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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Regarding Online Reviews, One Just Has to Take the Bad With the Good



[Published July 9, 2015, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]



Nowadays online reviews are the rage. Many real estate websites carry reviews, some of them under the control of the agent, others not.  Zillow, for example, provides a link for agents to send to clients allowing them to write a review, and it’s expected and accepted that the agent would only send that link to clients who would write positive reviews. That’s why you’re unlikely to read a negative review on Zillow, and it is also possible, I have observed, for agents to fabricate reviews.  (I saw 10 glowing reviews for a newer agent who had fewer than five transactions on the MLS.) 


Not wanting to leave the rating of agents to non-Realtor websites, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has taken more than one stab at creating an honest solution which its members would accept. Since the “80/20 rule” applies here as elsewhere, however, NAR members keep beating down any proposal which would make it easier for consumers to identify the 20% of Realtors who do 80% of the transactions.

 
One of those “stabs” was to work with Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC), which operates www.RatedAgent.com.  NAR called it the “Realtor Excellence Program.”  Golden Real Estate was an early adopter, and if you visit that website, you’ll see ratings for me and other agents which are based on responses by actual clients to QSC surveys sent out shortly after each closing. Agents cannot manipulate the responses in any way.  We can’t even submit a response to a negative review.  With a maximum rating of 5.0, none of us has a perfect rating. That’s a good indicator of the site’s integrity.  (You can read my reviews at www.JimSmithReviews.com.)


Because I know and trust the methodology of that website, I felt confident relying on it when I was asked by a friend to refer an agent in Kansas City for selling one house and buying another. After those transactions were completed, my confidence in the website was affirmed by the praise which my friend lavished on the agent I had recommended. Personally, I wish NAR had made permanent its short-lived Realtor Excellence Program with QSC and that more real estate brokerages had signed on to it.  Now that NAR’s experiment has ended, our company pays QSC for continued survey service.

 
New to this business of rating Realtors is www.Yelp.com. I was inspired to create a business page on Yelp and even paid for premium positioning on it. If you search Yelp for a real estate company in Golden, you’ll see Golden Real Estate featured prominently with pictures, a 90-second video, and an extended description of our company.

 
What you’ll also start to see over time are customer reviews.  Businesses may not plant reviews on Yelp or solicit reviews from former clients — and they can’t prevent negative reviews from being displayed.  You can imagine my surprise, then, when our company’s very first review was an extremely negative one from a former client with whom I terminated a short, unpleasant relationship.   

In the review you’ll read that I’m “unprofessional” and that I shouted and cursed at this “senior citizen and widow.”  Her complaint is based on fact, but is greatly overblown, without disclosing what led to my one sentence she described as “cursing.”  She also doesn’t mention that I apologized after our blow-up.

 
Yelp does allow a business owner to submit a response to a negative review, and I have taken advantage of that process.  Hopefully future reviews will raise my average Yelp rating from its initial 1.0 and reveal that first review to be the anomaly it is. 

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