As you build your real estate presence online, you’re bound to encounter online comments and feedback – including negative reviews which can be soul-destroying. Let’s look at how to deal with less than positive feedback, and uncover why a bad review might not be so bad after all.
The ups and downs of real estate reviews and testimonials
Review sites have now become an integral part of just about everything we do online. Facebook and Google reviews have given us, as consumers, the ability to rely on our peers and the experiences of others to help make purchase decisions. Whirlpool, Tripadvisor and Yelp have changed the landscape of the way brands are viewed online.
Of course, this also applies to the way people choose a real estate agent. Both sales agents and property management. We all want as many reviews as possible – client reviews and testimonials build trust in our brands and increase our online presence. But, we have to face the fact that not every review is going to be positive.
Interestingly it’s agencies with Property Management divisions that suffer the most flack, with disgruntled tenants. Real estate sales agents have a little more control over the reviews received, and places where they can vet them before publishing them, but negative reviews may still pop up from time to time.
So how do you deal with negative real estate reviews?
When is a negative review not a negative review?
People can leave bad reviews about you as an agent or your real estate business for all kinds of reasons. Some clients have expectations so high that they’re never going to be met, no matter what lengths you go to. Sometimes a competitor may leave a negative review anonymously to paint you in a bad light, or a disgruntled ex-employee might feel like airing a grudge.
You’re not in control of other people’s opinions – so how you deal with them is everything when it comes to boosting your brand online.
“A negative review or two show that your reviews are real!”
A negative review or two can actually be good for your real estate marketing as they show that your reviews are real. Modern consumers are savvy enough to be suspicious if a brand’s reviews are universally positive – they’re likely to think you’re vetting them or writing them yourself, and that they’re not an accurate reflection of your business.
The downside to bad reviews is that they can affect your star rating. The way to get around this is to make sure you are continually asking your clients to review your real estate business online. The more positive reviews your brand has, the less impact the negative ones will have.
If a negative reviewer has identified themselves, there’s no harm in reaching out to them – you may be able to come to an arrangement that results in them removing their review. Remember to always be polite!
Real estate review sites – how much control do they give you?
Some of the most popular sites allow clients to leave reviews for your business without you being able to approve them first. These include:
- Google places
- Facebook reviews
Google and Facebook won’t remove a review simply because you request it, but they will remove it if you can prove it was written by a competitor. Yelp runs all reviews through an algorithm to prove they’re genuine before posting them.
Some other sites enable you to request, read and approve your reviews before they’re published. These include:
- LinkedIn recommendations
- Rate My Agent
- Property Only (NZ)
Aside from LinkedIn recommendations, these are all dedicated property websites. Rate My Agent, in particular, has forged a niche for itself as Australia’s go-to platform for real estate reviews. Property Only is the closest equivalent in New Zealand, but at the time of writing, it hasn’t gained a lot of traction.
Actively monitor your real estate reviews
There can be no doubt that real estate agent reviews are here to stay – and that includes the negative ones. It’s essential to be aware of where people are leaving reviews for your business, and ensure you still have access to all these platforms so you can respond. If you are updating any of your accounts, merge them.
Should you turn off your Facebook reviews?
Recently, in a training seminar that I was running for Laing+Simmons, I was asked by one of the attendees whether turning off your real estate reviews on Facebook was a good idea. It’s an option but I don’t believe it’s a good one.
Many online directories use Facebook as a source for their business listings. It would be a shame to reduce your online presence simply because you were worried about a negative review. Facebook also gives you an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that you know how to respond to reviews in a professional way.
Responding to negative reviews
It’s essential to stay calm and polite when responding – and some things are best kept out of the public arena altogether. This may affect property managers more than real estate agents, as they have to deal with disputes between landlords and tenants. Unsurprisingly, this can cause people to vent their feelings about a tenancy situation online.
A real estate industry friend of mine who heads up communications for a well-known national real estate brand rang me recently to discuss the topic of dealing with negative real estate reviews.
A negative review had been left by a disgruntled tenant after a tribunal decision didn’t go his way. Having been through the tribunal process myself as a landlord, with a couple of my tenants, I advised my friend to respond only in very generic terms, acknowledging the review and apologising that the tenant felt that way, but nothing more.
All serious discussion should take place offline, through the formal mediation and dispute resolution process. Otherwise, things could get out of hand very quickly, which can seriously tarnish the image of your brand.
Whatever the issue, you should never respond in the heat of the moment. Do your research, look back at your records, and if you’ve genuinely done something wrong, apologise. Viewers will respect your honesty and it may end up bringing more business to your door!
What if a bad review is anonymous?
If someone isn’t prepared to let you know who they are, there’s only so much you can do.
A client of mine received two negative reviews, one after the other, from accounts that had initials instead of names. The content of the reviews suggested they could have been written by someone who knew my client well, but there was no way to prove it.
The best way to handle this situation is to highlight that you’d be happy to discuss the problem if they were prepared to identify themselves. Then ask your happy clients to leave positive reviews as quickly as possible so the negative ones are no longer at the top of the list.
Avoiding bad reviews
Obviously, the best way to avoid negative reviews is to provide a standout service at all times! But should any bad feelings occur, try to nip them in the bud as quickly as possible.
Follow up with all your clients as soon as the transaction goes through to check they’re happy with the service. Try to deal with any negativity offline before people feel the need to air their grievances to the world, online.
If all else fails, you can always use good old-fashioned negotiation tactics. Offer incentives for good reviews (shopping or cinema vouchers generally work wonders). Equally, you can offer compensation in return for a bad review being updated in a more positive light.
Capturing real estate reviews the smart way
If someone agrees to leave a positive review, ask them to use Rate My Agent as the starting point. Then follow up with an email asking them if they’d mind copying and pasting their review to Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Good news travels fast but there’s no harm in helping it along!
Don’t be disheartened
Most people understand that everyone has different expectations and you can’t please all of the people all of the time. By responding well to negative real estate reviews and demonstrating good customer service in the face of adversity, you may well do your real estate business a lot of favours!