Social proof is important in marketing .. and I can see why the likes of Purplebricks and Yopa are using Trust Pilot and other such review websites to market themselves – social proof (ie people saying things and giving marks out of five). In fact, it appears to me both hybrid estate agents have dropped their reliance on TV advertising (which they used for their brand awareness), and it seems their marketing appears to be a lot more focused on the ‘social proof marketing strategy’ instead.
I think that is very clever .. but I want to add a note a caution to them both on the use of such social proof website (and any other firm be they estate agent or not) .. for two reasons.
Who starts a review but doesn’t post it?
My good lady wife loves looking on TripAdvisor for a hotel room when we need to travel around the UK on business. Looking at the one and two star reviews is her passion. One 1star review has a stronger weighting than a hundred 5star reviews.
So recently, we had to go to Scotland and the timings meant we couldn’t get back at a reasonable hour. Therefore, she booked a hotel for us. The one we settled on for this journey had a flock of four and five star ratings, and there were no one or two star reviews .. everything looked to be fine.
However, the £90 hotel a night was not good. Black mould around the seal of the shower. Hair in the plughole. Iron with flex that had come loose, showing exposed wires. The kitchens extractor fan 6ft from the window droning on until 1030pm with its ‘past its useby date’ cooking oil smell wafting past the window. The breakfast was a sorry affair of one pink sausage, soggy toast, flesh bullets (Senior Management (the wife) informed they were baked beans and rubberised bacon even Joey, our Rescue Dog could not have eaten (note – I don’t give the dog bacon or any pork products)
So for the £90, and for the decent rating, it was mysterious.
How could other hotel occupants possibly not feel the same measure of uneasiness that we did?
Maybe the previous hotel occupants would have felt wicked giving more truthful and authentic reviews, warts and all. In the absence of some atrocious, impartial inadequacies that no one could ignore (bedbugs for example), it made me think if, we as hotel guests, feel an unspoken and uncomfortable pressure to supress our individual reactions to our TripAdvisor rating
In fact, the wife (Senior Mangt) asked a really interesting question, a few days later, when we were typing our TripAdvisor review. We got chatting, and as we did, we went through some inconsequential guilt ourselves. Jo-Anne asked, “Was it really that bad? I feel like a couple of stars is unkind. I mean, it was clean apart from those few hairs in the plug hole, the fan did go off after 1030pm, the staff were nice and hotel was close to the city centre, after all.’”
We decided not to post a review after all
.. and talking to a few of my friends – they feel the same. Many have said to feeling guilty leaving anything other than 5 star review on Trip Adviser and other such Online review sites. One of my friends said that it would need to pretty awful and extreme for the hotel to get a 4 star review.
I believe online reviews is vicious circle that pushes even the run-of-the-mill and second rate service towards four and five stars, because when everything gets a five, whilst nothing also gets a five, if you think about it for a second …. you lose the capability to sort by quality, so it makes it really difficult to really know what you, as a customer, are really getting into.
Just a thought
… Secondly .. how do you know the reviews on these Review sites (be it Trip Advisor or any Review site) that people have posted are in fact genuine?
Look at this report in Guardian where companies employ factory’s of people in India to write and give fake reviews https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/jan/26/fake-reviews-plague-consumer-websites .
What would happen in Panorama did a program on this with an Investigative Journalist on a particular review site and faking reviews? .. the fallout would tremendous!
Now I must stress I am not suggesting for one minute, Yopa or Purplebricks would ever do such a thing. It is both my experience and personal opinion, they are good decent firms. You can take the p*** out of their ‘no experience required’ job adverts for local property experts or the fact the local property expert lives 50 miles away or the share price for Purp’s is rather on the fuller side … but the bottom lime is, both are pulling trees up.
Now I know Trustpilot do take the issue of fake reviews very seriously indeed ..( see their website here https://uk.trustpilot.com/trust/combating-fake-reviews ) .. yet it would only take one other big UK firm, not even related to anything to do with the property business to be seen fixing things on Trustpilot (or similar Review site) .. for the whole of the Trustpilot (or similar Review site) house to come down like a house of cards.
I suppose it comes quite ironically down to trust ..
My thoughts to the marketing department of Yopa and Purplebricks .. don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to marketing your estate agency services with what appears to be an over reliance on pushing your Trustpilot score.
If I were running the marketing departments of Purplebricks and Yopa – I would consider a different way to tell my company’s story.
Start with the homeowners in mind
Recognise the point of view of the home owners you need to reach.
Define the truth through their (house sellers) point of view... not how many stars you have or how cheap you are.
Make that your story… not how many bloody stars you have on Trustpilot
Not today, not tomorrow, but sooner or later, the truth wins out.
Negative or positive, cheap fees or expensive fees, reviews or no reviews - the challenge in estate and letting agency .. as in all parts of life … isn't just to tell the truth – it is to tell truth that echoes with the sound that your potential client (in your case - house seller) wants to hear.
For more thoughts on attracting landlords and vendors to your estate and lettings agency .. you could visit my YouTube Channel