Busier agents are also more likely to displease some buyers, notes Todd Hetherington, CEO of NM Management, the parent company of Century 21 New Millennium. “If you are doing 80 transactions a year, it’s more likely you’ll get a negative review than if you’re doing only eight transactions a year,” he says, noting that his company does not enable agents to decide which feedback to include.
Schwartz explains that Zillow’s reviews are moderated by a Zillow employee to ensure they remain robust, noting that the site moderates for fakery¬—that is, agents reviewing themselves or reviewing other agents, as well as appropriateness of content, i.e., it has to relate to a real estate transaction, and the reviewer has to have been on the same side of the transaction as that REALTOR®. He notes that most reviews are positive, but Zillow does publish negative reviews, as long as they are in line with site policies.
Trulia gives agents the ability to manage their profiles and decide whether to include negative feedback, says Wilcox. “Agents can filter out negative feedback. We recommend that people leave in reviews that are negative, but we wanted to give agents the ability to eliminate a review if it might negatively impact their brand.”
Bob Hale, president and CEO of the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), explains that HAR’s review process is an opt-in program for agents. “If agents decide to participate, we follow up and ask all of that person’s clients to rate his or her performance. Agents can respond to their ratings, but they can’t pick and choose which clients to solicit for feedback,” explains Hale, adding that the response has been very positive. “Those who are doing it, love it. We have agents who say their rating is their number one marketing tool.”
Elevating the Profession
Ultimately, most believe that online ratings encourage agents to deliver excellent customer service.
“Our kimono is totally open. If agents know they’re going to be graded and reported, they’ll do a better job and try to ‘wow’ people with incredible customer service,” says Hetherington. He recommends that agents need to set the proper expectation about reviews on the front end with clients. “Agents need to say to their clients, ‘My job is to provide outstanding service. I will be rated at the end of this transaction and your rating means everything to me. I want you screaming from the rooftops about how wonderful I am.’”
Chris urges real estate professionals to ask themselves: “‘How do I conduct my business? Was I responsive and efficient? Did I understand the needs of my client or prospect? Did I add value to a transaction beyond what my client could get anywhere else?’ If an agent can positively answer these questions, they can truly know that they did their job and did it well. It’s not just about selling a house and winning business, it’s about winning the consumer.”