Are Estate Agency Review websites really necessary?

What really helps consumers to decide which estate / letting agency they should run with these days, especially as there are now so many ways in which agencies can advertise and be found? Is it simply the difference between and black and white advert or colour one in the local newspaper, is it effective leaflet drops, sponsored positioning on Rightmove, strong social media presence, best location on the high street or the style of for sale board being used? I am sure I have missed many other reasons in which estate agencies can be found, but what about all this recent fuss about Estate / Letting Agency Review websites?

A review website many of us will be familiar with, I’m sure you’ll all have heard of TrustATrader who usually have national advertising campaigns running, a place that consumers can go to in order to find a local trades person who’ve had good reviews thus giving them confidence booking that plumber, gardener, mechanic and so forth… Surely this system of reviewing services, just like we would nowadays check reviews for that new camera we are buying or hotel we are about to book, is important for the Estate Agency industry to firmly adopt?

Many people’s initial search for property will take place online and of course, a good presence across all platforms, ie Rightmove, Google, Twitter, Facebook, GumTree etc, is vitally important, but what about that all important star rating, that symbol of trust that has been gained from satisfied previous customers… Five star performance rating and “This estate agency was just so helpful and held our hands throughout the selling process and achieved us the full asking price” must surely cement a strong impression on that all important new client and entice them to investigate your agency for their needs?

OK so fake reviews has been in the limelight also, but recently these have been tackled by legislations brought in by the government, full report here. Yes, any Tom, Dick or Sally can go on to a review website and leave a rating, this of course can be done for genuine reasons or to take revenge or even to try and rate down a local competitor… Though once again, review websites are trying to deliver a rating service that weeds out these fake reviews by building more complex checking systems.

So why get your agency involved in reviews online? Can your spare the time and will it deliver you an kind of ROI? For me, the way in which reviews are now being seen online can really help to boost your presence, especially from consumer initial searches and results being delivered that show your star rating instantly. Not only does the search engine Google now show star ratings on initial consumer searches, but also social media, ie Facebook, will show on your group page your rating… These are invaluable marketing tools for your business and make a tremendous impact on consumers searching online.

The is a wide choice who to run with nowadays, a simple Google search will bring up many options. There are some main names in the industry though new ones are entering with more sophisticated software to deliver a more detailed and refined service to cater for needs in this fast moving world of #proptech! I know of many people who dislike rating websites, find them despicable that they allow their business to be reviewed and commented on without their permission – This I can fully understand, though I usually say to them that “…  these review websites are there so you can take control of your reviews, people will leave reviews online anyway with or without your permission and social media has enabled that to take place even more so. I say it is best to work with at least one review website and build your profile up as you would look to do with your LinkedIn or Facebook account – The internet is a freedom of speech channel so use it to your advantage.

We asked some of the Estate Agency Review websites out there their thoughts on the current state of the market. Here are the answers of those who replied:
Q: Fake reviews, do they exist?

Feefo.com said: “Absolutely. Fake reviews are a huge thorn in the side for many businesses trying to establish trust and hear the genuine voice of their customers. In October last year, Amazon took over 1,000 ‘fake reviewers’ to court for writing false reviews for cash. Yelp.com recently reported that nearly a quarter of reviews on their site have the potential to be fake, and there are countless stories of business owners and consumers alike that have been misled by reviews – both positive and negative. It is worth bearing in mind that there are two types of review platforms – open platforms such as Tripadvisor and Amazon where anyone can post a review and closed platforms such as Feefo where consumers are only invited to leave feedback after they have purchased a product/service.
Q: Can a good rating online help to increase enquiries to your agency?
Feefo.com said: “Yes, with one caveat – the good rating must be verified. For example, Google uses purchase-verified reviews, supplied by trusted review platforms, to generate their Seller Ratings – these display as stars in organic search listings and AdWords campaigns. Their studies suggest that this can increase the click-through-rate to websites by as much as 17%, and lower the cost of your PPC campaigns.
Online ratings are the digital word of mouth: BrightLocal’s most recent survey found that 88% of consumers trust online ratings as much as personal recommendations; with 72% saying that a good online rating would make them trust a business more.
Q: Can negative reviews effect your agency online and can you do something to turn a negative review into a positive?
Feefo.com said: “Negative reviews do have an effect, but agencies should not fear, delete or moderate them. 30% of online consumers suspect foul play if they see only positive reviews, according the National Association of Retail Marketing (NARM). The NARM reports 95% of consumers would return if an issue was resolved quickly. Furthermore, Gartner Surveys says companies will compete mainly by customer experience in 2016, with ‘efficiently responding to feedback’ at the top of the list.
Customer feedback is a wealth of information that can be turned into actionable insights: Agencies should look to utilise a review platform with analytic and reporting facilities; allowing them to be alerted to any feedback, respond immediately and publicly and map trends in what their customers are saying.”

Q: Does Social Media make having a good rating online even more important?
Feefo.com said: “Social media is playing an ever more important role in reaching out to customers. While LightSpeed Research suggests that only 7% of online shoppers use social media for product research, Forrester’s recent survey shows over 75% consumers are relying on some form of social media to help guide their purchasing decisions through sharing experiences and opinions.

Answers from Feefo was provided by Feefo CEO and co-founder Andrew Mabbutt.

Christopher Walkey

Founder of Estate Agent Networking. Internationally invited speaker on how to build online target audiences using Social Media. Writes about UK property prices, housing, politics and affordable homes.

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