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Op/Ed

Ratings companies have evolved into two camps that couldn’t be more opposite

(EDITORIAL) The ratings and reviews game has evolved considerably in recent years, and now, two clear camps have emerged… which do you think is better for consumers?

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five star wars ratings

Nearly every industry today is either participating in or being assessed by ratings and reviews. It’s what consumers want – it has become a consumer-centric fundamental.

Because time is scarce, consumers are increasingly seeking what they hope are reliable, trusted sources that collect and post both product and service experiences of real customers. The idea is that having access to the actual experience of others will lead to making better, more informed decisions and choices in selecting their next product or service provider.

In meeting this consumer interest, a pursuit of five star ratings has created a Star Wars battle line with two distinct camps:

  • Marketing Spin Camp – best foot forward, filtered results, selected feedback, and heavy bias of positive news
  • Transparent and Accurate Camp – reliable, measured, complete, unscrubbed and unmanipulated information from real past customers

So one camp chooses to Photoshop the picture while the other offers untouched results; one camp chooses pleasant fiction and the other chooses the reality of non-fiction; one camp elects to edit and cleanse, the other offers accountability and transparency with some blemishes; one camp seeks an immediate, short-term, gamed advantage to win customers while the other trusts that truth is the foundation of long term relationships; one camp doubts its ability to deliver great results and chooses marketing spin while the other camp believes consumers can be discerning and their service providers can deliver.

Facts sure can ruin a good story

In response to Brad Inman’s comment in an April 19th, 2016 interview, “…what I’d love to see here… (is) a higher-quality agent… better ones”, the former president of an organization promoting the Marketing Spin Camp stated, “Ratings are not the way to a higher-quality agent because ratings are a marketing tool… I don’t care what anybody says about that.”

The power of Marketing Spin is in telling a tale. Since the facts can ruin a good story, those in the Marketing Spin Camp often find it more convenient to avoid, ignore, omit, or not even bother to learn the facts. These facts have been researched and available for some time now, including in a 2008 report, before most in the Marketing Spin Camp entered the North American real estate market.

Transparency, accountability, and feedback both change and positively alter behavior in sports, business and politics. The evidence is clear, empirical, and unambiguous.

Ratings and reviews when properly designed, delivered, and data aggregated (scientific methodology with research expertise) do create the kind of accountability, transparency, and feedback that influence and alter professional behavior creating both measurably higher quality and a more satisfying customer service experience.

Spin a story, discredit the real estate industry.

The facts – Here are the measurable results that are specific to the real estate industry and related to how service quality assessment of every closed transaction can influence agent behavior, the quality of service they provide and make them better (data based upon more than 2,000,000 customer satisfaction assessment surveys):

• 54% more Very Satisfied customers with the overall service experience than the national average
• 86% fewer Dissatisfied and Very Dissatisfied customers with the overall service experience than the national average
• 400% greater likelihood of agent making a post-closing service follow up call than the National Average
• 65% greater Satisfaction with quantity and quality of communication
• 72% greater Satisfaction with attention to transaction details
• 78% greater Satisfaction with negotiating assistance
• 54% increase in sales of returning past customers
• 56% increase in referral sales from satisfied past customers

Star Wars – the battle for five star ratings is bigger than the quest to win today’s customer. Honest and accurate ratings and reviews are about TRUST and long-term customer relationships.

Adopting practices of misleading information, selected feedback, and manipulated data are a “win the battle lose the war” strategy that also sacrifices the opportunity for ongoing improvement, real service excellence and true five star results.

Presenting manipulated, selective, or cleansed customer feedback as accurate and honest is also likely a violation of the Code of Ethics.Click To Tweet

You have the power to do the right thing.

The 2015 independently commissioned D.A.N.G.E.R. Report identified agent service inconsistency and the invisible interactions between agents and consumers as the highest threat to the survival of the industry and the value of Realtor® services.

Believing that ratings are only about creating positive messages or merely a marketing tool that cannot influence professional behavior is factually incorrect and a sad surrender in the face of what can and is actually being done.

“Like them or not, reviews are now central to the consumer decision-making process. Go all in or stay out of the game. People will sniff BS a mile away if you try to peddle filtered or otherwise less-than-open reviews.” -Brian Boero, Founding Partner, 1000Watt Consulting

While we may frequently feel that events in business and life are beyond our control, each of us has the power to do the right thing, to do it well and to do it now!

This editorial was first published here in February of 2017.

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Kevin is a Co-Founder, President & COO of Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC) and earned an MBA from The University of California – Irvine. With over 20 years of Real Estate experience, his primary focus is on consumer research, developing better service management systems, and sharing the importance of consumer-centric service standards, transparency and accountability to create measurable and meaningful differentiation and long term advantage for those professionals that put customer needs first.

Op/Ed

10 small things you can do for your business while Netflixing

We know the holidays are a time to relax, but before normal working hours have returned, you can still do things for your business in between episodes on Netflix. Here’s 10 simple things that won’t cut into your holiday.

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For many real estate agents, the holidays can slow business down. It’s time for some #ProductivityAndChill.

Instead of spending all day binge-watching Hulu or Netflix, in between every episode take 10 to 15 minutes to do something for your business. Here are some great ideas for things that don’t take long, but provide some long-lasting benefits.

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Productivity and chill

1. Get inspired by your favorite websites. Where do you like to shop or get your news information? Browse through their site with one purpose in mind, to see why it draws you in and how you can implement their methods into your own business.

2. Catch up on the news. Read some articles here or at The American Genius that you might have overlooked or passed by because you thought they didn’t pertain to you. Keeping up with various industries can benefit you.

3. Use your social media tools to set up posts on Twitter or Facebook.

4. Improve your webpages by writing new product descriptions or to optimize images for SEO.

5. Go through the App Store to find new apps which can help make your life easier.

6. Learn to use a new social media platform to reach out to new customers.

7. Go through your social media feed. See what people are talking about and what’s trending. Make notes when you get inspiration.

8. Clean up the documents in your laptop. Organize them more effectively so you can always find what you need.

9. Clean up your email. Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t ever look at. Delete messages that are old. Set up folders to save information that you may need at a later date.

10. Customize your email. Set it up to pre-sort emails into different folders to allow you to work more productively when you get back to work after the New Year.

These little tasks can eat away at your time when you’re busy trying to get things done, but when you’re relaxed and just want to feel more productive, take a few minutes to do something that won’t overtask your brain, but needs to be done to keep you more organized throughout your week.

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Op/Ed

A negotiation strategy successful people always use

(OP/ED) Successful people didn’t wake up one day in a leadership role, they used this negotiation strategy every day to win.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

One of my earliest lessons in the art of negotiation went down at home, as the youngest child trying to get the one up on my older brother. It was the mid 90s, Pepsi was rewarding loyal customers with Pepsi Points hidden in their 24-packs. I don’t think either of us knew what the hell we would even do with the Pepsi Points, but we both knew we wanted them. So for hours we negotiated.

There was yelling. There was name calling. Finally, my dad came in with a pair of garden scissors and proceeded to cut the Pepsi Points voucher in half. We were speechless. Our dreams of amassing a wealth of Pepsi Points turned into a lose-lose scenario.

Sadly, our negotiation experiences today end up following a similar pattern. Long, energy draining negotiations end in lose-lose scenarios. My own pattern of negotiations gone wrong only began to change when I became a community mediator in college. I learned from leaders in business, law, and social work negotiation skills that have helped me in both my professional and personal life.

A good starting point to any negotiation scenario is understanding negotiation motivators. Some of the obvious motivators are money and resources. These obvious motivators are at the tip of the iceberg. In negotiations, these motivators are often written or verbally communicated. However, there can be a handful of other motivators hiding beneath the surface. These motivators represent the hidden, yet powerful underside of the iceberg.

Here are some common hidden motivators to keep in mind: respect, accountability, safety, and power.

Seeking clarity involves slowing down the negotiations and proactively checking in with the other party to ensure you’re understanding points of agreement or disagreement correctly.

Often, this looks like simply taking time in the negotiations to summarize progress. For instance, negotiating with the head of another department about the use of meeting rooms. A summarizing statement on when and why each party needs the meeting rooms can be critical in correcting assumptions earlier on rather than later. It also helps ensure objectivity.

I’ll be totally honest and admit to times when I’ve been tempted to turn negotiations personal. In my head I’ve said things like, “Sally wants the meeting rooms all to herself” or “accounting is always trying to hold me back.”

Seeking clarity by summarizing key points helps keep us grounded in reality, and ensures that we are working towards each side’s true needs rather than the needs we assume in our heads.

We hear this term in sales pitches, business seminars and relationship workshops. But how can we create win-wins the midst of negotiations that are often stressful and complex? Well, let’s break down the win for both sides.

First, we create the win for ourselves by coming into our negotiation meetings with a clear picture of what our goals are both long and short-term.

In negotiating a purchase, I may want monetary savings now, but in the long term I’m willing to pay more if a product can meet my long term goals of reliability and convenience.

Ensuring a winning scenario for those on the other side of the negotiation table involves creating buy-in. This doesn’t mean stating your solutions and getting the other party to begrudgingly agree. It’s about asking open-ended questions and giving the other side a chance to craft their ideal solution. Sometimes, simply asking the other party what their ideal solution looks like can give you a head start in reaching a mutually beneficial scenario.

The most important step in creating a win-win scenario is to embrace creativity. Click To Tweet

We do this by focusing not just on WHAT the needs are, but HOW those needs are met. Think outside the box. For instance, what are some non-traditional ways of structuring payments? What are some non-traditional employee benefits? What are some non-traditional services you can add to a contract?

Negotiating is one of life’s necessities. Unless you live in your own self-sustaining plastic bubble, eventually you’ll need to practice the art of effective negotiation.

Don’t be like my Pepsi Point obsessed eight-year-old self, slipping into a lose-lose scenario due to lousy negotiation skills.

Practice seeing the other side of the iceberg, seeking clarity, and embracing creativity. These three negotiation skills can quickly turn a lose-lose scenario into a mutually beneficial one for both parties.

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Op/Ed

The music you’re listening to may dictate your productivity levels

(EDITORIAL) Whether it’s a podcast, news, or music, most people are listening to *something* while at work – so what makes you the most productive?

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music for productivity

For some, productivity requires a state of concentration that can only be achieved in silence. But workplaces are seldom so quiet, and truth be told, most of us prefer to have some background music playing while we work. Some people swear they can’t work or study without it.

Personally, I find music helpful for encouraging productivity and creativity. It distracts the part of my brain that would normally be chattering away – the voice in my head worrying, wondering, and daydreaming. I find that music neutralizes this inner voice, freeing up my brain to focus on the task at hand.

More and more research backs up what many of us experience – a state of enhanced calm, focus, and creativity when we listen to music while working. Deep Patel at Entrepreneur.com has a list of the best types of music to serve as the soundtrack to your workday.

Typically, music without lyrics is best for working or studying, since lyrics tend to catch our attention. Research has so consistently shown classical music to boost productivity that the phenomenon has it’s own name – the Mozart effect.

But other forms of wordless music can work as well. Patel recommends cinematic music for making the daily grind feel as “grandiose” as a Hollywood epic. Meanwhile, video game music has been specially designed to help gamers concentrate on game challenges; likewise, it can help keep your office atmosphere energized. Soothing nature sounds, such as flowing water or rainfall, can also help promote a calm but focused state.

Music with lyrics is okay too, as long as it doesn’t turn your office into a karaoke bar. Cognitive behavioral therapist Dr. Emma Gray worked with Spotify to identify the characteristics of music that can actually change our brain waves. She found that music between 50 and 80 beats per minute can trigger the brain an “alpha” state that is associated with relaxation and with being struck with inspiration.

Really, any music will do, as long as you like it. Research from the music therapy department at the University of Miami found that workers who listened to their preferred artists and genres had better ideas and finished their tasks more quickly.

What styles of music help you focus during your workday? I myself enjoy the collection of “lo-fi” or “chill-hop” playlists on YouTube. This music has a consistent beat that is engaging without being distracting, and the accompanying video generally features an adorable cartoon character to keep you company.

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