Telling Your Brand Story With Ratings & Recommendations: Context Matters

Brand Story (1)

Is there a consumer buying experience more complex than the real estate transaction?

It’s hard to imagine there is. We are talking about the purchase of a home. Home, a concept that elicits a wide variety of emotions. So not only is a real estate transaction complex in and of itself, it is compounded by the circumstances revolving around the need or desire to sell, the need or desire to buy and our previous experiences in a home. We bring to the real estate transaction not just our financial background, but our psychological background as well. Good real estate agents have learned how to navigate these complex waters in a way that smooths out the process for those who choose to work with them.

Compare this to going out for a pizza. Granted, I’ve eaten at a few pizza places that I can get emotional about, but the transaction itself – I’m not sure it gets much simpler. There is no comparison between buying a house and buying a slice of pizza. The only thing that is similar is how people want to use star ratings to judge those experiences. And it boggles my mind.

For ease, let’s continue the pizza parlor analogy. The owner of a pizza parlor can control almost every aspect of the experience around their food. They control the ingredients, the oven temperature, the cleanliness and the ambiance of the restaurant, and to large extent, they have the ability to control the customer service provided by their staff. Done right, my experience at a restaurant one night should be similar to my experience at a restaurant on any night. This can even be done at scale. I have an Oregano’s Pizza Bistro cup on my desk right now, because my experience with them over the last 10 years has been 100% consistent, at every location, in every city I’ve tried. Given the option, I’ll choose them every time. I’ve never been disappointed.

Compare this to a real estate transaction. There are so many variables in play. There are so many personalities in action, and so many different financial situations and potential legal hurdles to be navigated. These are the loose equivalent of ingredients in a recipe, oven temperature, ambiance, none of which an agent or broker have much control over. The circumstances, emotions and subsequent decisions made when dealing with a seller who is selling because they are about to have a baby and need a bigger place to grow their family are vastly different from those when the seller is going through a divorce and is forced to sell a home that they may have raised a family in together. To think for one moment that personalities, financial circumstances and emotions don’t play a significant role in the experience of buying or selling a home is to not really understand residential real estate at all – or the value of a great real estate agent.

Real Estate Ratings, Reviews And Testimonials Are Crying Out For Context

The real estate industry has fallen for the story that they should be like other industries when it comes to ratings and reviews. It’s a mistake. Relying on a simple star rating to capture everything contained inside of the variety of potential reactions to service inside these convoluted transactions is bordering on silly.

When I go to Yelp and read about other people’s experiences at a pizza parlor, I am able to have a certain level of expectation about what my experience might be if I go to the same restaurant and order the same pizza the reviewer has described. I am quite certain that is not the case with real estate. Your five star review of an agent tells me nothing about the context of that sale. There is no way for me to know with any degree of certainty that I will get a similar experience, because I can’t possibly order the same thing.

I’d like to suggest a way to highlight performance in a different way.  Marry your ratings, and testimonials to stories.

One of the benefits of syndicating the ratings and testimonials we collect on your behalf via RSS is that you can ingest this content onto your owned sites in a number of ways. We provide a JavaScript widget, a WordPress plugin and the raw RSS feed, and the most powerful of these is without question, the raw RSS feed. And while the concept I’m about to present does not require the use of the feed, but it would certainly make it more consistent.

Give Every Testimonial A Context

Here are the steps required if you are on the WordPress platform. If you are on a different platform, your web developer should be able to translate this into a workflow for your site, so long as you have editing capabilities at a “post type” level:

  1. custom_post_typeCreate “custom post type” for Testimonials that includes the testimonial, a place for media (photos, videos, etc) and a place for inserting each client’s unique story. The photo here represents what this might look like. I’ve used a template from Placester for the example. Just click on the image to enlarge.
  2. Import the RSS Feed and have each testimonial pull into a this custom post type and have each set to draft until you can complete step 3.
  3. Edit each testimonial and tell the story that you are allowed to tell about your experience with your client. In other words, provide the context for the experience they had with you. Each story will be unique and likely present opportunities for you to expose specific expertise and your skill in dealing with different client circumstances. Please note, this will require that you obtain additional permissions from your clients, especially if you are attaching photos and video, but the extra effort will be worth it in the end. The license we collect on your behalf only provides for the use of the unedited testimonial and the identifier provided by your clients.
  4. Create a directory page of the testimonials with excerpts that link to the more in depth stories of your client success.

There is no question that providing this level of context will not only enhance the value of the testimonial you’ve collected, but provide valuable insight into how potentially difficult circumstances get handled. Context matters. Especially in real estate.