From Angie’s List and Yelp to TripAdvisor and Amazon, Web sites that rate and review are what consumers crave. Americans today rarely buy something, dine somewhere, or hire someone who hasn’t been thoroughly assessed, graded, and starred.
Real estate agents are not immune, although reliable rankings have been difficult to find. Complaints over review sites that are open to the public point out that the reviews could be written by anyone. Then there are the sites that sell high ratings or charge agents to remove fabricated customer complaints, including one that NAR’s legal department recently worked to shut down, REALTOR-complaints.com. Another site, agentratings.com, has been attracting complaints from agents who say the reviews are fake.
Where are members to turn?
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, through its subsidiary, the Center for Specialized REALTOR® Education, has stepped in to test a rating program based only on client reviews. Called the REALTOR® Excellence Program, it aims to deliver not only public ratings (if the agent wants them public) but also customer service evaluations on a range of areas to be used internally by brokerages to boost agent performance and reduce legal liability.
The program has been underway at about 24 REALTOR® associations since spring. It is subsidized by NAR and local associations (but free to members) and operated by Quality Service Certification Inc., a California-based real estate technology company with more than a dozen years of experience evaluating agents using a customer service survey method and offering its Quality Service Certified professional designation.
Prudential Starck, REALTORS®, member brokerage of the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® in Illinois, is making participation in the REALTOR® Excellence Program mandatory for its 450 agents in 12 offices. “Everybody’s got to get surveyed to keep it pure,” CEO Andrew Starck told the Chicago Tribune. “It can’t be doctored or tempered. We’re not afraid of a bad review. The way we positioned it was, we want to know how we’re doing so we can get better.”
You can’t run from ratings
According to QSC CEO Larry Romito, three major forces are driving interest in a program like the REALTOR® Excellence Program: consumer demand for ratings, the growing number of real estate agent rating sites already out there, and broker demand for heightened professionalism.
“There are real positives that came out of transparency and accountability,” says Romito. “The visibility of feedback both internal and external makes people behave better.” For example, NAR’s member profile shows that only 1 out of 5 sellers (1 out of 4 buyers) is contacted by his or her REALTOR® after the sale. Romito says; “When we partner with agents, 90 percent of them follow up with clients after the sale.”
When a brokerage or agent opts into the program, QSC automatically generates and sends customer satisfaction surveys to REALTORS®’ clients once the transactions close, then compiles the resulting data on a password-protected system where the brokerage can view survey results, ratings, and comments from clients. Consumers can see survey results on RatedAgent.com only if the agent opts to make them public in an all-or-nothing option—the good reviews with the bad.
RatedAgent.com, which has been live since early 2012, also lists in its “Find an Agent” database agents who have not yet been rated (or haven’t made their reviews public) but have earned the company’s Quality Service Certification professional designation.
For more on the program and joining the charter group of participants, contact Info@QualityCertified.org or call 888-547-4772.