Rankings, Reviews and Ratings, Oh My!

By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The conversation began by the AgentMatch controversy continues, at a far slower pace since the program was hauled back in for review, but the issue still seems to be confusing to a number of people, including some very smart folks who consult with and to the real estate industry. It seems there is  a lack of distinction in the conversations about Reviews, Ratings, and Rankings.

Rankings

The Agent Match System is a Rankings system. Raw data about the number of properties sold and or listed is compiled, and the person reported with the highest number of transactions is Number one, and everyone else follows by the number of transactions. Why don’t most people like this type of system? For a couple of reasons. Volume alone doesn’t speak to the type of business an agent does, or their qualifications to do a specific piece of business. Also, except for the highest volume agents in a marketplace, everyone else is made insecure by that kind of measurement. But, with the availability of the data, and the love of lists that permeates our society, it is inevitable that someone will assemble the information (no matter how poor or incomplete the data) and use it to lure consumer eyes. Because that is the real purpose of such a list, regardless of the other reasons that may surround it. In the attention economy, a list that draws eyes is worth its weight in diamonds.

Reviews

Reviews are the new Holy Grail of consumerism. From the grassroots type of product and book reviews given on Amazon and restaurant reviews on Yelp to the often vitriolic reviews on TripAdvisor, the internet has given voice to the consumer. As a sales business, real estate professionals have been taught to ask for reviews from clients and customers for decades, well before they were to be published online. As a result, many agents are now soliciting positive reviews from clients and customers and facilitating their publishing on Yelp and other services. Because they (the real estate professional) is involved in the process,and have sought the opinions that are expressed.

Ratings

Ratings are old hat in the real estate industry. The number of #1 salespeople or teams may have even exceeded the number of licensees at some point in the industry’s history, but since we were being rated by ourselves, our company or our franchise, we were alright with that. The problem started when third parties began rating us, and the “star rating” system became a part of everyone’s online world.

Star Ratings are a side issue created by third party reviews, and they represent the fuzziest part of this world. They are a type of crowd sourcing, but if the crowd is too small, the ratings can be very misleading to the consumer.
tornadoguardBut their being misleading doesn’t mean that they will go away or that consumers will learn from our poor TornadoGuard users.

Now instead of professionals from Cordon Bleu or Zagat, who rated businesses according to strict standards, now everyone gets to choose how many stars a business or individual should get, without any real explanation of what the stars should mean. People love to be the arbiters of who’s awesome and who sucks, and stars let them be the judges on “America’s Got Whatever”. But generally third party ratings are not automated. You need to please or upset a consumer enough for them to take the time to get online and write something, and  though ranking people when you write reviews has grown to actually become a thing, it is still not at the forefront of most consumers minds unless they are on the extreme of the pleasure/pan spectrum. However,now with services like Real Satisfied (which survey consumers on behalf of real estate professionals and then seeks to publish the solicited ratings from the consumer on third party sites) we may actually see some increase in the use of rankings and the publication of reviews as the process is more automated. 

 Oh My!

Real estate professionals are not wrong in being aware of the issues that can be raised by unhappy consumer reviews, or the benefits that can be reaped by positive reviews. They should do everything in their power to please their clients and customers so their digital footprint presents the most positive picture possible to consumers who have not yet met them.

Nor are real estate professionals wrong to be concerned about third party Agent Matching processes because they will ultimately be created and operated for the commercial benefit of the creators, not for the benefit of consumer or the real estate agent.

Realtor.com experimented Agent Match because it would be eye candy for consumers, and could conceivably draw more eyes to their site in the war for consumer attention that they wage every day with every other real estate portal or website.  Companies that want to be the Match.com for consumers and real estate agents want to be that company in order to sell leads, or advertising, or to generate enough traffic to be acquired or have an IPO. No one in a commercial venture goes to work each day because they are trying to make the world a better place, they are going to work because to make their company more successful. If they can make the world a better place while they’re doing that, all the better, but they need to be in business first.

In the final analysis, all of these things, reviews, rankings and ratings, only impact the consumers you haven’t met, and though the research that consumers does online does impact their actions, it is not the be all and end all. It is only about who they contact first, not who they will eventually end up doing business with. Ours is a business where consumers often continue to wander online and contact other real estate professionals  after good initial contacts with real estate professionals, and sometimes even after they have signed a contract with a real estate professional for representation. Their practices aren’t about to be changed by any of this, and good agents, regardless of the number of transactions they have completed in a given area. will still prevail in that competition.

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1 comment for “Rankings, Reviews and Ratings, Oh My!

  1. Teresa
    January 22, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Nice analysis Bill.

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