In our recent post, Why 5-Star Reviews Are Your Best form of Advertising, we focused on the importance of online reputation management and using positive client reviews as part of a successful marketing plan. But, how do you get (and keep!) 5-star reviews? Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be well on your way to earning the reviews that will get you noticed!

1. Provide a 5-Star Experience

It might seem obvious, but the best way to consistently harvest 5-star reviews and keep your online reputation at a winning level is by providing a 5-star customer experience.

“Customer experience” or CX is essentially the client’s complete journey, and includes each level of contact or “touchpoint” the client has with you and your business. While customer service is more company-focused, customer experience is more client-focused. This can be a real game-changer when you begin to shift your thinking from how well YOU can do as a business to how satisfied and engaged your clients will be.  

Take Trader Joe’s for example. What started as an unlikely, unassuming little surf-inspired chain grocery store (that also happens to break all the big-chain corporate grocery store rules) now has a very dedicated following of not just loyal customers, but adoring fans.

Mark Gardiner, author of Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s, writes that Trader Joe’s team members are encouraged to do things like strike up conversations with customers and stock inventory items during business hours to maximize customer interaction. He also adds that, “If you’re helping a customer, that trumps all else!”

While a grocery store is a very different environment from a real estate brokerage, a lot can be learned from Trader Joe’s success. Remember to use warm words, make eye contact when you’re doing business in person, and get to know your clients in a friendly and professionally-appropriate way.

Taking it one step further, Norm Merritt, President and CEO of QualiTest, suggests that 5-star customer service should “hurt a little.” He says, “Wowing your customers is a powerful tool, but when it’s done right, it should also hurt a little. Why? Because providing an above and beyond, truly memorable customer service experience actually involves going out of your way for people. It’s not easy, or else everyone would do it.”

As a real estate professional, that wow-factor could be as simple as being in regular communication with clients, even if there’s not much movement with the transaction, or thoughtful details like:

  • Stocking their new fridge and/or pantry the day before move-in with their favorite snacks and beverages
  • Sending pizza or food delivery on moving day
  • Putting together “starter” basket filled with goodies for their new home
  • Giving them a personalized list of local vendors and resources
  • Introducing them to people in the community who might have a business or personal interest in common

Providing 5-star service involves putting yourself in your clients’ shoes and being empathetic so you can anticipate their needs.

2. Set Expectations for Attainable Excellence

Let your clients know a few things early on:

  • You’re planning to earn their 5-star review
  • They can count on you for exceptional service
  • If at any point they start to feel like the service is anything other than outstanding, they have permission to call you on it

This sets the stage for both you and your client. Your client will feel he’s in exceptional hands, and if things get rocky, it will give him a sense of control over his own level of customer satisfaction. Plus, you’ll benefit from advanced notice if your client is less than satisfied, an important early step in preventing undesirable reviews.

As you’re setting expectations for excellence, bear in mind your own limitations as well as the limitations of a deal or set of circumstances. By under-promising and over-delivering, you can keep expectations in the attainable realm, rather than promising pie-in-the-sky results.

 Another item of importance is to talk about potential issues or pitfalls before they occur, so that no one is surprised if the deal isn’t accepted or the financing doesn’t go through.

3. Follow Up and Ask

One to two weeks after closing a deal with a buyer or seller (even if you helped but didn’t close the transaction), follow up with a call or an email to ask if she fully enjoyed working with you. If the client is 100% happy, ask if she’d be willing to leave that 5-star review on Google or Zillow (or whatever review site you choose). Let your client know that your business is built on referrals and reviews of this type, and that if she feels that you’ve earned the 5 stars, you’d appreciate it if she would share her experience with other potential clients who might benefit from your services. Then, send her a clear link to the review or social media site. (Be advised that incentivizing customers for positive reviews is frowned upon and is often illegal.)

In gathering testimonials or reviews from satisfied clients, it can be helpful to both you and your former clients to have a list of questions ready. Here’s a quick script you can send via email:

“[Name], thank you for choosing me as your real estate agent! I value your honest feedback and I think other potential clients would appreciate knowing what they can expect from me. Would you do me the favor of writing a review on [X, Y, or Z review site]? [Agents: list two or three review sites you prefer and include a clear link to each.]

Here are some questions you might like to think about as part of your write-up:

  • What made you decide to [buy/sell] your home? [Agents: be sure to replace “[buy/sell]” with the correct “buy” or “sell” action to keep it personalized.]
  • Why did you choose me as your real estate agent?
  • What did you like best about your experience?
  • What are some reasons you would recommend my services to others?

Asking for reviews might seem daunting, but commit to making it part of your marketing strategy, focusing on clients you know will be happy to provide positive reviews. Even if the reviews are not posted on social media or review sites, having an arsenal of glowing client testimonials for your website, landing page, or marketing collateral goes a long way in boosting your credibility and encouraging trust.

Click these links to find out more about managing your business listing on Google and Yelp.

To create a link for customer reviews on Google or Yelp, search for your business on either or both platforms (on Google, you can also do this through Maps if your business address is verified), click “write a review,” and use the link to send to clients.

To create a link for clients to leave a review on your Facebook page, navigate to your page and add /reviews/ to the end of the url. For example, https://www.facebook.com/yourbusinesspage/reviews/

4. Build Relationships by Encouraging Honesty

People want to be heard and understood. Asking your clients for honest feedback could turn a potential negative review into a positive one. If you don’t provide that opportunity before the online review, many unhappy customers will use the review as a platform for venting their frustrations.

Being transparent with clients instills a sense of trust, which in turn makes them more inclined to provide honest feedback. Tony Delmercado, COO of Hawke Media, claims, “’Transparency’ is no longer a buzzword — it’s a real necessity in today’s business world.”

What’s one of the best ways of building trust and credibility with clients? Through regular, reliable, honest, two-way communication. Demonstrate your willingness to pull the curtains back and be forthright and clients will likely reciprocate. Remind clients often that you invite their questions, and consider leaving a link in your email to honest, unbiased client reviews.

Have your client’s best interest in mind, even if it could seem to be to your disadvantage. For example, in “Convincing Them It’s Worth Less Than They Think,” we expose the incorrect thinking about inflated listing prices that gets many sellers and agents in a bind, and we share an easy script for navigating the listing price discussion when sellers want to set the asking price at higher than market value. Initially, clients might not be thrilled about the idea of selling for less, but they’ll appreciate your honesty – especially when the house is sold in a shorter time frame.

Remaining ethical and honest with clients will improve your reputation, minimize surprises, and ultimately lead to repeat business.

5. Learn from Critical Feedback

Look at critical feedback as an opportunity to learn something about yourself and your business. Really listen to your clients, take notes, and act. Did they have trouble getting in touch with you? Did they feel like they could have gotten more for their property? Did they feel your commission was too high?

Just as you would do with any other client, remember to thank the critical feedback client for his time and honesty, even if it’s a tough pill to swallow. If the client still writes a negative review at this point, at least you’ve done your best to mitigate it, and you’re more equipped to earn a better review next time.

What’s the best way to handle a negative review once it’s out there? We’ll delve into this in the final installment of our “5-Star Reviews” posts. Keep an eye out!

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