. Absent that, they have little desire to re-dock with the Mothership. Similarly, after five Presidential administrations of marriage (give or take a Bush), Steve rarely misses me unless he has a pressing need to resize a JPEG or find his wallet (in one of the girls’ rooms).

But, real estate waits for no one.

I still chortle when I hear the agents who brag about setting boundaries. “I take Thursdays off, and all calls received after 5:06 PM PDT will be returned the following business day, unless it’s a leap year.” I have found that no-nonsense, balanced approach to my business about as practical as the Chicken Soup Roll-up: A flawed delivery system.

Jeff Brown said as much this morning. As an example, Steve and I met with a couple wishing to sell their home recently. They had called another agent first (blasphemy!), but they had been offended when they got his voicemail. Hanging up on his chipper “your call is important to me” message, they called us next. And we answered. We now like to refer to this couple as “our clients.”

We know how important it is to hear a live voice, the live voice to whom one’s call is directed. That is why, if we are away from the office, our phone redirects to both Steve’s and my cell phones. Admittedly, there are times we may not be in a position to take the call; we may be in an appointment (possible), sleeping (plausible), in an area with poor cell coverage (it has happened) or in the middle of basting a tenderloin or dusting the baseboards (highly unlikely, but it could, in theory, happen). At any rate, we try to be reachable.

When I send an email, I expect a response, if not within the hour, then at least within the current lunar cycle. When I leave a message, I expect my phone call to be returned, at least before my current 2-year contract expires. And, if I am in escrow, I want my questions answered and the details attended to in a timely manner, even if my agent is channeling a Petri dish. So do my clients.

As Jeff reminds us, we are in a service industry. Read your contract: Time is of the essence. Your walk-through will happen, your loan docs will arrive, and your inspection will go on, whether or not I am feeling like a speed bump at the moment. “The” home you have been waiting for will show up on the hot sheet today, you will have showings that require feedback, and you will expect to be called when we receive confirmation of recording, as you should. Poor service shouldn’t be symptomatic of the way we conduct our business; great service should be viral.

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