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What Do a Real Estate Agent and a Locksmith Have in Common?

Online Reviews Real Estate Agents
Image courtesy of Lola Dalle

Survey Says…

A recent study released by market research firm, Opinion Research Corporation, reveals that 61% of surveyed consumers are browsing for online reviews of companies and services before making final purchase decisions.  This doesn’t come as a huge surprise for me, since I am one consumer who tends to research heavily before making a decision… sometimes too much.  It often sends me down a rabbit-hole exploring review sites in order to make sure that I am absolutely sure I am making the right choice.  I recently came to the conclusion that this is even more true for services used ‘once in a blue moon’.

Searching for a Locksmith.

I needed a locksmith to do a very specific type of job… an ignition replacement.  Obviously, I don’t call locksmiths very often… and have no loyalty to any particular “brand”.  I naturally did a Google search for “locksmiths” in my area.  At the top of the results were quite a few local business directories such as Yahoo Local and CitySearch.  AAA Locksmith is now staring me in the face, along with A&A Locksmith, ABC Locksmith, and a few dozen more on page one.  What I also noticed was the reviews column.  Who to call?  Well AAA had 0 reviews and grayed out stars, yet A&A had 4 out of 5 stars and 3 reviews.  needless to say I couldn’t resist seeing what my neighbors had to say.  I ultimately skipped the no-review listing and went for the stars.  And I also ended up choosing a great Locksmith (they were, but who knows without a comparison?).

Wow, Reviews are More Important Than I Thought.

It occurred to me later that the types of businesses that could really benefit from online consumer reviews are the ones that rely very little on repeat business.  How often do we hire plumbers, roofers, a locksmith, or a real estate agent?  How much more important is it to hire a reputable agent than it would be to research a locksmith?

Although started out as a blog platform vendor, it seems it’s purpose has become real estate agent ranking and reviews (#1 in SERPS for real estate agent reviews)… But the activity on places like and Citysearch is heavy, and the growth of these up-and-coming household names is nothing to ignore. What would you conclude when reading this page as a consumer?

The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth.

This is the new-school of good ‘ol fashioned word-of-mouth.  No longer do we totally rely on Aunt Patti’s recommendation for an Agent.  How objective is her opinion, really?  She may have had a good experience, but how will she really know the consistency of this level of service.  I would rather look into a half-dozen detailed reviews and let that weigh in on my decision in addition to Aunt Patti’s.  This of course is very disruptive news for an agent so used to the friend of a friend marketing word-of-mouth approach.  Creating customer evangelists is important, and the power of an online review can have the same effect over and over again.

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Rather than debate on which is more important, online or “real-life” testimonials, we can focus on enhancing the online side while also maintaining the traditional method of obtaining valuable word-of-mouth referrals… it’s great service and relationships any way you slice it.

Reviewer Motives.

But to motivate a client to not only pass out your card to their friends and family, but to also log in to and write a positive recommendation, may take an extra bit of effort.  When I have a terrible experience with a service provider, my first thought is: “How can I stop their reign of terror…  I’m going to write a scathing review and make sure everyone knows… they will be sorry… oh yes mwa ha ha ha ha!” But for some reason, after a pleasant experience I think: “That was great, I really hope they do well, Let’s go to that new restaurant I’m starving!”  Am I alone in this thinking?

A Diamond is Forever.

So, to motivate a happy client to write a good online testimonial, simply ask.  Shoot an email out with a link to your page on the third-party review site.  Make it really easy for them.  You might even send a snail mail (It’s back by the way) thank-you card with gentle request and a gift-card.  You want that review.  A 5 star review, like a diamond, is forever and very valuable.  And like a diamond, crushing a bad review is next to impossible without the proper methods.

For more on the subject check out the fanatics at The Society for Word of Mouth.

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Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.



  1. Glenn fm Naples

    July 15, 2008 at 5:54 am

    Carson – positive testimonials have always been a good way to get business. We might post them on our websites – but how many really have their clients post on the Internet? Probably not many, but at least your post may start a trend for some of us.

  2. Matt Wilkins

    July 15, 2008 at 5:58 am

    I partialy agree with you ideas. I think the reason why past clients or prospects do not come back or refer business is our lack of contact so our name is in front of their face.

    I send a monthly email newletter to everyone in my contact list (past clicnets, current clients, prospects) and find it has been very effective in keeping people “know” that I am around and read yto provide them the real estate services they need.

  3. Frank Jewett

    July 15, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Many consumers don’t trust online recommendations because there are a lot of shills on the internet. Knowing the person doing the recommending is important for establishing the credibility of the recommendation.

  4. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 15, 2008 at 8:00 am

    While I think a glowing review on the internet can make the difference if all other considerations are equal – its certainly not the end all be all. Internet customers are becoming fairly savvy and recognize the ease of manipulation and bogus reviews by friends (or enemies). If you can get legit glowing reviews by shooting out a 1 time email to clients, great. But I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.

  5. Holly White

    July 15, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Having glowing reviews looks much better than not having any at all though. As a consumer myself, I am much more likely to do business with someone who has something going on in the way of third party reviews or testimonials and I would guess that “most” consumer’s are still much like me (even if the reviews we are reading are not real). It wouldn’t take long for someone who had a bunch of really good bogus reviews to get some really bad “real” ones if they are not as good as those reviews say they are.

  6. Carson Coots

    July 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Glenn – Thanks, I just hope that when put into practice it is not like pulling teeth to get them to create an account and actually write one up.

    Matt, I think your method is very effective… it is a great way to 2nd-degree word of mouth flowing. The online reviews help you gain a level of credibility with people outside of that sphere.

    Frank – I agree, there are a lot of posers out there, but 10 out of 10 reviewers being shills is very hard to believe… If the page contains a nice cross-section of realistic reviews, it may be more believable to the reader… and the method I proposed would create real-life testimonials that are public and archived on third-party sites. Would an on-site testimonial be any more believable? Who would publish a bad review of their service on their own website? At least 3rd party sites appear to be unfiltered. I am not suggesting it is a better substitute… only a supplement.

    Jennifer – I’m hoping a little email would be enough to at least plant a seed… No begging would be in order. But if you have problems like this guy-> It might be a good idea to start diluting those negatives with some good feedback. He lost a lot of sleep making that crazy website.

    Holly – I agree. A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape. – Proverbs 19:5

  7. Paula Henry

    July 15, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Carson – I use Angie’s List when searching for specific services, for this very reason – I can see the reviews, how many satisfied clients and their ranking.

  8. Bob Locksmith

    August 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

    The trouble with these reviews on Google local business listings is they are too easy to fabricate

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