By Kirsten Craze
In a world where consumers can jump online to check peer reviews before buying shoes or even watching a film, it only makes sense they would want to click and compare real estate agents before engaging them. Whether it is a social media review, or an industry-specific service such as ratemyagent.com.au, property professionals say these tools - whatever honest opinions they unearth - can be great teaching tools.
Listening to the customer
REINSW Committee Members of the Residential Property Management Chapter, Sandra McGee and Sean McManamon of Starr Partners Merrylands, started using the ratemyagent.com.au platform less than a year ago and both agree that such reviews allow the local community a chance to give their team constructive feedback.
“It means you can be transparent with your prospective clients. You can honestly say to them ‘Look, if you really want to know how good we are don’t believe us, believe our customers. See what they have to say.’ Then you can direct them to the platform,” Mr McManamon said.
While carefully curated testimonials on a company website might have been enough in the past, Ms McGee said today’s review systems mean ratings are more relatable.
“It's now more personal because you have a picture of a property along with the review, not just a random picture of a person leaving a comment. People relate to real estate and think to themselves ‘If an agent did a really good job leasing that home, maybe they can do the same for mine’,” she said.
“And this way everyone gets a voice. Tenants in particular often don't have a voice and sometimes they just want to say thank you.”
Cameron Nicholls, principal of Nicholls & Co and Chairperson of the Agency Services Chapter, agreed that publicised ratings can be used in sales as valuable marketing material that goes beyond the dollars and cents of a deal.
“Reviews provide social proof to other prospective customers. Because ultimately, it’s not what you say about yourself or your business that matters, but what others say about you that’s really important,” he said.
"Reviews carry a more authentic view into a recent experience of result. Sure, a property may have sold but what was the customer experience actually like?”
Mr Nicholls added that when combined with old fashioned methods like the grapevine can help savvy agents market themselves.
“It takes a combination of both. Word of mouth may instigate research into an agent or agency, and if the reviews match the word of mouth, then that’s a pathway to new business. I see the elite agents using these reviews exceptionally well and use them to help generate more business,” he explained.
Taking the good with the bad
While great consumer reviews can boost business, bad reviews can hurt - but they don’t have to according to Mr McManamon.
“They can make your staff more accountable and that’s why I don’t mind the occasional bad review. Not that we love them, but the quicker you pick up the phone, the quicker the client knows that you care,” he explained, pointing out that they can be amended by the poster.
“You can work to turn it around. We get notified instantly, we don't even have to go looking for the feedback because the minute a review comes through, we get an email and can be straight onto it. If you see one and it’s not great, pick up the phone and say ‘Hi, I’ve just noticed the review you left online, we’re quite concerned so we'd love to talk to you about your experience because we want to improve.’ You can absolutely use them as a teaching tool for your team too.”
A virtual pat on the back
Mr McManamon said while embracing public reviews can be daunting at first for an agent or agency they can lead to positive cultural change within a team, especially amongst those members who might be becoming complacent or disillusioned on the job during challenging times.
“Staff actually get a kick out of them. Rather than it just being a job for them, suddenly it allows them to see the positive side of helping people out in their community,” he said.
“It gives staff recognition from the public that they're doing a really good job while at the same time giving people a voice,” Mr McManamon added.
And the visual nature of authentic online reviews and ratings can be highly motivating according to Ms McGee.
“We used to get referrals and testimonials where clients would send in emails and do surveys, but now their opinions are actually out there and they can be seen by everyone. Believe us when we say your staff will really appreciate them. And to see the smiles on their faces when we get to share those good reviews is just awesome for everyone,” she added.