Lies, damned lies and reviews

I admit it. I sometimes ask happy clients for a review, but on the rare occasion that someone is pissed off or even just mildly disappointed, I never ask them to do the same. I bet the vast majority of you and for that matter nearly everyone in business, has influenced their customer feedback in a similar way.

Indeed, our most recent Home Moving Trends Survey* revealed that just 13% of home movers provided a review and of these, almost two thirds (62%) had been asked to do so by their estate agent. In other words, just 5% of clients gave an unsolicited review of their agent and this surely calls into question the whole review system. The issue isn’t confined to estate agency, indeed fake news and reviews are now manipulating consumer opinion to an Orwellian degree, and if you think you’re immune then read on – you’re not! To put it bluntly, to some degree or other, we’re all being conned.

When you next have 18 minutes available I suggest you watch this entertaining video.

It follows the exploits of Oobah Butler, a writer who earned extra cash writing fake reviews for restaurants on TripAdvisor, getting paid £10 for each one published. This led to him thinking: “the only bit of TripAdvisor that is unfakeable is the restaurant itself” and then one day he thought, “actually, maybe even that is fakeable.” So, he decided to see how far up the TripAdvisor ranking he could get a non-existent restaurant. The answer was all the way!

There are over 18,000 restaurants in London, however within 7 months, the non-existent The Shed at Dulwich” was ranked as the number one best restaurant in London on TripAdvisor, on the strength of the fake reviews posted by Oobah’s friends and family.

Fake reviews are increasingly becoming a problem for legitimate businesses as they call into question their credibility. When you see how easily TripAdvisor can be manipulated it will cause many to then doubt reviews on other sites. The problem is growing to such an extent that in the USA a website has analysed over 1 billion reviews and grades them according to their reliability and then lists the offenders. As many people believe there’s no smoke without fire, the impact for the whole review industry, and for those companies that trade heavily on the back of their positive reviews, could be significant. I do believe in customer feedback and reviews but the platforms they appear on must be trustworthy.

Last year we set up the Best Estate Agent Guide. One of our goals is to become a totally reliable source for people looking to find the best estate agent for their area. Whilst we always knew it would take a while to perfect the methodology of our assessment, one thing for certain is that it can’t be manipulated. We’ve had a lot of feedback as to how the assessment can be improved and are planning several changes for the next edition that will be published at the EA Masters in October. If you have any comments you’d like us to consider then please let me have them.

*Source: Property Academy, Home Moving Trends 2018
Base: 5,838

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