RealEstate.com.au Show Real Estate Agents How to Handle Twitter and Facebook Complaints

The recent relaunch of the RealEstate.com.au website created a real buzz of activity on Twitter and Facebook the likes that we have never seen in our industry before. You had consumers and agents providing instantaneous feedback and discussing the new website at record levels for a real estate industry event.

I discussed the ugly side of Twitter about a year ago and in that article I said “Social networking and the internet in general has allowed a voice for everyone including your biggest critics”. Realestate.com.au found that out better than anybody as the new site went live.

Now this article is about that handled their complaints but to be fair there was a lot of praise amongst the twitter stream and facebook  as well.  But like always its the mud that sticks the longest and what people remember the most so its important that any company handles its complaints well even when they are the size of REA and there were a ton of complaints. The really impressive part was that it appears they were prepared for it and had an action plan in place that was executed brilliantly and agents should take notice. .

Someone was actively searching Twitter for any references to the relaunch and responding directly to the tweets concerned. They did not just respond to tweets directed at there twitter account of @realestate_au but they were actively seeking out anybody tweeting to their followers about the site, good and bad.

So when tweets like these started to show up

NathanKrisanski: New realestate.com.au website live today. what do you think? seems a little busy to me, but it is quicker & easier to use. DM me ur thoughts

alcro: Hey Realestate.com.au, your new site doesn’t work #REAfail

glenn_batten: @realestate_au Technical issue with your new site which may be causing more than a few people problems. http://bit.ly/bzaHuC Please fix 🙂

Brett_Hales: What is up with #realestate.com.au – if I search for a property everything is left justified. Looks ugly, check it out http://bit.ly/3wqDg

AnnalisaW @realestate_au can’t get it to load properly. Cumbersome. Most of content blocked by office filter.

portek I think the realestate.com.au suburb select for rentals is broken. Airport west is NOT North MElbourne.

they responded quickly to each person with:

realestate_au: @NathanKrisanski thx for your Tweet earlier today. If you have suggestions on making it less busy wld luv to hear them http://bit.ly/98znQe

realestate_au: @alcro Sorry to hear you are having issues with search – let us know the issue here and we will look into it – http://bit.ly/98znQe

realestate_au: @glenn_batten Thanks Glenn – already looking into it. Will keep you updated.

realestate_au: @Brett_Hales Glad you have been trying the new site – if you have suggestions for the search results share here – http://bit.ly/csJ79a

realestate_au @AnnalisaW sorry to hear you’re having issues – if you can, try another browser. if still having problems, let us know.

realestate_au @portek ok, might be best if you drop us a line at enquiries(at)realestate.com.au – we can direct your issue to the tech boffins there. thx

Their facebook page had similar sort of comments the only difference was that because it was on their wall they did not respond to every single comment as that would have seemed a touch too contrite.

The fact that they took the time to respond to so many consumers and agents was really fantastic and I was not the only one who thought so either:

charispalmer Impressive: @realestate_au getting back to everyone that has commented on the new site on Twitter

Rolling out a site the size and traffic load of Realestate.com.au would be a huge challenge and predictably there were problems that cropped so they didn’t just listen to the complaints on the social media  but the technical team also used to identify real issues in a live environment. They were cross referencing live tweets with server logs to fix problems very quickly even before users filled out feedback forms..

I was a victim of one of the more obscure ones where an incompatibility between our isp’s proxy server and the realestate.com.au servers caused a certain css file to be delivered blank. This meant any search result pages had no styling applied at all and was just an ugly bunch of left justified text and photos.

Now I noticed the problem during the beta testing but since I never received an invitation I had to piggy back on a somebody else’s access I never reported it through the official beta feedback. But once the site went live I and others brought it to their attention of the technical team pretty quickly. Because I had some fantastic help from Nick here on this blog they they tracked down the cause very quickly and even went so far as to ring and work with individual isp’s to track down the problem.

There are certainly still problems outstanding that team are still working on including some fairly major suburb related issues. One of these causes absolutely no properties show for major suburbs but for the most part the site is running extremely well now.

So whether you like the new style or not you have to admire how realestate.com.au handled the complaints.  Up till recently large corporations would normally respond to each call or email with the obligatory “you are the only person to be experiencing that issue” stock standard reply. But social media like Facebook and Twitter means you cant do this anymore. Everyone is far more educated and word spreads like wildfire.

Real estate groups and individual agents alike can learn a few lessons from how Realestate.com.au handled the recent release:

  1. No matter how good a job you do you are never going to please everyone and there are going to be days where no matter how hard you try you just make some mistakes.
  2. Be prepared and regularly monitor Twitter for tweets good and bad about your agency and your brand. Realestate.com.au probably dedicated a staff member to this job over the launch but agents thats not viable. Twilert was really good for this but it closed down because it could not handle the sheer success of Twitter but it has recently relaunched again and is a fantastic way to monitor your brand on Twitter.
  3. Similarly Monitor your facebook fan page for feedback from your fans. This is certainly easier because Facebook can email you with every comment as it has been added to your wall.
  4. Respond quickly, professionally and most importantly listen and be respectful.
  5. Ideally offer a different more private forum to receive further information on the problem and to discuss the issue.

Of course not everything went to plan and the funny thing is that if you are looking to handle complaints about the performance of your new website, directing them back to that problematic website was probably not the best idea in hindsight. Of course there is a lesson in there as well:

jasb @realestate_au i just submitted your feedback form and got could not be found! Check ur search results layout in chrome, its screwed!

Brett_Hales @realestate_au Thanks for the opportunity to provide some feedback – didn’t go too well upon submit http://twitpic.com/1fjap1

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About Glenn Batten

Glenn Batten is the General Manager at First National Real Estate Nerang and Principal at the First National Real Estate Upper Coomera office and has over 20 years real estate experience and a passion for technology.

Glenn has been writing from an agents perspective on industry issues and covering a range of topics on Business2 since 2007.

16 Responses to RealEstate.com.au Show Real Estate Agents How to Handle Twitter and Facebook Complaints

  1. Robert Simeon April 19, 2010 at 4:26 am #

    Have to agree that now this launch resembles the Titanic of launches. You would have thought that more comprehensive testing procedures would have been put in place before the launch. Now we have a technology company confused by their very own technology.

    Senior management have one big omelette on their respective faces.

  2. Greg Vincent April 19, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    Glenn, I agree their Twitter & Facebook has been handled really well. Recruiting @matthewgain and the team at Weber Shandwick
    to help out has been a good move on REA’s behalf, especially given the circumstances.

    @matthewgain: @prospeter I am helping RealEstate.com.au with some Tweets yes.

    Also, http://www.tweetbeep.com is a good service for monitoring conversations on Twitter plus http://www.HootSuite.com & the saved searches function within Twitter can work well too.

    Agents: Monitoring reactions on Twitter & Facebook is extremely important but how you respond to them is another thing altogether. Agents need to be very careful with how they react, especially if it’s negative feedback because they don’t want to start throwing more fuel on a fire.

  3. Nick April 19, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    I’m torn with this.

    While its great that there is communication, perhaps if they spent slightly less time surfing twitter and facebook and slightly more on debugging then people would be happier.

    Personally, I try to communicate as much as possible to clients, but when something goes wrong, I spend my time fixing it rather than chatting to people.

  4. Glenn Batten April 19, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    Nick,

    In a company the size of REA they are two different groups of people. I doubt the techs went anywhere near a twitter client but I do know that they were forwarded issues that popped up on it. In your case you are probably wearing a few hats?

    My point in this article is that they had a plan to deal with the feedback, they monitored it and responded to it and every post I seen was professional.

    Whether you like the site or not is a matter of personal taste. I personally do like it. Most of the problems I could live with but the suburb based issues were not acceptable. Something was screwed and that should not have happened and IMHO they owe credits back to some clients..

  5. Glenn Batten April 19, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    Nick,

    In contrast you have the LJ Hooker group that gets slammed on twitter, yet nobody is their to respond to the number of complaints. It seems the visibility of the “Mr Hooker” campaign also makes it easier for people to slam them on the social media… gives them an identity to attack without it being a person maybe. The group should have someone at head office responding to these complaints even if its just to point them to a complaint form and asking them to put it in writing.

  6. Greg Vincent April 19, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    It’s no longer the case that ignorance is bliss, unless companies engage in the online dialogue it’s only ever going to become a one-sided conversation and complaints, etc about any agent/company sitting up on the web could have a huge long term impact on the online reputation of the agency.

    With clients doing so much research online, when complaints about agents start indexing on Google and appearing in a search on an agent or agency then it’s too late to start engaging in dialogue then & the potential loss of business is huge. And that’s not even taking into consideration the enormous effect of online word of mouth via Facebook friends & Twitter followers, etc.

    I think it was great that REA employed a company to handle the Twitter & Facebook specifically for the launch, but I think that they should really consider having their own voice (in-house representation) because authenticity is an extremely powerful impressor amongst social media & now that they have started to build a following on Social Media sites, engaging with a more open dialogue will help them to get a better understanding of their customers & clients needs.

  7. Greg Vincent April 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Glenn, speaking of LJ Hooker and REA, an agent is selling the number plate ‘MR LJH’ and has decided to post the details of it onto realestate.com.au’s Facebook Fan Page. Given the chance I wonder if he would upload it onto the REA site too.

    Apparently, offers over $50,000 will be considered.

    Some people just don’t get Social Media and how stunts like this can have a detrimental effect on their name and/or brand. It is laughable and does nothing for the LJ Hooker image, especially right in the middle of everything else that is going on within the REA fan page.

    Check it out here http://screencast.com/t/ZmE3YjJmOTEt

  8. Rachael Lord April 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    I had a similar experience with Vodafone. I was doing some pretty harsh tweets over the fact it had taken 9 weeks for them to fix my phone (they lost it somewhere along the way). Someone from the Vodafone account responded to my tweets asking for my mo. number so they could follow up.

    I gave them information and they never got back to me.

    This left me more frustrated than before!

    The responses from realestate.com.au don’t seem very promising. Is it enough to just acknowledge that there is a problem? And asking for suggestions seems like a bit of a cop out?

  9. Nick April 20, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    Glenn: Actually few clients can contact me directly. Only the more important ones who require instant tech support. Most are handled by others.

    But what I mean is they actually sat down and thought ‘ok we need to have people reading twitter and facebook’. They planned it extensively.
    They however neglected to do the same for their testing procedures – they were clearly inadequate.

    Ouch Rachael that is a bad horror story.
    Bad mistake for Vodafone – everyone can now read that they did contact you directly and failed.

  10. Kelvin April 20, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    Good article. thanks for sharing. TweetsDigest.com will be launched soon. It will be heaps better than Twilert. It is specially designed for SME especially for realestate agents and service providers to monitor, analyse and engage on Twitter. Follow us on twitter.com/tweetsdigestcom

  11. Sue Duhnym April 20, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    Perhaps you could write about realestate.com.au once in a while, just to mix things up? Maybe mention realestate.com.au a few times, letting us know how you realestate.com.au feel about realestate.com.au, and give those battlers at realestate.com.au a bit more realestate.com.au press time? Just a thought. Yikes.

    Robert’s spot on (and Nick more passively) right, Twitter and Facebook responses aside, their launch was a fail of epic proportions, their House Hunter microsite was offensive, absurd and poorly planned, and just because they responded via social media in a timely fashion doesn’t mean they are exonerated for a pathetic re-launch. Where’s the coverage on their shortcomings?

    Jimmy lit a fire, but he did a bang up job of putting it out! Do you take Jimmy to task for lighting the fire, or praise him for his skills with a hose??? Come on now…

  12. Sal Espro April 21, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    Does anyone know if the “Have you considered” property advert is the replacement for the top-ranking listing in a suburb and what is the cost please? (Am I right in assuming this enables more advert spots to be sold at a premium whereas the top ranking was sold to one agent only?)
    Also, that suburb ranking thing is an absolute waste of time and space. No prizes for guessing who is going to contribute content. And then, are sellers and buyers really going to read agents ’empty’ comments?! (Well the comments currently there seem a waste of time anyway!)

    (Ps Nice surname Sue 🙂

  13. Sue Duhnym April 21, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    ’twas inspired by you Sales Pro.. i mean Sal 🙂

  14. Glenn Batten April 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Sal,

    it is a replacement for the guaranteed top spot which is no longer available or relevant with the new redesign. It is available per suburb. It has a new name which I just cant recall right now. Technically it only a replacement no an additional add-on slot…

    Re.. the local voices… agents have just not taken to it at all. very poor response. I have spoken with a couple who have invested serious time and effort. No ROI for the old style but both were hopeful the new style might give them a return.

  15. Nick April 22, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    I dont think the ‘Have you considered’ will be terribly effective.
    It will get you eyeballed a lot more, but when someone is looking for a house they will probably prefer to go down the list one by one rather than watch then slide across.

    Local voices was them saying “Will you give us free content? We wont give you anything back, we’ll own the copyright for what you put up and we wont let anyone else use it. Pretty please?”

  16. Marmellows are yummy June 23, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    @Nick. Agree

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