Five-Star Tips for Building Your Real Estate Review Strategy

7/26/2019

Heat Level: Medium: These tips require some experience.

Bottom Line: You can take control of your online reputation by creating a review strategy.

Do This: Having a review strategy is as simple as...

  • Providing stellar client services
  • Asking for good reviews
  • Never posting fake reviews
  • Always responding to negative reviews
  • Using your reviews to promote and grow your business

graphic of a hand pointing to a five star rating on a tabletA review strategy allows you to take control of your business's online reputation.

We’ve talked about why reviews matter online. The short version: reviews online = your reputation (for the long version, head here). We’re all in agreement that reviews are critical...then how do you make sure that they’re helping and not hurting your business? Obviously, step one is to offer exceptional customer service and experiences. But even the best customer service gurus can’t please everyone. 

So how can you make sure that potential clients get the whole story, and not just a sampling of reviews that aren’t an accurate picture? Believe it or not, you can take control of your review destiny if you look at online reviews as a core of your marketing and client relations efforts (rather than a problem that gets dealt with after bad reviews have popped up).

First up: how do I get reviews?

Here’s the thing: people are far more likely to remember (and report on/act on) bad experiences than good ones. There’s a great article from the New York Times on this phenomenon. Basically, if you’re spending money, you’re more likely to remember something that made you feel undervalued or like a waste of resources. 

That doesn’t mean that good experiences aren’t memorable! But a client is less likely to feel driven to take action after a good experience than a bad one. Imagine it this way: if you had a great vacation at a beautiful resort, you’d probably share photos of the trip with friends and call it a day. But if you had a terrible experience, got sick, the hotel was dirty, and so on, you’d make a point to tell anyone who asked to help them avoid a similarly bad trip.

For this reason, bad reviews are inherently easier to collect than positive ones. Clients who feel they’ve been slighted (legitimate or not) are going to make a point to alert as many people as they can - and the best way to do this is with reviews. So what can you do? 

Ask for reviews from happy clients. 

Seriously, it’s that simple!

Clients who’ve had a great experience working with you probably haven’t thought to write a review since they’re busy, you know, moving into a new house! Sending them a quick email to check in after closing and ask for a review if they were pleased with your services doesn’t take long.

Get into the habit of following up with clients after everything is wrapped up. Set yourself a reminder to circle back after a short amount of time and send them a link to post a review of your services. The easier you make it for them to share a review, the more likely they are to do so. Here’s how to set up a Google review link.

If you have your business listed on multiple platforms, then rotate which platform you direct clients to. So if you have Google My Business (which, you should) and Zillow, email each client after you’ve finished working with them and alternate which link you send. By doing this, you’ll have reviews across any platform people may find you on rather than having them all concentrated on one site. This also prevents one client from feeling like they have to leave multiple reviews, which is a much bigger ask.

DO NOT solicit fake or dishonest reviews.

Meaning don’t have a friend, family member, employee, or anyone who hasn’t actually worked with you write a glowing review. And don’t review your own company! Sure, you’d have lots of positive reviews if you do this. But it’s extremely dishonest and the fastest way to destroy customer trust.

G2 Crowd’s guide to customer reviews sums it up perfectly: “Consumers are smart, and they will see right through this. By using fake or dishonest reviews, you’re only hurting yourself. A company seen as untrustworthy has a hard time bouncing back from that reputation, and it will likely be awhile before the product or service is back in a customer’s good graces.”

What can I do about negative reviews?

Negative reviews are the modern-day boogie man that scares most businesses away from online platforms. That fear drives practices like hiding or deleting comment sections on social media. So let’s get this out of the way: negative reviews are inevitable. The simple fact is that you can’t please everyone. So rather than worrying about preventing them, you need to have a clear-cut plan for handling them in a professional manner.

Unless a review is wrong (i.e. about a different business, not wrong because you disagree) or openly offensive (racist, sexist, explicit, etc.) DO NOT try to delete or remove it. Removing legitimate reviews simply because you disagree is just as shady as posting fake positive reviews, and it violates consumer trust. Google and Facebook won’t remove reviews unless they are in direct violation of the platform’s terms.

Instead, when you receive a negative review:

  • Review your notes, or talk to the agent(s) who worked with the reviewer
  • Get a clear, objective picture of what happened
  • Reach out to the review by responding to the review publicly and providing a way for them to contact you privately to resolve the issue

Sometimes, simply responding to the person and listening to their complaint is all they want. Users often remove or update their reviews once a company makes a good-faith effort to resolve the issue. Online reviews are first and foremost about being heard. So just listen!

Even if the situation cannot be solved, posting a response to all reviews you receive, good and bad, is important because other people look for these signals. In fact, 7 out of 10 consumers report changing their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review. 

Potential customers use reviews to get a picture of your company culture and character.  And most internet users expect some amount of negativity...in fact, 95% of consumers get suspicious of fake reviews if there are no bad scores. So in a weird way, having a bad review here and there can be a good thing, if you handle it the right way. By replying to any negative feedback you receive, you demonstrate that you’re engaged with your clients and are working to provide the best service you can.

What should I say when responding to a negative review?

Developing a response is a delicate balance of grace, tact and self-defense. No matter how frustrated you might be, keep your emotions out of it. Here’s the formula we use:

  • Apologize for the situation or experience (Hi John, we’re sorry your home didn’t sell for as much as you had expected.)
  • You don’t have to admit fault online, but don’t flat-out deny the problem. (We understand your frustration about the listing price - it’s disappointing to receive offers for less than you thought your home would be worth.)
  • Take the conversation offline. (Let’s talk offline about the CMA we provided and the market conditions in your area.)
  • Provide contact information. (Here’s the best way to get in touch with our broker: …)

In other words, be polite, don’t escalate the situation, and take the high road.

Once I have reviews, what should I do with them?

Obviously, if you’re spending time on getting reviews, you want to get something out of them! The obvious benefit is having a higher star-rating on review platforms like GMB. But positive reviews can also be a great source of content for your marketing efforts too.

Fun fact: displaying reviews can increase conversion rates by 270%! Customers like seeing that other, real people have worked with you and had a good experience. So once you start gathering great reviews, display them proudly! Add them to your website, post them on social media, use them on your flyers...you get the idea. 

When you’re using reviews online, it’s important to link back to the review platform itself so that users can access the original if they want to. If you’re using them in print, you should still mention what platform the content is taken from as well.

Bottom Line

Online reviews aren’t going away anytime soon. And with some 97% of shoppers stating that reviews influence their buying decisions, their impact can’t be overstated. This means that you need to focus some time and energy into your online review collection. By creating a review strategy, your business can benefit from your hard work with existing clients and will continue to gain new customers.

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Jess Clair self-portrait on Mount Washington
Jess Clair is the Marketing and Sales Project Manager at Joyce, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA.
Working with ListingManager allows Jess to explore an alternate reality where she could one day own a house instead of renting. When she’s not focused on her daily to-do lists, Jess enjoys HBO binges, gourmet lattes, and playing with her dog.

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