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Agents must not ignore bad online reviews, urges social media guru

Agents who ignore critical reviews of their services do so at their peril as new figures reveal high levels of readership of review websites, according to a social media expert.

Peter Watson, who runs the Chatty Imp social media consultancy, says new research conducted by website analytics firm BrightLocal indicates that 50 per cent of people are now routinely reading business reviews - up from 33 per cent two years ago. 

The same research suggests some 84 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and that 90 per cent of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. Some 58 per cent of respondents claimed that the star rating employed by many review sites was useful in helping them form an opinion of a company and thus making a choice of product or service to buy.

Watson says Google is also placing more emphasis on reviews and ratings. 

The search engine recently took the step of displaying reviews and ratings from trusted third-party review sites within a business’ Local Knowledge Panel, appearing beneath the information submitted to the Google Business Page.

“Bad reviews are a fact of life for agents. There will always be occasions when a client is unhappy about the service they have received and will take to the net to complain about their experience The important thing for agents to remember, is how they respond to the bad review is very public” says Watson.  

“It pays to take the time to handle a complaint in a professional and fair way, replying promptly to stop the issue from escalating. It is also worth asking the disgruntled reviewer to send more details in a private message, to remove the issue from the public eye.”

Positive reviews should be used in marketing campaigns, he adds.

  • Rob  Davies

    "Agents who ignore critical reviews of their services do so at their peril as new figures reveal high levels of readership of review websites, according to a social media expert."

    I agree they shouldn't be ignored, but they shouldn't be given too much credence either. For example, one or two bad reviews does not a bad estate agency make. If all the reviews are bad or negative, fair enough, the agency is probably one clients won't want to use. But I think consumers will look past the odd iffy review if the overall consensus is mostly positive, just as is the case on TripAdvisor and Booking. com. By the same token, any agency with purely 5 star reviews and glowing endorsements will probably be viewed with scepticism.

    Review sites play an important role elsewhere in life, but I'd argue we haven't reached that stage with estate agents. I haven't seen any websites out there that are reliable enough or free from manipulation and rogue reviews.

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    Good points here Rob

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    But...I'm guessing you have never had a really damaging negative review of your business? Trust me, if you ever do, you won't want another - they hurt, really hurt. Estate agents are not hoteliers, they need to be trusted 100% - and anything that undermines that trust hurts.

    My recommendation to every good agent out there is to get reviews to your own site and to Google (the review sites no longer hack it in search).

  • Mike Lewis

    Good points indeed Rob. I would also add that I think it's about time we agents did something to promote the benefits of our expertise and service to the house selling and buying public. A good agent will know her/his market inside out and will know how to deal with all of the pitfalls that can occur during the process of the legal negotiations and will professionally see a transaction right through to completion. Only then will the agent be entitled to a fee. This is as opposed to a listing service which might well have a "processing department" as part of the package but cannot have the sheer depth of experience, market knowledge and in some cases professional qualifications.
    I have bleated about this before....what are the NAEA and RICS doing about this.....nothing as far as I can see!

  • Ben  Marley

    Great comments and I agree with you all, Agents are now using independent review services like Feefo a Google trusted partner to display their reviews on their own site rather than a 3rd party review site which can be manipulated and the public have never heard of. Because Feefo is an invitation only system it means you can remove all the headaches of fake reviews. Don, this is exactly what you are saying to do, we can just help enhance this further by adding Google benefit. We're partnered with the Guild as their preferred partner for reviews and are just finalising how we're going to be doing the same with Propertymark. If you'd like to have a chat I'd be more than happy to help

  • Mark Hempshell

    One thing I always wonder about review sites, are the reviews supposed to be in consumers' interests, or that of the review sites?

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