We all know that testimonials are a predictable, prompted and canned way to promote ourselves from people we trust and know will say something great. Do they really mean anything? Maybe the point is: If we can find 10 predictable people to say nice things about us, we can’t be that bad.

Who is going to prompt people who don’t like us or would give a bad review? It can be hard enough to get responses to a testimonial request, so why bother asking the bad ones? The good ones need to like us enough to spend the time registering, writing and posting a testimonial — to the 10 websites we are promoting (Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, Yelp, etc.). I’m guilty of this, too, but it doesn’t help me improve my listings or my business — it’s just marketing.

True feedback is something that helps us better ourselves or our listings. Feedback is the type of thing that is rarely published but is nevertheless beneficial to the recipient.

The first type of feedback I use is selfless and helps other agents. I consider it a community service effort to provide feedback on homes. In Denver, this type of feedback is often an email link after I show or preview a home for sale. I have an opportunity to let the agent know what the buyers and I thought about the home. This is my chance to be honest and let the agent know about price, condition, location and how it compared to the other homes we saw that day or week. This feedback can help the agent re-evaluate a listing plan or reinforce what they are already doing.

I have learned that this email feedback can often go directly to the seller without agent editing or intervention. Knowing how hard it can be to get sellers on the right track, I sometimes write feedback as if I’m communicating directly with the seller. I try to back up the agent’s efforts for a price drop, a good cleaning or easy suggestions to make it show better. I have never gotten returned remarks on this type of feedback, but I hope it’s appreciated.

The next type of feedback is selfish and can help me better myself or my business. I have closed nearly 200 transactions in my career, and I’m always asking buyers and sellers what I could do better. I can almost script the response — “Things were great, thanks!” or “I can’t think of any ways to improve.”

With this in mind, I experimented with a way of getting honest feedback and ways I could improve.

I searched online for survey questions and came up with some of my own. The first section was five rating questions — on a scale of 1 to 5, how was your agent in this area. The second section was two open-ended questions: Where did your agent succeed? Where did your agent need improvement?

Each survey was printed and mailed to clients with a return stamped envelope. I felt that emails get lost, and if I paid for return postage, they might feel obligated to help.

I loved how honest people were when a third party was asking the questions. The responses gave me perspective on my business that I never had before — nothing profound, but a refreshing view of how others saw my interaction with them.

Responses weren’t canned or predictable and had several takeaways for improvement. The one comment that I acted on right away was, “I wish he had water in the car, we were seeing homes for hours and got thirsty.”

Testimonials and feedback both serve their purpose, so keep this in mind when asking: Do you want a blurb for marketing, or are you seeking an honest response?

Greg Eckler is broker/owner of Denver Realty Experts and writes a weekly newsletter with micro stats for Denver neighborhoods

Email Greg Eckler.

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