In today's online climate, brokerage firms, teams and agents must monitor their online reviews, ratings and reputation. However, the world of reputation management can be confusing. Many buyers and sellers don't want to leave a review on multiple sites. How do you decide which to use? What do you do with bad reviews? Social Survey CEO Scott Harris offers strategies for handling bad reviews and how to make the most of your reputation. Plus, he discusses trends in reputation management so you can be on the cutting edge of this growing information trend.
Listen or read the full podcast interview below.
Today, we're speaking with Scott Harris, CEO of SocialSurvey, an enterprise reputation management firm with clients in both the mortgage and real estate industries. My first question is simple, tell me a little bit about SocialSurvey, and what you have to offer real estate brokerage firms?
Hey Tracy, thanks for having me. The online reputation management landscape is really messy. There are lots of places where a real estate agent, a real estate broker could be found. Zillow, and realtor.com have reviews, and you can find the agents out there on the Google My Business, or the office on Google My Business, or Yelp, or Bing, or Citysearch, or City-Data. There's so many places where agents can be found online, and it's really messy, and complicated, and manual to deal with.
SocialSurvey automates the whole thing, your entire online presence management. We automatically survey customers by connecting to services like Dotloop, or Lone Wolf, or we have APIs, and FTPs, and all kinds of ways that we automate for the brokerage, and for the brand.
Then, when a real estate agent closes a transaction we automatically send a survey request, and when that survey comes in we are able to power all of those sites with the voice of their customer, so we can help drive reviews to Google My Business, and Zillow. We share them socially on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and our site, and we could drive them to the agents' websites and the brokers' websites. We've created a highly automated way, so that agents don't have to be focused on this, and it just happens for them.
That sounds great. Obviously, reputation management is vital today. I know according to NAR the majority of home buyers and the sellers go online to research properties. REAL Trends recent consumer study, 'Relationships Still Matter Most With Housing Consumers' found that 62% of consumers surveyed felt like looking at websites with ratings of agents' performance was extremely important and 92% of the consumers looked to the web to gather information about local real estate agents.
How much does that correlates with your own research?
We find the same thing, and I could talk about different pieces of this puzzle, but just to focus on a couple of points let's think about the way we all shop now. When we go to a restaurant, and we go to Yelp, and we see 6 5-star web reviews we probably don't trust it, but if we see 600 at 4.8 we're probably going to have a good experience at that restaurant.
More and more we're all looking at reviews to make a decision. Now, maybe somebody gave us a referral of a real estate agent. The first thing we do is go and look that agent up, and so this is very important. Not only is it great for SEO, not only does Google have all kinds of signals built into their organic search like citation signals, and review signals, and looking for keywords, but this is just becoming more important to validate referrals.
I was on RE/MAX's site this morning, and from a top-down perspective they don't have reviews on their agent sites. I was on Coldwell Banker, and from a top-down perspective I couldn't find reviews on their agent sites. I really believe the company that figures this out top-down ... right now, what you have is an environment where the agents are managing it on an individual basis, but there's tremendous power in numbers, and I think the company that figures this out is going to win a big race, and they're going to see all kinds of new organic search.
We found that agents on our platform, just using our automation, are self-reporting a 13.7% average growth in business. Just from taking the voice of their customer, and sharing it. Yeah, we're seeing that ... we really believe that the agencies and the brands that help their agents with this top-down, and allow them to power not just the brand, but the individual agent sites, so that everywhere you find those agents, you find the best of them from the true voice of their customer they're going to win.
Let's talk about the power of online reviews. Can you give me some examples of how some brokerage firms are using your service, or how you aggregate all of those reviews into one place, if that's what you do, if you can explain that?
You have an experience with a real estate agent, and it's a great experience, and you automatically get a review request from that real estate agent. It says, "Thank you so much for your business. Your business and opinion are both very important to me, would you please click a link below and take a very brief satisfaction survey, tell us how we did?" You take the survey, and I'm talking specifically. Let's use David Mussari's group in Ohio. David Mussari Berkshire Hathaway Group, it's 600 agents, fantastic group, they've got 32 offices. They're getting the 55% of their customers to complete that survey that I just described, 55%. They're averaging 4.9 stars, and agents have to do nothing.
Not only does every agent have the voice of their customer shared 8 to 10 times out there online through our automation, but they're all in one platform highly automated, so we can rank every agent against every other agent, and now it's part of their DNA. They do a special awards every year for customer satisfaction. They've seen in a few years 11,000 reviews shared over 60,000 times. Then, plus on their website, and plus on SocialSurvey. In the last three years since they've worked with SocialSurvey David said that they've seen a 20% growth in business, and a lot of that they attribute to the voice of their customers.
SocialSurvey's just a product, it's an engine that takes the good work the agents are already doing, and shares it. Then, not just shares it ... again, we share for the brand at the top, but we also share it for the individual agents, and the offices, so that we can map to the Zillow pages, and we can map to the Google My Business pages, and we can map to the corporate pages. Everywhere that you'd want the voice of your customer it can be with this level of automation, but when a single agent is managing for themselves it becomes way more complicated for that agent. It's really complicated to think about that agent, and sharing it here, and sharing at there, and then asking the customer for another review. Then, saying, "Hey, can you also do it on Google," so that's what we've seen. David's group is a great example of they're just winning, and no one has to do anything, it just happens.
You see, some agents have figured this out a long time ago, and they've been doing it manually, and they're winning because there's no one else doing it. We come in and we power everyone, and now we not only just catch up but we help folks without having to do anything to pass by those agents that have been focused on it for a long time.
You have your finger on the pulse of reputation management. Tell me some of the trends you're seeing out there that are relevant to the real estate industry.
Wow, that is a good question. With our own product we find that once a company understands the power of this level of automation they always want it to do more. They want, okay, now let's do partner surveys. Let me survey internal folks within the company to make sure that we're doing a good job for each other. Let's try to build better relationships with our mortgage and real estate title partners. We see folks doing partner surveys with automation in our system.
We also see out there globally a couple really important things. There is this drive to true voice, trusted reviews because many of the platforms, and some of them we've talked about, are almost like a doormats, I hate to say that, but where you only send your happiest customers to. In a recent FTC ruling if you're restricting negative reviews then you could be doing damage, actual damage to buyers who are looking to make a good decision, and are using reviews to make that decision, and so all these platforms are really trying to get away from this dating idea, and they want the true voice of the customer. A real trend, and it's why we're forming great partnerships with some of those platforms is because they don't want just happy customers on there, they want all the customers. They want to make sure that their platform is not just driving people to the folks that are sending all their happy customers there, but driving customers to the right people. We're seeing a drive towards true voice.
Now, one other trend that I think is really important, and it's the top of the house trend to win the customer first, and it's a race between the mortgage companies and real estate companies. I'm not 1000% sure that I got my release date right, but from what I understand Keller Williams is rolling out in an April/May time frame a consumer portal for mortgages which is an automated mortgage lending portal. It's that whole drive to the customer first, that's a real trend.
I've been in high-level meetings with some pretty high-level execs and that's the entire topic, how do we win the customer first? We share the customer with a real estate agent, or let's control the mortgage site, so I'm seeing and we're seeing the reviews platforms becoming a big part of those funnel activities is how do we get to the customer first? Those are some of the trends we're seeing out there, especially across the two platforms that we're focused on.
What are some other ways that real estate brokers’ teams and agents can protect their reputation, and build a true voice solid reputation online?
We think that you can't be afraid of a bad review. We think you have to send every customer request. We think you have to automate it because there's power in numbers. Again, back to my restaurant example, you've done it too. You go to Yelp, and you're looking for Chinese food, you see a Chinese restaurant with, let's call it, 20 5-star reviews, do you trust that? It's really hard to trust that, but if you see one with 1000 reviews and a couple of bad ones, and a 4.8, or 4.7, or even a 4.5 on Yelp you think, "That's going to be a great experience."
I think people naturally don't trust when the results are too good, and so I think there's power in numbers, and power in automation, and then there's a lot of different spots to manage. It's not just managing, and I think it's getting messier this online landscape, and all this listings landscape, and everywhere you can find an agent, everywhere you can find an office it just seems to me every time I turn around there's another site that's throwing up listings, and half of them are wrong. An agent moves from one office to another, and it just gets messy because now they've got bad information on half of those sites.
We like to think that a tool like SocialSurvey helps you manage all of that from one location with something you should be doing. At a very high level, don't be afraid of a bad review. Ask every customer. If someone's upset make it right. Delight your customers every way you can, and I'm sure that most of your listeners are doing that. If you do something wrong, over-communicate, make it right, and if you do get a bad review respond. Go on there and respond because I trust a company, and an individual that when they get a bad review that goes on there, and graciously says, "I blew it. You're right, this shouldn't have happened. Give me a call offline, let's work through this," those kinds of things.
Now, I don't trust folks that when they go on and they reply, and they're fighting on the reply that will do more damage, that will hurt you.
Reply with tact.
Yeah, exactly. You've seen the back-and-forth diatribes, right?
Yes, definitely. Finally, as we look to the future of reputation management what are some new, and exciting developments that maybe you're working on, or that you're seeing across the industry?
This is really a big data play, and where it's heading is ... where it is, is video. By 2019 video will be 80% of all consumption online, so it's going to video. Facebook generates 8 billion video views per day. It is insane. Video, produces 1200% more shares than text and images online combined, and so this is going towards video reviews, and we are working with a platform, that I cannot name, to get focused on driving happy customers, and those customers that have written reviews to take that extra step and go to video because we know the platform, and the agents, and the brokers that if you only got 2% of your customers to do a video you'd just win.
Then, in addition to video, it's sentiment. You're going to see people pass AI, and go right to cognition. The technology is getting really good, and it's going to go from a place where you're just doing word clouds to tell you that you have an issue with an agent in one location to where it's actually reading all the reviews, and giving you real sentiment trends, and basically analyzing every review and the sentiment behind them for you, so that it can help you make better decisions.
The trends that we're seeing:
Well, that's great. This was very interesting. Thank you so much Scott for joining the REAL Trends podcast today. We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
We really appreciate being on. I look forward to seeing this come out. We're excited to be partnered with the industry. We've been so focused on mortgage for the first half of our lives, and now we're investing heavily in real estate we're getting lots of brands and we just didn't realize that most of the tech out there is for individuals, and no one's really solved the problem bottom-up, so we are excited to be partnering with some really cool brands.
REAL Trends has been The Trusted Source of news, analysis, and information on the residential brokerage industry since 1987. We are a privately-held publishing, consulting and communications company based in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Accessibility: We are making efforts to be ADA Compliant. Should you have any challenges or questions please contact us at (303) 741-1000.