Agent rating systems are asking the wrong questions: what real estate can learn from Match.com

Algorithm-based rankings are about as effective as asking, 'Who's the prettiest?'

Portraits image via Shutterstock.Portraits image via Shutterstock.

Ranking agents based upon algorithms composed exclusively of transactions closed, total production or the number of “stars” is about as effective as hiring your real estate agent based upon the question, “Who’s the prettiest?” Unfortunately, consumers don’t know the right questions to ask. It’s our job to educate them.

Agent rating systems have become a hot-button controversy — and for good reason. In my opinion, the current ranking systems are approaching this all wrong: They’re looking at the agent’s past performance rather than providing consumers with tools that can help them evaluate the agent’s ability to deliver the customer experience the clients want.

Consequently, we need to flip most agent ranking systems upside down. Instead of starting with agent ratings, a better approach would be to inquire about what the consumer wants and expects, build a system that provides them with “best matches” based upon their criteria, and then let the consumer decide armed with as much information as possible.

A key part of this process will be providing detailed feedback from post-closing surveys, as well as written and video testimonials.

What we can learn from other models: LogoTournament.com meets Match.com

LogoTournament.com has an excellent model that demonstrates how the first part of this process could work. The first question LogoTournament asks is, “What are the top three things to communicate through our logo?” Modifying this question, the first question we need to ask in real estate is: What are the five most important characteristics you want your real estate agent to have?

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Give the client a list from which to choose. The system would match the agents based upon how each agent describes their top five characteristics similar to how Match.com works.

... The first question we need to ask in real estate is: What are the five most important characteristics you want your real estate agent to have?"

LogoTournanment’s next three questions identify the niche that best fits the client. In real estate, three questions to include could be:

  1. In what location/ZIP code is the property located?
  2. In what price range?
  3. How would you best describe the property type you are buying or selling?

Options here could include a checkoff list with descriptors such as urban or suburban; freestanding single-family vs. condo, townhouse or high-rise; ranch, first-time buyer property or luxury.

In terms of the matching, the system would pull out agents who had listed or sold properties in those areas that are the closest match to the client’s criteria.

LogoTournament also asks certain “sliding scale” questions. Here are some examples for real estate:

  • How close do you want your real estate agent to live to your property?
  • Do you want a single agent to handle your entire transaction or do you want a team approach where different specialists handle different aspects of the transaction?
  • Do you prefer an agent who is a fast-moving, get-it-done type, or someone who can spend as much time as necessary answering your questions?
  • How important is it to you to have someone who is a “neighborhood specialist”?
  • How important is your agent’s experience level to you in terms of (a) years of experience vs. (b) number of transactions closed?
  • How important is it that your agent is paperless?

Past client reviews

Consumers want transparency around who their agent is and how they perform. Instead of the current ranking systems, a better approach would be to let the agent’s past clients tell the story of their experience with their agent. Questions to ask in a survey of past agents could include:

1. Would you recommend this agent to your friends or family?

2. Did the agent provide you with a written guarantee of the services that they provide and if so, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest), how well did they deliver on what they promised?

3. If you were selling your home, did the agent provide you with a written marketing plan? If yes, which of these items did it include?

  • Print advertising including brochures and marketing postcards?
  • Newspaper advertising?
  • Web marketing plan including a single-property website for the property?
  • Listing syndication to major sites including their company website, their personal website, and major portals such as realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow?
  • Social media marketing plan for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Instagram?
  • Video marketing plan including YouTube and video syndication?
  • Global marketing plan to reach people who speak other languages?

4. If you were buying a home:

  • Did your agent ask to have you preapproved by a lender?
  • Did the agent spend at least 20-30 minutes interviewing you about what is important in your next home?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how well did the properties that your agent showed you fit the criteria you gave them, including the price and the location?
  • On a scale of 1-5, how well did your agent explain the offer and the closing process to you adequately?

5. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being highest), rank your agent in each of these areas:

  • Negotiation skills
  • Problem-solving during the transaction
  • Prompt response to my questions
  • Knowledge of my area
  • Competence
  • Integrity and trustworthiness
  • Supportive, easy to work to with
  • Willing to take responsibility when he or she made a mistake
  • Closing the transaction.

To really beef this section up, allow verified past clients to post their own video reviews of the agent’s performance.

The bottom line is that simple rankings and “star” reviews fall way short of what is possible in this important area.

If you are an individual agent or manager, you don’t have to wait to start asking your clients these questions now. The research shows that merely asking a few post-closing questions can give an agent or company approval ratings as high as 95 percent or more.

There’s no better time than now to begin asking your buyers and sellers what they want and need and then doing your best to deliver it.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.

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