Amanda Wilson is sales director of one of the several new – and controversial – estate agency review sites. Will they ever really get off the ground, and how trustworthy are they? She agreed to answer our questions.
Q. Why do consumers need review sites of estate agents?
A. Consumers now more than ever are using review sites to make informed choices when purchasing products and services. One of the biggest fees someone is likely to pay for a service is to an estate agent. They can feel more confident of receiving a good service if they read genuine reviews from past customers. Although consumers understand that estate agents have the interests of the seller at heart because they are the ones who pay them, consumers that are buying still need to feel assured that the estate agent mediating the transaction has integrity and a sense of fairness. Good reviews from buyers indicate that the estate agent has a good customer service ethic. Estate agents are also aware that buyers could be their new sellers in the future.
Q Do consumers benefit more from being able to read reviews of lettings agents than might be the case with sales agents?
A. Letting Agents equally deliver a service to consumers; however, often over a longer period in general to an estate agent when they are involved in managing a property. Potential Landlords looking to instruct a good letting agent can feel encouraged by reading verified reviews from other landlords.
Q. Do you think review sites for agents will really catch on?
A. The review culture is firmly in place. Sites like Trip Advisor, Top Table and eBay are all established sites that focus on customer reviews and are embedded in many people’s decision-making process. Progressing into the property industry is inevitable as people now have more and more access to the web via mobile phones, iPads and computers. As the consumer generation is fast becoming one that has information readily available, it seems every industry will soon be self-regulated by their own customers.
Q. Agents are concerned that bad reviews aren’t genuine but put there by their competitors. What do you say to that?
A. Estate agents can feel assured that only their genuine customers are leaving reviews about them on agent-tracker via a verified system, where the agent generates a unique password to their customer’s email address.
Q. Some agents are embracing the idea of review sites, and ‘playing the game’, by encouraging their more delighted customers to participate. But since these are, almost inevitably, happy customers, is this really such a good idea?
A. Agents are asked to generate passwords at the start of the sales process. One of the questions for the 5-star rating is at which stage were you given the passcode; this ensures that ‘cherry picking’ clients is eliminated. Agents have a facility to reply to reviews and in the event of a poor review can compose a constructive response.
Q. At the moment, Allagents is the one to beat. Can they be overtaken?
A. We believe that Agent Tracker offers a completely different proposition to Allagents. We work closely with agents and focus on promoting the good agencies willing to embrace transparency and giving their genuine customers the platform to rate their service. We do not focus on exposing bad agents; however, we hope that consumers will gain confidence in choosing an agent with good customer service ethics. Having a variety of review sites for agents sends a message that there is a real appetite for accessible information for consumer choice. Hopefully estate agents will come to realise that by allowing customers an independent platform to rate them, will give confidence to prospective customers and ultimately mean gaining more instructions. We don’t have a charging structure: all estate and letting agents pay the same amount – £25 pa – to have an enhanced profile on agent-tracker, and they get to the top by having the most verified reviews
Q. Any other comments?
A. Agent Tracker believes the majority of letting and estate agent do a good job for their customers. Agent Tracker has a real passion to help change the public perception of the estate agency profession. We are currently working with many agents that have already won instructions by using our site.