Long time, no blog…

March 7, 2009

Perhaps I’m just as caught up as everyone else is re: the economic crisis, but it’s been a bit tough getting back to this blog.

Here’s where we’re at: We’re in the midst of planning our Canada-wide expansion, thanks to all the great activity that’s happened in Edmonton (yay for Edmonton real estate). But, as with all things that you think should be as simple as the flick of a switch (like getting your cable hooked up — why DOES it take so much work to get cable?! ūüôā ), this expansion is going to take longer than expected.

BONUS NEWS
We’re thinking of going into the US. Yuppers. Why not, right? Canada’s one of the toughest places to get a site like this going… so, I mean, if we can do it here (at least in Edmonton), why not try the US, too?

Hope you’re surviving the changing times,
jw

The corrections: putting an end to greed in 2009?

January 18, 2009
How will realtors make an effort to refill the plates of homesellers this year?

How will realtors make an effort to refill the plates of homesellers this year?

Since the 80s, Canada has not seen a real estate crisis like the one we’re now in the midst (beginning, middle?) of. Working for our own often selfish interests has caused the problem, many are arguing — the buying up of multiple properties on a hairdresser’s salary in the hopes of capitalizing on great need and the great desperation (read: amount of money one’s willing to spend) to satisfy those needs. It’s been greed.

By charging $0 for our service on What-Customers-Say.com, we’re trying to be less greedy.

What are you going to do this year to focus less on yourself and more on greater needs? What are real estate agents going to do to help the people who are selling their homes at significant losses get through this hard time? Does anyone know of any agents who are lowering their commissions to help clients out today?

~jw

100% free profiles for real estate agents

December 30, 2008
Hopefully this will get your new year started on a positive note

Hopefully this will get your new year started on a positive note

The economy’s in the tank (no news there), and real estate sales are… well, at the bottom of that tank, with just 416 sales in Edmonton in December, so far. (The Edmonton Real Estate Blog is good for giving such sales updates.)

That’s why we at What-Customers-Say.com have decided not to charge for agent marketing profiles. Well, that’s not the only reason, but that’s a big & good one.

No charge for marketing profiles on What-Customers-Say.com
Yup, $0. Totally free. So whether you have a marketing profile or not (see an example of one here), there’s really no reason not to participate in What-Customers-Say.com — and let your¬†clients help you with your marketing.¬†…Not that we’re pressuring you to join! ūüôā We’re just knocking down barriers for those agents who can benefit from our services but may not be doing well enough to provide anything in return right now.

What does a “free profile” mean?¬†
Y’know when you sign up for a free version of something, like, say, some software application, and you get this really watered down version where you have to pay to add on all the stuff you really need? Well, we’re not going to put you through that. You get all the bells & whistles that are available today, including:

  • Your photo
  • Your marketing messaging
  • Your contact info
  • A property listing
  • Add-a-comment (testimonial) feature
  • Email updates every time someone leaves you a review
  • Details about activity on your account (on your sign-in page)

For free.

Well, how is What-Customers-Say.com going to make money?
Dunno. Got any ideas? ūüėČ We’ll see. But what matters right now and for as long as our little site is around is that Edmonton real estate agents, Sherwood Park real estate agents, St. Albert real estate agents… and every agent across Alberta &¬†the country (as soon as we go national) will be able to get a free profile. And that profile — with all the wingdings listed above — will cost you a whopping nuthin’.

What do you think about that? Let us know!

~jw

Why do I blog?

December 22, 2008
Blogging to keep a record for my graduate school final project

Blogging to keep a record for my graduate school final project

WhatCustomersSay.com is not only a Web site but also a case study, which is part of my final project for my¬†graduate program. (I’m very interested in social media and, in my day job, I¬†drive the social media marketing team. My¬†grad studies are¬†helping¬†me to¬†fuel¬†my passion from an academic perspective.)¬†The topic of/thesis for my final project isn’t worked out perfectly, but it revolves around these questions:

  • How can professionals & organizations market themselves online today when they do not necessarily control the messages about themselves &/or their companies?
  • Can a self-serving organization truly release control of their messages to users/the public at large? How much does an organization need to control the messages about it?–to what lengths will they go to keep messages coralled?
  • And, finally, what happens when you surrender total control and let people say what they will about you?–what kinds of professionals & organizations are doing this successfully… & unsuccessfully?

This blog has been not a way to voice my opinion — although it seems to have become that — but rather a journal of happenings that I will be able to use to compose the case study element of my final project. The majority of the entries in this blog are here simply as a record of happenings. An artifact. Read the rest of this entry »

Social networking tools for real estate agents

December 13, 2008
Are you putting user-contribution systems to use for you?

Are you putting user-contribution systems to use for you?

I’m researching a contact management tool to use for What-Customers-Say.com — to help us manage our incoming emails from agents + reviewers and to assign/complete tasks accordingly — and I’ve just come across BatchBook, an online CRM for small business owners.

Anyway, their tool is also designed for real estate agents, and they’ve written a useful whitepaper (html) for agents¬†that you can find here

Are you using these social networking tools today, agents? Is Real Estate 2.0 growing in Canada… or are Americans the early adopters, with Canadians following their lead?

~jw

Postcards arriving soon, agents!

December 4, 2008
The front of the postcard

The front of the postcard

If you’re a real estate agent with a profile on our site, then you can look forward to receiving in the mail (if you haven’t already) a package of postcards.

What are these postcards for?
Well, if you have a profile on our site, then you already know that we strongly encourage you “manage your reputation before it manages you.” These postcards wil help with that.

The idea is that you can take the postcards, hand them out to your clients when you close on a deal with them (or run into them in Starbucks) and simply ask them to review you on the site —- the postcard is their reminder to do so.

What’s on the postcard?
The front is the bright card you see here. The back is a message that:

  • Thanks the client for choosing to work with you
  • Tells them about What-Customers-Say.com
  • Invites them to rate you to tell you what you did right and if you need a little improvement in an area
  • Lists out the steps to take to rate you

There’s also space at the bottom of the card where you can sign your name or place your business stamp.

Hope these cards help! We know it can be challenging to work up the nerve to ask for a review/recommendation from a client, so hopefully these cards will help make it a little easier. (Handing over something may help? At least it keeps your hands busy and gives them something to look at instead of just staring blankly at you. ūüôā )

~jw

The most courageous real estate agents around

November 28, 2008
Kudos to those agents who have the courage to be early adopters of our real estate agent rating site

Kudos to those agents who have the courage to be early adopters of our real estate agent rating site

In the last¬†few days — or since EREB sent out its email about What-Customers-Say.com — we’ve been having some good talks around here about the agents who will use our site and those who will not. We’ve also talked about the agents who’ve already asked to be removed from the site. (BTW, we’ll only remove until the point that you get a review; after that time, your name has effectively been “added” by a [legitimate only] reviewer.)

But what about those agents who already are using the site? Or what about those who, in the heat of everything, are actually creating profiles on What-Customers-Say.com?

It takes a lot of courage to step¬†away from the [small] mob with its pitchforks and¬†flaming torches¬†and say, “Yes, I believe in my customer’s voice, and I’m going to support it. Even if it stresses me out every time I get a new review.”

So to everyone who continues to go out on a limb — in spite of pressure from the ill-informed¬†not to¬†be associated with us¬†—¬†and trust not only in their customers but also in the idea that What-Customers-Say.com actually is helping the best agents rise to the top, thank you. And kudos to you. As you certainly know, it’s the leaders, not the followers, who actually make real change happen.

~jw

PS: Lance Jones (a partner at What-Customers-Say.com) wrote this today, and I love how clear it is, so I want to post it:

Only 27 of¬†~290 reviews on our site are negative — so are¬†dissenting agents sure that¬†our site is about making realtors look bad?

Use of our real estate agent rating site: Some data

November 27, 2008
graph-going-up

Things are loooooking up!

Because I was curious, I looked up some stats on What-Customers-Say.com. As of about 7:30MST today:

  • We have 112 agents reviewed
  • There are over 280 reviews on our site (not including the illegitimate¬†ones we’ve pulled down)

One-third of the agents rated on What-Customers-Say.com are rated between 4.5 to 4.99 stars out¬†of a possible 5 stars. And our top 3 most reviewed agents are rated between 4.25-4.49 stars out of 5 —- which is probably not where they’d be if they only had one¬†glowing review, but you can imagine the positive effects of rating at the top of the page when someone sorts results by number of reviews (which is how the site is built to default). ¬†

And here are the details on¬†how the cards fall re: top-rated vs. … um… less-well rated agents:

  • 5/5 stars: 6 agents
  • 4.5-4.99/5 stars: 45 agents
  • 4.25-4.49/5 stars: 15 agents
  • 4-4.24/5 stars: 9 agents
  • 3.75-3.99/5 stars: 11 agents
  • 3-3.75/5 stars: 9 agents
  • 0-2.99/5 stars: 17 agents

75 of our reviewed agents are rated at 4.0 or higher out of 5 stars. 20 are between 3 & 4 stars. And the other 17 are below 3 stars.

Finally, the majority of the ‚̧ star-rated real estate agents have just 1 review. So the tides could easily change on the site for these folks.

So, the blog may not have a ton o’ fans ūüôā , but the site seems to. And that’s what’s most important. ‘Cos a blog is just my voice… but¬†What-Customers-Say.com is the open, vocal collaboration of great agents and their honest, generally happy¬†clients.

~jw

What we’re really doing when you say we’re “bashing” agents

November 27, 2008
Getting down to brass tacks

Getting down to brass tacks

How does that Simon & Garfunkel song go?

I get slandered – libel
I hear words I never heard in the Bible
And I’m one step ahead of the shoe shine
Two steps away from the county line
Just tryin’ to keep the customers satisfied… satisfied!

Ah, keeping the customer satisfied. Our customer is the “real”¬†customer. Who’s your customer?

With that in mind, What-Customers-Say.com was the subject of an e-newsletter sent out by the Edmonton Real Estate Board today. I’ll insert the article below.

Before I go too far, though, let’s clear some things up, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

What does that mean, consumer advocacy / activism?

November 26, 2008
Do you advocate on behalf of all customers... or just your clients?

Do you advocate on behalf of all customers... or just your clients?

It’s too bad that, prior to the advent of the Web — and, in particular, social media and elevating the customer voice — the only organizations that advocated on behalf of the customer were non-profit consumer advocacy groups.¬†Because they weren’t bringing in any revenue, those groups¬†weren’t really been able to finance marketing initiatives and other tactics to get the word out about defending customer rights and freedoms.

So, until the Web rolled around, no one really understood just how much power the customer ought to have. Even customers didn’t seem sure if they should question things or just accept the status quo.

But, now, if the consumer wants to find out information about his/her rights, about a product s/he is researching or, as it may be, about a real estate agent to whom a friend has referred him/her, they just Read the rest of this entry »