Over the past few years there has been a huge increase in the number of social websites allowing visitors to publicly rank local businesses. I am sure everybody has seen google show those yellow stars on occassional search result pages. Websites like Twitter and Facebook allow people to comment on their experiences with you but those comments are pushed down in the timeline with every additional post and therefore the lasting effect in each single bad comment posted is fairly short. But these review sites have a much longer lasting effect.
Then there are the websites that are just about the reviews themselves. On Business2 we have discussed a few of those over the years but there are always new ones popping up all the time. Some of the more popular ones include Google’s Place Pages, Truelocal.com.au and ProductReview.com.au. The one thing all of these have in common is that real estate agents are just a fraction of the businesses that are reviewed.
Recently a new website called PropertyScope has cropped up that has the sole purpose of providing reviews on real estate agencies and real estate salespeople. Already some agencies are attracting poor reviews as are salespeople like Shane Howley, David Beauregard and Chantel Penny who probably have no idea of the comments and review that have been put up for anybody to see who searches their name.
I am totally in favour of open transparency but there has been a few things that have always bugged me about these online review sites.
These sites are always open to your competitor or their immediate family and close friends voting you down and them up. This was highlighed particularly well to me recently. I created the Australian Real Estate Software and Solutions directory and a few months back I integrated a voting system allowing real estate agents to vote on these service companies.
Voting wise everything was going well till a voting war started out in a couple of the more popular categories whereby individuals from well known suppliers would rate 10 for their own company and 1 for every other company in that category. They did not even try to hide their votes by spreading them out or varying the votes. It was either a 10 or it was a 1. The 10’s (along with their IP’s) indicated exactly who they represented.
Whilst the majority did not partake everyone suffered with low ratings. I have since deleted all the “dud” votes and changed the voting security on the site and all votes coming from non registered visitors are now moderated and anything dodgy gets tossed.
Monitoring voting irregularities is not easy with even just 100 or so entries but there are already 1000’s of salespeople and agents already listed on the site and potentially many more to come. I hope PropertyScope have increased the security settings of their ratings plugin to as high as possible to ensure the integrity of the voting process as that really is the key.
The opinions of the minority are not always representative of the majority
You can’t sell every property nor can you totally satisfy every owner or every buyer. Generally once you have a significant amount of genuine votes the trends will sort themselves out fairly accurately but when you only have a limited number of responses making statements like “On average, this agent: underquotes to buyers by 16%” as is currently displayed on one of those profiles is potentially misleading and damaging to the salespersons’s reputation.
I believe that PropertyScope should be careful how they display this sort of data and make generalised claims.
No right of reply
Some of these review sites have no right of reply or the ability to provide perspective on the comments. One of the best examples of this is ebay where sellers can reply to a bad rating. Similarly bad ratings can be withdrawn should cooler heads prevail and or the seller rectify the problem which triggered the bad rating.
PropertyScope does not seem to have any of these balancing features in place which is a shame.
Whether PropertyScope is successful or not remains to be seen but I think agents need to quickly realise that public viewable reviews of their performance is here to stay. Proactive agents will harness this and use it to their advantage whilst the others are try to deal with reactively and sit back and pray that some good reviews will be posted instead of bad ones.
Online Reputation Management is really turning into a new skill set that agents have to develop themselves or contract out because just a handful of bad reviews spread across just a few websites could tarnish an agents reputation overnight.
Google Rich Snippets
Google has created a service called Google Rich Snippets which takes public review results like and returns them in the search results. They always show at the very top of the search results and boy do they stand out. PropertyScope has set their rankings system up with Google Rich Snippets in place so very soon when you search for your agency or the names of your salespeople it could show something like this
(preview created using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool)