SAN FRANCISCO — Real estate professionals know that to foster loyalty in their clients, customer service is key.

"Handshakes, smiles and thank you notes have always helped keep customers," Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction, told attendees at Real Estate Connect Wednesday.

But in a time when three-quarters of Americans — 230 million people — are online and both consuming and producing vast quantities of information, customer service online is essential to marketers who want to help potential clients filter out all the buzz, Lea said.

Consumers use social networks, in particular, to both interact and gather information concerning every detail of their lives — including what products and services they use. It is in that sphere that real estate professionals need to build "authentic, open conversations" about their business with consumers, Lea said.

"Engagement is the sticky factor. You have to build up enough activity so that engagement can be created and loyalty and advocacy take off from there," Lea said.

Agents and brokers are already making strides into the social media world — some have Facebook business pages, Twitter accounts, blogs. But conversations taking place in those venues aren’t organized, Lea told Inman News. They are displayed by time stamp and quickly displaced by others over time. That’s where Lea’s product, Get Satisfaction, can come in.

Get Satisfaction is a conversation platform somewhat akin to a forum where any business or site owner can add a "Feedback" tab to any page on their site — or to a social network like Facebook — and take viewers to a page where they can submit ideas, questions, problems, or praise about the product or service.

Get Satisfaction adds that comment to one of those four "buckets," for business employees and other consumers to comment on and render assistance, if needed.

"It’s a dynamic or real-time FAQ," Lea said.

The platform also aggregates the comment and finds others like it, telling community members that a certain number of members like an idea or have a common problem.

The service allows business owners to find out what their customers want and need without having to send out surveys, and goes beyond a simple review, Lea said. Get Satisfaction allows users to share community posts on Twitter and Facebook as well, she added, potentially bringing more people into a particular conversation.

"When you as an individual professional or firm decide to leverage these social channels and to pull that conversation into these social systems, over time customers are much more loyal to you as a brand, as a particular provider," Lea said.

The company offers different pricing plans, from a limited, free version to monthly and annual subscriptions. Get Satisfaction has 40,000 customers, about 2,200 of whom pay for the service, Lea said. To see an example of a community, click the Feedback tab on the right-hand side of this Web page.

The company has about 50 customers in the real estate industry, Lea said. Zillow, for example, has a free Get Satisfaction widget on its site — though it’s not branded as such. It merely says, "Have a question? Ask it here." The product allows businesses to brand the widgets themselves, she said.

The product’s benefits to a brokerage with multiple agents include the abilities to give real-time, 24/7 feedback, share resources with an entire community of potential clients, and connect clients to each other.

When clients get together and talk to each other, that has the potential of building loyalty toward the brokerage they are discussing, Lea said. The broker or agent can also provide referrals or other resources to potential clients.

"Loyalty drives retention," she said. "And that means growth."

Whether an individual agent should consider Get Satisfaction "depends to what degree they want to build up their own brand," Lea said.

"You have to have an objective: What is my strategy for using social media to grow my business?"

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