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Part 4: Are You Reaching for Reviews? (ReachFactor)

April 21 2011

agent ratings

You're not afraid to walk up to a new house, knock on the door and hand a stranger a flyer.

You're not afraid to self-promote online through websites, blogs and social media.

You're not afraid to work with that high-maintenance seller and list their split-level.

So why do many REALTORS® find it so intimidating to ask past clients to review them?

In this Agent Ratings 101 series we have showcased a number of different solutions and platforms that provide a means to generating and sharing agent ratings/reviews online. What's better than self-promotion? Client testimonials.

Most people are willing to provide feedback to service providers, but most will not offer it unless asked. This doesn't have to be awkward, it can be a means of self-evaluation and a way to "look in the mirror" and make sure the REALTOR® you see is the same REALTOR® others see.

This week I'd like to highlight a newer agent ratings platform called ReachFactor. I had an interview with ReachFactor's CEO and Founder, Suresh Srinivasan. He was very passionate about creating a solution that gives agents a way to collect feedback, improve customer loyalty, and leverage reviews to reach more buyers and sellers. Suresh says they've grown to several thousand clients already.

Problems Inherent in the Real Estate Industry

To begin the interview, Suresh outlined two primary problems facing agents and brokers in the industry today that led him down the path to creating a solution to help bridge the gap.

"Most consumers are not aware of the complexity of a real estate transaction and the specialized role agents play. Most buyers and sellers view agents' services as commodities. This is why agents' commissions are so heavily negotiated. Is every agent really the same? Of course not. One of the only ways for an agent to differentiate themselves and gain trust with new prospects is to leverage the verified, legitimate words of past customers to demonstrate competence," explains Suresh.

He also noted another reason for starting the service: "Another big concern was that many competing services require agents to give up control of their client relationships during the review process. Those ratings/reviews sites require reviewers to sign up before they can provide a review. When a client signs up, they agree (in the fine print) to receive emails and other communications from the review site and sometimes even their partners. Often, these communications include ads/messages from other agents eager to earn their business. By inadvertently leading an agent's clients to such spam, agents can really damage their existing relationships."

With social media taking off, the review industry is becoming mainstream. People have never been more apt to rate, review and comment about services and service providers they have worked with.

"There is no reason agents should hesitate to ask for a review. People are used to providing feedback. It can actually be a great way to reach out to past clients, let them know you care about improving your service, and offer an easy way to leave you a review," explains Suresh.

Bottom line, when it comes to online marketing and promoting your service, there really is no replacement to what someone else says about you. Just make sure you use the right tools.

What do you recommend agents look for in an Agent Rating product? Suresh recommends agents look for these key features when judging a good agent ratings platform:

  1. Control: Will I still control my client relationships or do I have to send my clients to a site where they must become a registered user? Avoid the latter. You don't want third party sites co-opting your client relationships for their own gain.
  2. Third party platform: Past clients will appreciate you're a professional that's investing in a survey service to gather feedback and will feel confident that you're using a system that cannot be gamed.
  3. Review monitoring: Look for a system that monitors each review to check for authenticity of the reviewer. This is how you gain instant credibility
  4. Avoid anonymous review sites: Platforms that accept anonymous reviews (or lack verification controls) will fail to gain credibility among consumers, so do yourself a favor and just avoid them.
  5. Easy to use: Make sure the system is well-designed and easy to navigate
  6. Short questionnaire: Don't waste your client's time. If it looks laborious, it could cost you a review.
  7. Makes marketing easier: Once you've gathered verified client feedback, it should be really easy to market your bona fide reputation everywhere.

What does ReachFactor provide?

ReachFactor is an agent review and ratings platform that allows agents to set up an agent profile and send out short surveys to their clients. A brief survey is emailed out to as many clients as an agent would like. The email typically reachfactor 1comes from ReachFactor, and not the agent, to encourage clients to be candid in their review and to give reviewers a sense that their agent is a true professional (agents can append a personal cover note on the email).

The survey consists of a few questions, each with a 5-star rating option. At the end of the survey clients are invited to provide open-ended feedback. When asked how many surveys contain qualitative analysis, Suresh said about 88% of returned surveys includes original commentary by the reviewer.

Once the email is sent out and reviews begin to trickle in, the agent is notified by email. The agent has control over whether to keep all of their reviews private, for their own personal reflection, or make all the reviews public. They can choose which networks and channels to publicize these reviews for marketing value.

Agents who already have a pile of reference letters do not need to re-survey these clients. Instead they can have ReachFactor digitize these reviews and have them added to their reviews library inside ReachFactor. And these imported reviews can also get verified. When agents add basic transaction and client information to any of their imported surveys or letters of reference, ReachFactor will verify they are legitimate. ReachFactor uses manual and mechanical methods to research each transaction to make sure the survey respondent was indeed a party to the transaction the agent indicated.

If a review gets verified, ReachFactor will endorse the review by placing their stamp graphic on the review along with the transaction date. This is designed to assure potential clients that these reviews are legitimate.

To help make these reviews accessible to an agent's target online audience, reachfactor 2ReachFactor provides marketing of these reviews as they are generated to networks like Google, Craigslist, Facebook, and Twitter. ReachFactor also provides website and blog widgets for agents to add to their own personal marketing efforts.

Benefits of the ReachFactor platform

There are certainly benefits to gathering agent reviews/ratings. Suresh outlined a few key benefits as he sees them, during our call:

  1. Credibility: By showcasing verified reviews to the public, agents demonstrate their willingness to be transparent. This is so essential to gaining trust with new prospects today. And reachfactor3by leveraging a Survey platform like ReachFactor, agents stoke more loyal relationships among existing clients who see the agent is very concerned about professionalism and quality of service.
  2. Convenience: By providing past clients an easy-to-complete survey online, agents make it simple for their former clients to review the service they received. The easier the process, the more likely it is that your clients will actually take the time to review your service. Once the review data is gathered, a few clicks turns on all kinds of marketing to a number of online channels.
  3. Confidentiality and Control: Agents do not have to release the reviews if they don't want to. Some agents prefer to just collect feedback as a way to build stronger relationships with past clients. That's absolutely fine. And rest assured, ReachFactor never co-opts the relationship between an agent and his/her client.

Learn more about ReachFactor.

Click here to read the other articles in the Agent Ratings 101 column.