When it comes to building online reputation, Google is king, says Ben Davies Chief Executive at PropertyHeads.com. It is estimated that over 90% of consumers Google a business before financially engaging with it.
The good news is that if estate agents have secured positive reviews and any third-party blogs have said only good things about them, their online reputation will be secure.
However, this is not the case for most agents. Many have experienced disgruntled clients, who vent their disappointment and anger in negative comments across social media and review sites. This published feedback can be potentially damaging and can ruin the hard-earned reputation that an estate agent may have built up over some years.
Even though estate agents may spend hundreds of pounds on digital branding campaigns with new websites, blogs, online ads and search engine marketing, to increase web traffic and instructions, they can’t buy brand reputation.
Ben Davis, Chief Executive, said, “In the digital space, brand reputation is built through positive conversations with consumers; good reviews and feedback across social media; brand transparency and honesty; and listening to customers.
“We created PropertyHeads.com, a dedicated property social network, to empower estate agents to maintain control of their brand by networking with their clients directly, posting content and managing buyer and vendor enquiries. Our site is the only place where agents can get a review from a customer, that is then automatically flagged to that customer’s friends and family, when they are looking for an estate agent themselves. However, we don’t give star scores, because we recognise that it’s an ineffective way to rank ten local agents when the difference between their star score is a rounding error.
“We will ban agents (or more likely a firm masquerading as an agent) if they consistently get very negative reviews. We can do this because we don’t charge agents, so we’re not motivated by subscription payments and all our reviews are attributed to real members, so it is impractical to game the system.
“We give agents the opportunity to build their brand and reputation though posting quality content and engaging with local home movers. Forming groups on PropertyHeads.com (e.g. Southend Landlords, or Romford first time buyers) is a great way to build reputation and win business.
Areas to consider for your online reputation:
- Monitor your brand regularly – stay informed about online conversations to identify complaints and misinformation and their sources. Be prepared to address them in a positive, professional and prompt manner
Adopt best practice when it comes to handling bad reviews. If they are handled in a professional manner, agents can send the right message out to prospective vendors. But if they are dealt with in an unprofessional manner, they can seriously damage reputation and lead to a loss of potential instructions
- Online reviews bring a great opportunity for estate agents to enhance their reputation online and convince potential customers to get in touch. In fact, reviews are one of the most powerful marketing channels to help drive sales. Reviews and star ratings give agents ‘social proof’. Good reviews can be used across all marketing channels including press, online, outdoor advertising, social media and on agents’ websites. These can be very powerful and if successfully incorporated into a Google AdWords campaign, can help agents to increase click-through rates and boost instructions
- Provide a good client experience at all points of contact. Ensure Facebook replies, website navigation, invoicing, emails and SMS messaging give the client the best customer experience possible. Good customer service will encourage clients to recommend you to friends and family and post positive reviews online
- Be proactive, engaging with clients and prospects on social media, posting helpful and informative content about the local property market to demonstrate expertise. It’s also worth joining or establishing relevant groups on Facebook or PropertyHeads.
- Listen to client feedback and make improvements – this will help you to improve your customer service and establish more happy customers. Invite clients to feed back their experiences and let them know you’re listening to their comments and plan to make improvements.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say – stick to your brand promises and go the extra mile to ensure you always deliver. This goes a long way to building trust and reputation. When agents fail to keep their promises, clients can become disappointed and vent their negative feelings across social media
- Work on being transparent and honest in all your communications. Consumers will have much more respect and trust in your agency. When using social media, tell the truth as consumers are increasingly savvy and many of them have highly sophisticated filters to spot estate agents that aren’t being truthful. The trick is to use all of the social media tools to tell an entertaining brand story in a way that drives consumer trust, loyalty and reputation.
- Customers are increasingly impatient so agents should respond promptly to all enquiries. Be open to utilising new tools such as PropertyHeads’ Instant Messaging for agents (which allows agents to instantly respond to portal enquiries and begin to build that customer relationship immediately).