How to Handle Negative Online Reviews For Your Brokerage

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According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans go online daily. That percentage includes 31% of people who report they’re online almost constantly and 48% who say they’re online several times a day. 

What are they doing online? Your potential customers are doing independent research online before deciding on their next home or choosing a real estate professional. And they’re looking at reviews.

Reviews are more trusted than testimonials because they’re  seen as being independent (even though that may not always be true). 

As a real estate professional, you rely on your reputation. Brokers rely not only on their own reputations, but the reputation of each member of their team as well. 

Should you have negative online reviews, they can harm your business greatly. 

So what should a broker do when faced with a negative online review? 

Here are some tips on what you can do to protect your reputation and also minimize your risk of facing a lawsuit . . .

1. Verify The Facts

The first step is to verify the facts. Determine whether the review is fake or not — because  some people just like leaving negative reviews to cause trouble for business owners! 

If the review isn’t from a client, you can take steps to remove the review. But, this isn’t for the faint of heart and can take considerable time, effort and resources. Facebook, Yelp, Google, Rate My Agent, and other platforms all have terms of service outlining what they deem acceptable. If the negative review breaches these terms, you might have some luck removing the review. 

As a broker, you’re ultimately responsible for your entire team. If you’ve verified the reviewer is a legitimate client and the review is about one of your team, contact the agent immediately. Establish what happened, what went wrong (if applicable) and decide for yourself if the negative review is justified.

2. Assess The Damage

There are negative reviews that may complain about customer service or something minor. But, then there are other allegations that can be far more serious. Allegations of misconduct, negligence, or misrepresentations are legal matters which could escalate into a lawsuit fast. 

When assessing the damage of the negative review, think about the short-term impacts and the potential long-term impacts. Can the review likely cost you money? Could it cost you your reputation?

3. Respond Fast (and Professionally) 

Do you know the saying that “bad news travels fast”? Well, negative reviews do too. When you’re faced with a negative review about your brokerage or one of your team, you need to act fast and professionally. 

Having a standardized way of replying is important. Brokers should train agents to respond acceptably. Bad reviews can be very stressful for brokers, but bad responses to bad reviews can damage a brokerage forever.

Every response to a negative review, should acknowledge the review and tell the reviewer what you’re going to do next.  For example:

“Thanks Max for informing us about this. We will contact you asap to discuss, and we look forward to getting this rectified for you.”

Keep your response brief and factual. 

If the negative review accuses an agent or your brokerage of something more serious, such as misconduct or misrepresentation, seek legal advice before you respond. It’s important in these matters to not admit responsibility for something that can potentially be used against you in a lawsuit.  

4. Try to Rectify the Problem 

Remember, everyone experiences negative reviews at some point — it’s what you do to fix the problem that people will remember. After leaving a professional public response alongside the online review, agents or brokers should reach out to the reviewer. The aim of this is to rectify the issue and to work towards a positive resolution. 

For agent complaints and reviews, brokers should have procedures in place for escalation in case the agent can’t resolve the issue by themselves. Encourage your team to come to you when they’re alerted to negative reviews. Provide support o help resolve them.

If the issue can be resolved, there’s no harm in asking the reviewer to update their review. If they can’t (or don’t want to), a representative from your brokerage can add a brief reply to the review to highlight that the matter has now been resolved. 

5. Establish A Process For Monitoring Reviews

Encourage your team to constantly monitor social media and review platforms to help maintain their reputation and yours as a broker. Setting up Google Alerts can also be helpful, so you’ll be notified of any mentions on the Internet. 

Having a process in place to proactively seek feedback from clients can help to avoid negative online reviews. Give clients a chance to provide feedback, so you can identify and deal with complaints before they become public. 

6. Make Sure You’re Protected Against Potential Lawsuits

If a negative online review becomes a legal issue, it’s great to have an insurer on your side who knows the real estate industry inside and out. CRES is your real estate insurance expert. E&O insurance packages can be tailored specifically to suit your needs, and we also offer Team Coverage. Additionally, CRES E&O Insurance + ClaimPrevent® policies give you access to free legal advice from qualified attorneys 7 days a week. 

Contact the team at CRES at 800-880-2747 for a confidential discussion today.

This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.

Originally Published September 15, 2021

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