A backyard shed in Dulwich, South London became the top-rated restaurant in the Capital on Trip Advisor based on the strength of its online reviews alone. “The Shed at Dulwich”, a fictional restaurant invented by a writer at Vice, jumped from being the lowest-ranked restaurant in London (in 18,149th place) to number one on the popular travel and restaurant review site in a mere six months.
It was the glowing reviews on Trip Advisor its inventor crowd-sourced from friends and family which sparked a surge of interest in the seemingly ultra-exclusive (but non-existent) restaurant, with hundreds of enquiries and potential customers flocking to the writer’s street in the hope of securing a reservation.
It’s an impressive demonstration of the power of online reviews in the digital age. Sure, people still talk at the school gates, but increasingly, they’re taking those conversations online, too. Eighty-nine per cent of customers now begin their buying process with a search engine, turning to Google before they choose a restaurant, a gym or even a doctor, which means generating positive reviews and solid ratings is essential for acquiring new business.
Now, we’re in no way suggesting you start crowd-sourcing fake reviews for your agency from friends and family in the style of “The Shed from Dulwich”, rather that you’re always thinking about - and improving upon - your customers’ experience. You need to ensure you’re providing a service so compelling that your customers - both your landlords and your tenants - want to take the time to write a positive review of your agency online.
“Our online reputation is massive,” says Jamie Evans of Billingham Taylor, an estate and lettings agency in Dudley, which has a 4.9-star rating on Google (the maximum is five) and more than 40 reviews. “A lot of our new business comes from online,” says Jamie.
Thomas Izod, a valuation manager at Kallars Property Agents in London, says their agency actively sources feedback from their clients in the form of Google Reviews. “If you look at our Google Reviews, you’ll see we’ve got a mix of tenants, landlords, buyers - we try and get as many as possible because we feel that’s the way that the industry’s going - everything’s done by reviews now,” he says. “One negative review can have a big affect on your business.”
Mohammed Wasity of Canary Estates agrees that online reviews are of paramount importance to his London agency. “It’s a massive worry if you’re not performing well in this day and age when your customers and tenants and landlords are able to review your system and your business online and share that experience with others,” he says. “Ten years ago people used to just walk into an estate agent and online wasn't a big thing - now everybody just shops around. You have to adapt to these changes.”