We’re Losing the Race for Relevance – How to Stem the Tide

by Marilyn Wilson on August 25, 2014

Rule bookIdea #1 – How to Take Credit for the Industry’s Service Quality

Every real estate association I have the pleasure of working with is struggling with how to re-invent themselves. Everybody knows it’s a problem at some level, but yet there has been no fundamental change in the focus, governance or scope of associations in several years.

Are we just going to sit by and watch the association business go away?  Should it go away?  Has the value of an association run its course?

My fundamental belief is that Associations CAN and DO play an important role in the industry, but there needs to be more tangible evidence of the important roles that boards play.

Here is the first of several ideas that I will be publishing to identify specific ways Associations can find ways to become more relevant to their members

Promote Customer Satisfaction Levels

When I ask the question how strong are you on professional standards in your market, I ALWAYS get the response “we’re really good at it”. Then when I ask how many people have suspended from your organization for nefarious or other code of ethics violations I usually hear none or maybe one over the past 10 years. Then when I ask a third question how many of you today are working with people that you believe violate the code of ethics just about every hand in the room goes up. There is definitely a discrepancy between perception and reality.

So how can we change this circular logic and protectionism behavior?

Here’s one way to start:

I’m sure that many of you have heard of the J.D. Powers survey.

Here is their role according to their website:

J.D. Power captures the opinions and perceptions of millions of consumers annually. Our data and insights are used by companies worldwide to improve quality, satisfaction, and business performance, while our ratings aid consumers in making more informed purchase decisions.

So what if we tried this approach in our industry?  An association could deliver a valuable service to every one of its members if it tracked the satisfaction levels of every transaction and then rolled it up into one satisfaction number.  Then it could put teeth behind a REALTOR® ad campaign.  Just like J.D. Powers, the association could use an objective, third party brand that measured satisfaction. Then the local association could confidently claim “Your local REALTORS® deliver a 96% satisfaction level to their clients.”

Instead of just saying “of course we have high professional standards”, an association could prove it!  And they could promote it heavily throughout their region.  What a great way to dispel the myths that REALTORS® are not as strong as other service professionals as so many like to claim.  What a great way to deliver a TANGIBLE benefit to every one of your brokers and agents.  An Association can strengthen the overall perception of the industry with a statistic like this in a MEANINGFUL way.

While this data is being collected on EVERY listing, it does not mean that it has to be shared on an individual basis.  Once data is collected for a particular brokerage or agent, the association could share the information PRIVATELY with the firm/agent. At that time each individual could decide whether they want to share their historical results after they’ve had a chance to review them and they are comfortable with the feedback.  If they choose not to that’s up to them, but the industry still has the ability to take credit for the exceptional service quality being provided to local consumers.

This model is not unlike the RPR model.  RPR rolls up data from individual listings, but does not share/sell individual feedback – they only focus on the aggregate number.  Customer feedback can be treated the same way.

Improve Customer Satisfaction One Agent, One Broker at a Time

 Once the client feedback is collected for the entire industry, the fun can really begin.  Data is knowledge and knowledge can help create targeted programs to create positive change.

What if the data showed that newer agents were not delivering as much service quality as more experienced agents, for example?  The association could let brokers know about this phenomenon. The board could also encourage/require newer agents to participate in quality service training.

Here’s another example.  What if the reports showed that REO agents had a higher perception of quality than seller’s agents?  The association could dig further to find out why REO agents were deemed to have higher quality standards and then train all agents to follow the same path.

The data would help everyone better understand who is driving up industry satisfaction and who is driving down satisfaction. Armed with this info brokers partnered with the board could implement programs to create meaningful improvements to industry service levels.

What if the Association could share results of all of a broker’s transactions privately to the broker-owner of a firm?   The broker could quickly see which of her agents are providing the strongest service quality and which ones were having challenges.  The board could offer service quality training classes as desired by the broker to help fix the issues identified. If the surveys revealed really poor service quality, the broker can then decide if more drastic actions are needed.  Again, the broker would NEVER have to share this data – it could be used only for internal purposes.

Creating an overall market service quality benchmark can help the industry understand how professional the industry REALLY is. Likely the numbers will be very high and the association will want to shout it from the rooftops.  Second, the Board can help each brokerage improve their own service quality, helping them to strengthen their business.

The key to success of this program –  gathering feedback on EVERY listing so that it can be rolled out into one number.  Most organizations I know that have tried any kind of feedback system do so in a voluntary situation.  They fall down quickly because there’s not enough data to confidently report on it.  Much like a listings website, a site that has ALL of the listings, and not just listings from those that have CHOSEN to share is much more meaningful.  An association that has ALL of the feedback from all of the transactions in the market will have a much more credible story to tell.

Reality Check – We’re WAY Behind on This!

The concept I’m proposing here is not a NICE to have – it’s a MUST HAVE as far as I’m concerned.  Associations are losing relevance for their own agents as well as consumers.   Did you know that there are nearly ¾ of a million customer reviews being shared on Zillow today?   Trulia now has a program too.  Trulia’s customer feedback program includes all types of service professionals and it has a robust and targeted search tool that allows a consumer to search by neighborhood, price point, specialty, designation and listing vs. seller’s agent.  It also defaults to your location to make it even easier to use their version of the tool.   The user interface on their agent directory is the best I’ve seen to date.

As these programs continue to grow, how much credibility will an association if it comes in AFTER the fact with an overall industry rating. It’s time to get ON this…it’s been time to get ON this!   After all our industry is a service business. How do we know if we’re delivering great service if we don’t measure it?

If you would like to find partners that could deliver this type of service to you, click here:

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