A strong online presence is key to building your business. And, according to Grigory Pekarsky, managing broker with Vesta Preferred Realty, Yelp is a vital tool for agents to use in that effort.
“Online reputation is everything,” Pekarsky said in an interview with Chicago Agent magazine. “Ninety-two percent of real estate searches start online. People start researching you by Yelping you, so it is a known entity that is super important to have as a profile piece for all of your assets online.”
A review platform founded in 2004, Yelp continues to serve as a catalyst for business reputation management and lead generation today. It helps connect clients and business owners and enables customers to get a feel for companies and servicers before actually engaging with them.
Yelp is particularly helpful for smaller companies that pride themselves on excellent customer service. In regard to the impact this online platform has on Vesta Preferred Realty, Pekarsky noted that simply having an active Yelp profile in and of itself conveys trust. “People feel confident to refer to us, come to us, and this builds an immediate trust factor simply by looking at our Yelp page,” he said.
In addition to benefiting individual agents like Pekarsky, whole brokerages would do well to actively cultivate their Yelp profiles. Dani Kowalczyk, the social media manager of Fulton Grace Realty, noted that because Yelp is a platform that customers rely on heavily to find new partners, it made sense for the company to invest in its presence there. “It was an obvious pursuit to make sure we were optimising our Yelp account effectively for all the branches of Fulton Grace because that is what people use to make decisions,” she told Chicago Agent.
Clients can get a feel for the full customer experience when working with Fulton Grace through Yelp reviews. “It is so expansive when it comes to real estate. You can do reviews for agents, property managers, and for our business as a real estate agency,” Kowalczyk said.
In order to rack up positive reviews, brokers must go above and beyond to prioritize excellent customer service. “Any interaction you have is important, because remember that people are ten times more likely to leave a negative review, or [share] if they had an amazing experience,” Pekarsky emphasized.
Perhaps the most important element is the way you respond to negative reviews. “You can never be combative, ever,” Pekarsky said. “If a company looks combative in a review it immediately looks disingenuous and people more so tend to believe the reviewer.” At the end of the day, you don’t know who will and won’t leave reviews, but you can try to avoid a negative review by treating your clients with the utmost care.
Kowalczyk noted that sometimes bad reviews can be a product of an innocent mix up, and that often the situation can be clarified with a simple phone call to the client. “We try to approach them with caution and care,” she said. “Since we have so many legs, people can confuse some of our services with others, so we try to figure out the problem and solve it.” For more on this, check out AgentEDU’s course, “4 Ways to Handle a Negative Yelp Review.”
It is important to note that Yelp does not suggest asking for reviews. Instead, the company recommends simply letting customers know you have a Yelp profile. “The businesses that do best on Yelp are the ones that provide a great customer experience to everyone who walks in the door without any expectation or encouragement that they write a review,” according to the site’s support page.
While some might be tempted to game the system, Yelp has put some protections into place to discourage such activity. The platform employs an automated filter intended to remove fake or illegitimate reviews and display only the most helpful and honest ones, which Kowalczyk said lends the site credibility. “I think the genuine aspect of reviews on Yelp is what is driving the platform to be so popular and a useful tool for a lot of consumers,” she said.
Pekarsky noted that he does not advertise on Yelp in order to have his company placed in the Sponsored Results section. “People like to go with the naturally well-reviewed companies rather than the sponsored ones because they then know we didn’t pay to get us to the front page; we are just there naturally because we’re so well reviewed,” Pekarsky said.