5:57 PM August 25, 2022
During this holiday season, one website that will receive millions of visits is TripAdvisor.
The review site is almost universally hated by hotel business owners, not so much for its enormous influence, but more because of the massive question mark over the authenticity of many of the reviews posted there.
Britain’s best-known restaurant reviewer, Jay Rayner, once suggested that people should post an analysis of their bill so they can post a review on TripAdvisor, so we can at least know that the author s was actually returned to the establishment in question. The fact that the site rejected the idea gives you an idea of how confident they are – or not – in the veracity of many of the reviews they post.
Why am I talking about TripAdvisor? Because the site has started an explosion of similar review sites in all sorts of industries, and the real estate agency is not immune to this trend.
Done correctly, review sites can be extremely useful, especially when you close what is probably the biggest transaction you will ever make. Hear the opinions of others who have used the services of real estate agents, transport companies, removals, etc. can be very helpful in making the right choices.
But – and this is a big but – you need to be very careful about the review site you use. You need to make sure the site has integrity and the reviews are genuine.
Sites like Google don’t require proof that you’ve actually transacted with a business, potentially opening the system up to companies asking staff and families to post false positive reviews to boost ratings. Then there are a number of specific estate agency rating sites, but many of these are highly editable by the companies themselves, and are therefore of questionable value.
Feefo is a site that offers integrity. Agencies who sign up for Feefo must accept that the site offers the ability to review them only to clients who complete a transaction (so no edits to those where things went wrong), and only those who actually used the business are authorized to post reviews.
Experience suggests that up to 40% of people contacted by Feefo post a review, so that’s pretty representative. If you want to check what real customers think of a real estate agent, Feefo is the site I would recommend.
Finally, some tips on using review sites. First of all, beware of any company that has a 5/5 rating in all areas. Everyone (even us!) gets it wrong from time to time, and the odd negative review points to a more authentic picture.
Second, when reviewing, make sure you’re looking at the company in question, rather than the entire experience. Once we got a one star rating, and when we asked the client what we could have done better, he replied, “Oh, we were very pleased with you, they are the buyer’s lawyers who caused all the trouble.”
Just as you shouldn’t rate a vacation hotel just because your flight home was delayed, it’s important to be clear about what you’re actually reviewing.
User reviews are here to stay and can be very useful, provided you understand what you are dealing with.
Jan Hÿtch is a residential partner at Arnolds Keys.