online reviews

As a real estate agent, your most valuable asset is your reputation. In other words, what do your past clients think and say about their experience with you?

In a day and age where everything is digital, your reputation is more visible now than ever before, with review platforms such as Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, etc. It’s vital to not only understand how these platforms work, but also have a strategy to leverage them to your advantage.

Just some food for thought, according to Qualtrics, 97% of people read reviews for local businesses, and 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Those are staggering numbers for the first-time home buyer demographic, and further show the importance of getting ahead of the game. Here are some tips to help:

1) Ask for Reviews

If there’s a place to get started, it’s here. If you aren’t asking clients to leave reviews, odds are the majority of them aren’t going to. And frankly, if a buyer or seller is deciding between two agents and one of those agents has 50 4-to-5-star reviews while the other has one 5-star review, who do you think they will choose?

So how do you bring that up in conversation? Well, it’s pretty simple…if you went above and beyond for a client – answering dozens of questions, showing them a dozen houses, just overall being there for them throughout the entire process – you just ask them directly. Especially right after closing or handing them the keys, emotions should still be high, and they will be in the mood to write a glowing 5-star review.

2) Incorporate Asking for Reviews into Your Routine

Typically, a client would be willing to leave a review within one month following your last interaction with them, so the sooner the better. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but these ones are easiest to get.

That being said, ensure that you have a process to ask for reviews in that one-month window. A simple email, text, or phone call would work, although a more personal ‘snail mail’ thank you card would be ideal. There are also automated reputation management platforms you can sign up for that can help shoulder some of the heavy lifting with this, such as Grade.us or Podium.

Knowing that this would be the next step after handing over the keys ensures that this step doesn’t get overlooked.

3) Deal with Negative Reviews/Experiences Properly

So, you had a transaction that didn’t go smoothly. It happens. Say for example the buyer just didn’t feel like you understood what they wanted in a home and were increasingly frustrated. Or maybe there was a client who felt that you didn’t get back to them quickly enough throughout the process. Any of these things can and do happen – it’s just the nature of the business.

What happens after that, however, you need to be ahead of.

As much as happy clients are willing to write glowing reviews for you, unhappy clients are equally, if not more likely, to leave a poor review. And bad reviews leave a mark. Depending on how many reviews you have, it can stick out like a sore thumb.

So then how should you approach this? There’s a couple things to keep in mind:

Don’t let an issue escalate to the point where a client feels the need to leave a bad review

At the end of the day, regardless of the industry, clients and customers just want to be heard. If they have an issue, or if you sense there is an issue, take the time to talk with them and sort it out. Don’t let it fester for the entire process. Listen to their concerns, and address what you can to help turn things around. At the very least, if you can get them to a point where they just don’t leave any review at all, that’s still better than them leaving a one-star review pointing out everything that went wrong.

Address negative reviews directly

If a client’s experience was so poor that they left before you had the chance to address their issues, there’s a good chance they will leave a negative review. If/when that happens, don’t panic. The first thing to do is to read the review and try to fully understand where they are coming from. Again, they clearly are frustrated and want to be heard.

Next, and most importantly, you need to prep a response. The only thing worse than a negative review is one that has no response from the owner acknowledging the issues. Just as importantly, don’t try to have a debate with the person online. No one, except for you and the client, needs to know all of the details. Instead, your response should be an invitation to discuss the matter privately over a phone call.

Something simple, like “I am very sorry to hear you did not have a good experience. I would like to discuss this further with you over the phone. Do you have time this week?” This accomplishes two things: 1) It shows potential clients who are reading the reviews that you indeed care that someone had a bad experience, and you want to make it right. And 2) It potentially gives you an opportunity to talk with the client that had the bad experience and maybe convince them to remove the negative review (they are the only ones who can do that).

Remember, this is all very visible. When something is typed online, it’s there for the long haul, meaning you can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away on its own.

Reviews are certainly a double-edged sword – especially in the real estate industry. But if you leverage these tips and stay on top of your online reputation, it just might make the difference in a prospect choosing you.

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Diana Kaemingk // April 9. “20 Online Review Stats to Know in 2019.” Qualtrics, 24 July 2020, www.qualtrics.com/blog/online-review-stats/.