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Fighting the good fight: Supporting legislation on customer reviews

The Consumer Review Freedom Act bill cracks down on so-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms of service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

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If I’m a business owner, obviously I want to get glowing reviews. Positive feedback spreads good word-of-mouth which is good for the bottom line. In a perfect world everyone would be happy with whatever is my latest product or service. But the world is not perfect so there is bound to be someone who just doesn’t grasp what I’m promoting.

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The flip side of this coin is that if I’m a consumer and I just don’t like you’re selling I should be able to voice my opinion in public and online. I mean, the Constitution protects me, right? Freedom of Speech and all that?

I’ll teach you…

Well not exactly and I’ve written about this very thing: So-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms-of-service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

Fortunately smarter heads have prevailed with the proposal of the Consumer Review Freedom Act (CRFA) which most recently was passed by the Senate in Mid December 2015 and now goes before the House.

I can’t begin to tell you how important this bill is. The bill cracks down on so-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms of service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

Banning the gag clauses

More specifically, as pointed out in an online article on marketingprofs.com, the CRFA will provide:

  • A nationwide ban on the use of “anti-review,” “gag,” or “non-disparagement” clauses
  • Empowerment of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and states to take action against businesses that attempt to keep consumers from posting negative reviews

Important for all businesses

For business owners this proposed legislation will guarantee a number of things that many of us may take for granted:

  • Freedom of speech in online reviews
  • Access to honest information from customers
  • The chance to learn from constructive criticism
  • The chance to turn negative reviews into positive experiences
  • An opportunity to work together against fabricated reviews

Living and dying by the review

It doesn’t really matter if you sell hotdogs or you sell real estate because you should stand by the validity of what you sell. Real estate in particular is filled with practitioners that live and die by ratings and reviews of their services, and therefore, in my humble opinion, this legislation needs to be supported by all industries.

And guess what? If you get negative reviews (as opposed to fake fabricated reviews) then learn from it and use the opportunity as a perfect chance to put everything you’ve ever (hopefully) learned about customer service into practice.

#CustomerReviewFreedomAct

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Real Estate Brokerage

4 tasks your business should consider outsourcing

(REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE) As your business becomes busier and more successful, you may find outsourcing will streamline your workflow. Let’s talk what’s best to outsource.

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Freelance worker at a laptop writing notes in a notebook, outsourcing work.

As your business grows, it becomes impossible to continue doing everything in-house. At some point, you have to think about outsourcing. The question is, which tasks do you hand off in order to maximize efficiency and leverage better talent?

The Pros of Outsourcing

Outsourcing, which is basically the act of taking a job duty or responsibility and paying someone outside of your organization to handle it on your behalf, has become more popular and practical with the rise of the internet and various freelance marketplaces. The advantages of outsourcing include:

  • Cost savings. Outsourcing is a very cost-effective decision, regardless of whether you go with an offshore agency or a local freelancer. Offshore partners can cost as much as 60% less than a similar professional in the U.S. Onshore freelancers are more expensive than offshore options. Still, they’re cheaper than hiring an employee.
  • Time savings. If you hire an outsourced partner to do 20 hours of work per week, that’s 20 hours you’re saving your team. This allows you to reallocate time to focus on the internal tasks that matter most to your organization.
  • Better talent. When you hire full-time employees, your talent pool is often restricted by location and budget. When outsourcing, you have access to more talent than you’d be able to afford when hiring.
  • Leaner business. There’s something to be said for keeping a small team with low overhead and minimal fixed costs. By outsourcing, you’re able to keep your business lean and scalable.

Outsourcing has always been a useful option, but with the current state of remote work and online freelancing, it’s now a practical choice for both small and large businesses.

4 Tasks You Should Outsource

Not all tasks are created equal. But as you consider outsourcing more of your business, here are a few to consider:

1. PPC

PPC advertising can be a significant revenue driver for businesses. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can also be a waste of money. By outsourcing to a PPC marketing agency, you can maximize ad spend and get the best possible results. They’ll charge you a fee, obviously, but the ROI of outsourced PPC almost always overperforms the ROI of in-house PPC (when there’s limited internal experience).

2. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important investment for any business. But much like PPC, it’s highly technical and requires some expertise in order to master. While you can certainly learn some of the basics, you’d be wise to outsource the overall strategy and execution to an experienced professional. (Just make sure you research your options and choose a partner that practices white hat SEO.)

3. Accounting

Is there any task more universally boring than accounting? And yet, at the same time, it’s arguably one of the most important tasks a business owner has on their plate. (If you screw up accounting, you could sink your business in a major hole.) Outsourcing to an accountant or CPA is a great option.

“Having had my own business for 12+ years now, I can say without hesitation that the one area I immediately outsourced was taxes! I’ve never regretted hiring a professional to take care of this tedious – yet vital – task,” entrepreneur Michelle Garret writes. “My accountant saves my money and provides peace of mind, which is priceless.”

The good news is that you can get an outsourced accounting partner fairly inexpensively. Whether you want them to do all of your daily bookkeeping or just your taxes, you should be able to find a good option.

4. Graphic Design

Graphic design is one of those tasks where there’s a huge gap between basic skills and advanced skills. In other words, anyone can learn how to use some basic graphic design tools, but it takes a seasoned and creative professional to truly master the craft. By outsourcing, you can save yourself thousands of hours of learning and advance straight to expert-level output.

Maximize Your Internal Resources

At the end of the day, outsourcing allows you to maximize your resources and do more with less. And while you shouldn’t delegate core business tasks, handing off things like copywriting, PPC, SEO, accounting, and graphic design can free you up to focus on the projects and investments that matter most.

Give it a try and see what it does for you.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Why women don’t self-promote at work as often as men

(CAREER) Being visible and owning well done work continues to be a conundrum for women in the workplace. So stand up and be heard!

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Ladies, if you recently met with your broker (or corporate) for an end-of-the-year review and you failed to share all of your successes and the ways you shined over the last year, you aren’t alone.

A recent study revealed that regardless of the situation, women do not promote themselves in the workplace as much as their male colleagues.

What is clear from the information gathered – women need to realize they are badasses in the workplace and be unwavering in their belief in themselves. And, be ready to share this information with their supervisors or clients if they wish to earn more.

The study, conducted by Christine Exley, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and Judd Kessler, an associate professor at Wharton, found there is a broad (no pun intended) gender gap when it comes to self-promotion in the workplace.

As many raises and promotions to higher level roles are dependent upon an employee’s self-evaluation, women are more at risk of missing out on getting hired or higher earning opportunities. In real estate, this quality limits earning potential and can have rippling long-term effects.

The pair considered multiple hypotheses from whether women were less confident and men more, to whether it was a matter of taking advantage of systems where self-promotion leads to incentives, to whether a boss would eventually find out the truth about a worker’s ability.

“In every setting we explored, we observed a substantial gender gap in self-promotion: Women systematically provided less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men. And our various study versions revealed that this gender gap was not driven by confidence or by strategic incentives, and that it was robust both in the face of ambiguity and under increased transparency,” the pair stated.

What could be at play? If women are punished for excessive self-promotion in the workplace more than men, they are more likely to keep their successes to themselves, the researchers speculate. Prior research into self-promotion in the workplace found that excessive self-promotion suggested gender differences in backlash.

As if we were still living in the 1950s, women often face backlash for being too vocal about their abilities, and risk losing out on promotions because being visible and self-promotional goes against the idea of how a woman should behave. So, while being visible and taking ownership is the way to get ahead in the workplace, for many women the risk of backlash means they sit and remain quiet, being passed over because they fear being labeled “a bitch,” as the study found.

What Exley and Judd determined is there is the need for more research into they “why” of this conundrum.

Meanwhile, the pair’s message is this: Employers (and brokers), don’t overlook women on your team. They may not be as vocal about how good they are, but that doesn’t mean their performance is inferior. And to women out their busting ass and closing deals – take note of your accomplishments and promote your worth when in the field and in the office!

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Real Estate Brokerage

Refocusing your team before the year is over

(REAL ESTATE) It’s that time of year again – holidays distract and procrastination sets in, so here’s how to refocus your team before they are led astray by the calendar.

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This time of year is always difficult in terms of focus. We universally obsess over resolutions at the beginning of the year and try to be motivated to perfect our lives. But by the end of the year, reality has set in and we still haven’t bought a home in Belize or lost 25 lbs.

If you’re a broker or team manager and are noticing this lethargy or discouraged state with your team focus, consider stepping up as a leader to get the team to refocus.

As the seasons change, so can our moods. It can be helpful to have quarterly check-ins with your team (either one-on-one or as a group) to discuss current methods, trends, what’s expected on either side, and what can be improved. This form of open communication helps employees de-stress and may help them recharge and regain motivation.

Another communicative form can be found in surveys. Sending check-in surveys via email to your team to assess their feelings of the workload, the market, and to voice any concerns they have. It can be a great way to open the door for bigger, more important conversations. These surveys can be formatted to be answered anonymously, as well.

Be sure to always be accessible and focused yourself, as you’re setting the barometer of expectation. Allowing for this open communication can let you know what can be improved on your end, which can aid in refocusing.

Another way to bring your team focus together is by hosting a quarterly lunch for everyone. This helps your agents to bond, while also feeling like their work is being appreciated; therefore, motivating them to keep on producing well.

At the end of the day, you can’t be everyone’s friend. So if you’re observing behavior that seems to be unproductive or unfocused, don’t be afraid to speak frankly. Sometimes all it takes is for that behavior to be acknowledged to convince someone to step up their game.

Remember – each team and each manager is different. The attempt to get everyone on the same page and to continuously make strides as a team can take trial and error, but it’s something to always be cognizant of to avoid issues in the future and keep sales on track.

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