I have been following how the real estate industry is choosing to present itself on the web, and it has been an interesting experience. I realize that everyone keeps discussing Web 2.0, and what that will mean, but I found that my Realtor Association did not seem to grasp some aspects of how people use the web, when proceeding with its plans in dealing with this new paradigm.
Today I was surprised to read in an e-mail from them about a study that they had been conducting on the subject of customer feed back and ratings. I have written for both ideas on this blog, while my association seemed to be frightened of the prospect. The study showed that the major organizations in involved with Realtors in my state had no systems in place for tracking customer feed back or for providing ratings. The real surprise was that even though customer complaints were taken seriously, and dealt with, the organizations did not keep track of these customer concerns to discern if a particular Realtor needed some guidance. The association’s response was to write a position paper arguing for tracking and rating. I hail them for this move.
I have written before in support of this issue, and I am glad some effort is being made to push it forward, so let me now put forth my criticism of ratings. Do not misunderstand me, I am not changing my position, but I do wish to point out a problem. Most of my customers find me by means that do not suggest to them that they should rate me, like a phone book. There are however places where they could go to rate my service. I have found that some yellowpages sites do this. I am not fond of the idea of telling my customers please go rate me, just so I would have a rating, and they may feel forced to write something positive. I have received thank you cards and phone calls, but I do not post these. Sometimes I see remarks on ratings, and I know it was someone’s friend who posted it, and I know of one instance, where I knew this was absolutely the case. A consumer will look more favorably on a service when rated, and so I can understand why this practice exists. I feel that true ratings can be a benefit to any business.
My next detour from my stance of openness on the web is a suggestion on how a site allowing ratings and reviews could be handled. My suggestion is not new, and you may have come across the idea on other sites. Instead of a forum where anything can be written, allow comments and ratings to undergo moderation. Be clear about what is considered an acceptable review, and what will be deleted. Then stick to that principal. Allow negative comments that are constructive, delete those that are mere rants. I worked as a customer service manager at one time, and I saw how customers who created a story about an employee just to prove that they were treated badly were never successful in stating their concerns.
With so much negative media about real estate professionals or about the real estate market coming out, we should find ways of creating feed back loops for our clients that will improve the industry and its image.