• CEB Global discovered people are more likely to refer a business based on their product experience rather than their service experience.
  • Shifting behavior from homebuyers and sellers has placed a greater emphasis on real estate websites and the actions they can perform digitally.
  • On average, trying to 'wow' your clients and exceeding their expectations doesn't increase the chances of them referring more business to you.

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Let’s discuss your primary strategy for generating real estate referrals. Conventional wisdom has it as: the better the customer service, the more referrals. This is why so many real estate teams dedicate their agents to providing a white-glove treatment for their clients. In the real estate industry, we think it’s the differentiating factor between all the other teams and brokerages.

But new data tells us the strategies of delight and satisfaction don’t increasingly create referrals. In fact, your clients aren’t likely to refer you based on your customer service. Instead, they’re more likely to recommend friends to a great place to find reliable information: your website.

The behavior of homebuyers and sellers has changed over the past decade. The Internet is more powerful. People no longer rely on agents to tell them which homes they should see.

They’re doing the majority of their research and decision making before they even contact an agent. And all this information-gathering is happening on real estate websites.

Why customer service has less impact on referrals

Consider why we talk about our favorite restaurants or the latest, coolest gadgets. We don’t start those conversations with, “You have to buy the newest smartphone! Its service is really amazing!”

Instead those conversations run more like this: “Check out this new smartphone! You can talk to it, and it will give you directions!”

It’s about the product. When we discover something great, we want to tell other people as a reflection of our own wisdom. It’s the same psychological need that feeds social media. We like to get credit for awesome things, even though we’re not always the one who created it.

On the opposite end, when it comes to customer service, homebuyers and sellers are more likely to vocalize a negative service experience. What’s the psychological motivation behind it? To garner sympathy. They’re looking for people to come to their aid.

Here are some interesting stats from CEB Global:

Customer Services vs Websites


Of the people who had a positive product experience, 71 percent will tell someone about it versus only 25 percent of those who had a positive service experience. It’s startling data, and this is where your real estate website comes into play.

How websites take the spotlight in real estate

Like I mentioned before, the interaction homebuyers and sellers have with real estate has evolved over the last 10 to 15 years. They have more power at their fingertips, and the need to find homes for sale doesn’t revolve around the agent anymore.

It lies with real estate websites. Consumers want to find the homes themselves, and they want to have an effortless experience in doing so.

This is why search engines such as Google go to such great lengths to match websites with search queries. They understand the products provided today are on the Internet — they’re digital.

Think about the apps you’ve downloaded on your smartphone. People want to accomplish a task, and they’re using the digital world to accomplish it.

Where the opportunity is for referrals

Your website is your main product, and it’s showing off other products you’re selling (real estate). If your website provides shoppers with what they’re looking for, and if the search journey is pleasurable, then they are more likely to refer that website to friends and family.

So, take another look at your website. Can people easily navigate the site and search for properties? Are they shown beautiful photos of houses that make them almost salivate?

What about engineering aspects like load time? Does it take one to two seconds to load the Web page on your browser?

Even the smallest elements contribute to positive experiences. And each positive is another potential referral.

Steven Trice is the marketing communications manager for BoomTown. Connect with Steven on LinkedIn or follow BoomTown on Twitter.

Email Steven Trice.