Humor me for a moment while I tell a story.
I recently spent four days in the wilderness of Iceland in a cabin with no running water. As we made our way back to civilization, driving on a road cut through a lava field, our guide, Thor, (yes, his name was actually Thor) mentioned that we were close to a place called, “The Blue Lagoon.” You may have heard of it. It is, without question, the most popular tourist destination in Iceland.
Iceland is a country with only 320,000 citizens. Each year, 500,000 visitors come to Iceland and of that, 400,000 of them visit the Blue Lagoon. That is an audacious percentage of visitors. It literally owns share of visitor to Iceland. It’s reputation precedes it. “In a special “Wonders of the World” edition, National Geographic listed the Blue Lagoon in Iceland as one of the most impressive wonders of the world,” notes Matt Long of Landlopers. “Now this declaration seems fine and normal on the surface, until you realize that the Blue Lagoon really isn’t a natural phenomenon at all.”
Thor was not fond of this fact. “What the visitors don’t understand is that we here in Iceland don’t see it as a natural wonder,” Thor shared with us as we passed. “We see it almost as a natural disaster. It’s the power company’s byproduct of energy creation. It’s waste product, really.” His disdain was evident in his tone, though I think he was likely trying to be careful not to completely trash one of his country’s greatest attractions.
I couldn’t help but connect the dots between the Blue Lagoon’s incredible visitor appeal and real estate’s fetish with online ratings and reviews and the leads (tourists) they deliver. There is one startling difference, however. The Icelanders didn’t say, “let’s go create a place where tourists will come, so we can extract money from them.” They didn’t build a geothermal plant to heat water to produce a pretty pool. The Blue Lagoon was and is the byproduct of clean, renewable energy production. Iceland receives tremendous benefit from that clean energy production and the happy byproduct of that production of energy just also happens to attract throngs of visitors.
A Blue Lagoon That Wastes Natural Energy
In contrast, what the real estate industry has done is burn a ton of energy creating places where people go to look at pretty stars on a page, a form of a tourist destination, without reaping any of the benefits of the energy that should be generated from listening to customers. We’ve said for years here at RealSatisfied that the ratings delivered by our surveys are a byproduct of what is the real power of our platform – listening, in detail, to what your customer has to say about your performance and collecting that detail in a way that it delivers real business intelligence to brokers. The ratings and testimonials that are surfaced on our agent profiles and delivered anywhere we can via our feeds and widgets, they are the sexy tourist attraction. They are not the power.
Yet, weekly we have agents or brokers say to us, “I’m just going to send my clients to Zillow or Yelp, it’s easier for them to just give us a 5-star rating that way.” Yes, it is certainly easier for a client to check a few stars on a ratings platform than to ask them to fill out a detailed survey. What they are doing, however, is passing the ratings byproduct to the Zillows of the world without first harvesting the benefits of the customer satisfaction energy for themselves. It would be like Iceland’s energy company building a huge geothermal plant and then simply passing the waste water to the Blue Lagoon without transferring the energy to their power grid. The Blue Lagoon would still attract visitors and Iceland would still attract tourists (let’s call them leads for my lengthy analogy) and those tourists/leads would still spend money other places, but they would miss out on the real value of extracting the heated water in the first place – energy to power their country.
This makes no sense to me.
To most of our clients it no longer makes sense either. We have many examples of clients who are using our tools to do both. They get the benefit of the detailed collection and aggregation of data and get to choose who they send to the platforms to create their version of the Blue Lagoon. They look at the results of the surveys, see who has raised their hand and said, “I like you. I’m willing to take the time to fill out a survey and leave you a recommendation. I will probably be willing to go do other things for you too.” And then, after they have given the consumer a chance to truly share their thoughts about their performance, to really listen to them, they then send them to Zillow or any other ratings and review site that brings them leads. They send the byproduct to the tourist attraction. And consumers are willing to do that. Our clients who are taking this approach are a lot like Icelanders who realize the Blue Lagoon is just waste product, but who are happy it’s there to attract visitors to their beautiful country, to spend money other places as well.
What’s interesting to me is that most people I talk to in the real estate industry understand that ratings sites are not a true reflection of agent performance and are replete with 5-star reviews. They are a man-made hot spring, designed to look like a natural wonder. You have to traverse page after page on Zillow, for example, to find anything other than a 5-star review presented. When I use Zillow’s agent finder in my zip code, 91390, I have to wade through 18 pages of nothing but 5 star reviews before I find a single agent with less than 5 stars – 18 pages. There are 25 pages of agents for my area. That is 250 agents. How many agents in my area who display a rating have less than 5 stars? 8 agents have less than 5 stars. Eight.
Is that bad? Not given the ultimate goal of the agents sending their clients to Zillow to rate them. They want leads. It serves that purpose very well. It’s so pretty and so good at attracting visitors, it’s hard not to want to make sure that pool stays pretty… and warm. I most certainly would. But not without extracting the energy first. We’d like to help agents and brokers do that.
We plan to make getting that byproduct to the Blue Lagoon’s of the real estate world easier. We’re not interested in being the tourist attraction.
Consider us your power plant.
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Featured image used with permission under creative commons license. Photo by michael_choi.