Industry Interview: Mal McCallion CEO of raterAgent.
You have a known history in the industry including Primelocation and Zoopla – What tempted you to come on board with raterAgent?
I’ve been really fortunate to have been involved in a couple of great property tech start-ups in Primelocation (2000) and Zoopla (2009). raterAgent has similarities with both – bold vision, great tech and meeting new customer needs. But we’re also focused on changing the ‘price-first, price-only’ conversation. Quality of service in estate agency has long been something difficult to surface and easily dismissed by the media. You can’t move right now for people racing to the bottom in terms of price, whether £295 up front or 0.5% commissions, but those conversations utterly fail to disclose success. We want to build somewhere that everyone – traditional high street agent, recent online-only innovator and all hybrid points in between – can have the quality of their service proven (or otherwise) by the one metric that really matters; their clients’ feedback.
You are not the first to enter the market, so what key USP’s have you got to benefit agents using your service?
Our USP is one word – “trust”. Pure and simple. Consumers are way too sophisticated these days to be palmed off with some low-grade rating site which looks like it’s crammed full of dodgy reviews. In fact, recommending such sites to your clients can have an obvious and detrimental impact on your own agency brand – collateral damage to something you’ve spent years carefully nurturing. That’s why we do what we say – we check all reviews, we worry about ensuring that only those that are really genuine make it to publication and we get very, very angry when anyone tries it on. raterAgent is an agent’s proof of quality of service. If we can’t catch as many fakes as possible then we’re not doing the industry justice.
Why do you state that ‘trustworthiness’ is raterAgent’s most important attribute?
Listen, it’s easy to fake it. It’s easy to let things slide and allow false reviews to flourish and genuine ones to be sacrificed to profit. raterAgent isn’t just another review site. We’re a space on the internet where you can come and prove how good you are. You can try and anonymously big your agency up or slate a competitor’s and raterAgent’s team of moderators will find you out. We stand or fall on our ‘trust’ promise – no site out there, in any industry that we know of, works harder than we do to check each review manually. We write to people that look dodgy. We warn those trying to cheat. And, in the end, we’ll name and shame those that repeatedly try and ‘game’ our system. It’s not right and it won’t be tolerated.
Why do you think review websites are important right now?
The ‘review culture’ – where people won’t even decide on a £10 toaster without seeing what complete strangers think of a range of them – is at a stage where people now have an expectation of being able to see what others think of an agent too. Our industry needs a place which is trustworthy and which has the goal of surfacing quality of service as its aim – it’s too important a transaction not to have. Otherwise we may get to a point where, by default, consumers only find a review site that is less about quality of service and more about its own profit. At that point, where consumers believe that this is the best that our industry can do, they’ll believe that they have to use it. And it won’t be the agents with the best quality of service that come to the fore, it will be ones that are best at playing the game. That’s not a position that I want our industry to sleepwalk into.
Why isn’t Google Reviews that place?
I learned very quickly at mass consumer sites like Primelocation and Zoopla that if you create any ‘friction’ in people getting to their desired destination then they will just stop bothering. Google sets a really high bar for many people to jump – having to have a gmail account, listing inside leg measurement, etc – that people just stop. Now, whilst that may deter happy customers from leaving generous reviews, for those with an axe to grind they’ll go through whatever process they need to, to make their point. Google Reviews can, therefore, reduce the positive reviews you get whilst not necessarily doing the same for any negative reviews. raterAgent is about making it as easy as possible for both types to review, as well as capturing the trustworthiness too.
What are your thoughts on Estate Agent Networking?
There is nothing more important than understanding the market that you’re in. Fail at that and you will fail in your business. What Estate Agent Networking offers me is a truly credible source of rich data and opinion on where the market is now and where it will go.