I have just returned from a conference in Banff, Alberta called the Banff Western Connect. I’ll fully admit that I am a bit of a conference junkie. I love to learn. I love to network and I love to swap success stories with other brokers. At the end of the day I always walk away with valuable insights and ideas that I can bring back to my board or my office. This blog post focuses on the importance of on-line reviews.
My latest brush with a review system came just a few weeks ago. I had to run into Loblaws for a few things. Everything ran smoothly. I grabbed what I needed, I self scanned everything, bagged and paid for my purchase and was in and out in 10 minutes. As I left the store there was a stand with a sign asking me to rate my experience by pushing one of four buttons. So I did. Because I found everything I needed and didn’t wait in line, I gave the highest rating possible. No fuss, no muss. But that simple button system does so much more than track your experience. Behind the scenes it is taking the simple data that the customer is inputting and adding on layers upon layers of data that already exists. Traffic in the store, time of day, weather conditions, number of staff on duty, etc, etc. All the data collected gets mashed together and helps the store deliver a better experience…and isn’t that the point of a review system?
It’s not that much different in the real estate space. It’s probably not nearly as complex but the data is still valuable. Here is the problem however; the collection of data is so much harder to get. To really understand how a client enjoyed their real estate experience one needs more information than one can get by pushing a simple button. If I am really interested in knowing how I did I want to ask about a hundred different questions; Did I show up on time? was I knowledgeable about the market? did I answer questions clearly and affectively? The list goes on. The problem is that clients are not likely to sit through countless minutes answering questions about their experience. One quick solution is to whip out your handy smart phone and record the happy clients telling you how great you are or what an awesome job you did. On line agent reviews are a joke. The reviews don’t mean anything and because the reviewers are anonymous, anyone can write reviews including your friends (who leave great reviews) and competing agents (who leave bad reviews). On top of that, there is no business model that supports the financial an online agent review website.
The unfortunate problem is that we live in an economy that relies on reviews and ratings. From the simple “like” button on Facebook to Yelp to Uber and AirBnB (where reviews go both ways). We know that 51% of Canadian Millennials surveyed say that online reviews, comments and feedback are the largest influence on their buying behavior, yet the flip side to the coin is that the internet has created a population of people with attention deficit disorder so those reviews have to stand out in order to be recognized and the process of getting that elusive five-star rating has to be quick and easy. I believe that over the next few years the key to success in any business will come from unlocking the keys to an honest, fast and easy rating system. Recently I took a trip to Iceland. I posted a ton of pictures from my trip and made a lot of positive comments about the country. Now my friends are messaging me about future travel plans there and want to know what places to go to, where to eat and stay. In effect my friends are looking for a referral of sorts.
So, is it possible to create a review of your services that comes off as truly authentic, and trustworthy? From the start we know that real estate is a referral business, but once you get recommended, that potential client is going to check you out online to confirm that you are the real deal. This is where the one-two punch needs to happen. Recognize that you only have a few seconds to make the connection so testimonials and ratings need to be above the fold in order to work, not buried on an afterthought tab at the bottom.
Mark McLean is the five-star Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office, the Immediate Past President the Toronto Real Estate Board and a director at the Ontario Real estate Association. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB, OREA or Bosley RE.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Annual General Meeting in Ottawa as a voting delegate and representative of the Toronto Real Estate Board. Say what you will about organized real estate conventions, the truth is that everyone there is interested in the health and longevity of our industry and while you may not always agree with them, they are NOT there for the free food. I am constantly amazed at the passion and committment to our industry, their enthusiasm in new directions and technologies and their support of charities like Realtor’s Care.
Last year, CREA, under the direction of their board, decided to take an indepth look at all aspects of how organized real estate operates in Canada. The Futures Implementation Team identified four strategic focus areas that they wanted to concentrate on: development of a state-of the-art technology platform, providing information and tools to Realtors and to consumers; increased emphasis and enhancement of professional development to increase our value to consumers; looking at restructuring organized real estate, particularly the governance, to expedite decision-making, and ultimately reduce costs and duplication; and finally to acquire consumer insight so organized real estate can understand changing consumer needs and improve our relationship with consumers. While all very good stuff, this is a tremendous amount of work which eventually lead to the proposal of 23 initiatives. Well, that is the history of FIT in a nutshell.
Back in October I headed to Winnipeg for a CREA Special Assembly to get a first hand look at some of these proposals. One of which was a “Rate Your Realtor” idea. This has been a relatively divisive topic among boards and in Ottawa there was, again, a lengthy debate about it. Some argued that the optics of a rating system for Realtors, regulated by Realtors would not be viewed in a positive light by the public. Others said that a private system could corrupt an agent’s rating easily and that a CREA owned system could monitor the ratings more vigilantly. The proponents of the idea looked to the successes of an internally owned rating system at the Houston Board, while others looked at some existing rating sites that had lots of outdated information. In the end the proposal was defeated, but somehow I think we will hear about this idea again.
The idea of ratings got me thinking however. I wonder if a private site could ever become the penultimate resource on the performance and success of agents let alone develop a profitable model for such a system. At the end of the day, good agents, who have been in the business for a while, are successful because they have stellar reputations and can safely rely on the referrals of past clients. They did a good job and were attentive to the needs of their clients. But agents who are just starting out may not have built their referral network yet. So what can they do? Simple, put a testimonial section in your website or include a brief video on your front page. It is not a lot of work for the benefit provided. There have been a number of studies that show a testimonial has much more leverage with decision makers than an advertising message.
So the take away here is that testimonials, whether written or by video, should be a key component of your marketing and prospecting plan. It has a lot of value so make it front and centre. We carry around, in our phones, the technology to record quick videos at a moment’s notice, so next time you do a good job for someone ask them if they will record a little testimonial for you.