REALTORS® and your reputation during COVID-19

In the span of four to six weeks, COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we think, the way we look at the world, and most importantly for you, the way you conduct your business and ensure your livelihood continues.

Pivot and adapt are words we’re seeing a lot now and in fact, it’s advice the Board has been giving you. However, since you are your brand – and remember, your brand is you – you also need to think strategically during this crisis about what you should and should not be doing, to not only protect your reputation, but to enhance it as well. You want to avoid the unexpected backlash that this London, Ontario Realtor experienced recently.

As a non-health related essential service in BC, Realtors have a higher duty and obligation to ensure their brands are authentic and credible.  With most of the world stuck at home, online communication has taken on a greater significance.

According to data published by Bright Local in December 2019, and reported by Forbes, 90 per cent of consumers used the Internet to find a local business in the last year, with 33 per cent relying on it daily for their searches. Here’s another one from the same research: among consumers that read reviews, 97 per cent read businesses’ responses to reviews. And there are more insights you can glean from Bright Local’s site.

And on the flip side, with 93 per cent of online searches not going past the first page, the negative impact on revenue ranges from a 22 per cent for one negative review, up to 70 per cent impact for up to four negative reviews. I think you get the picture.

So, how should you proceed?

Here are six things you can do, online and offline as well:

First, be a thought leader and a subject matter expert – you are the trusted advisor that buyers and sellers want, no, need to hear from. They are as stressed as you are, if not more. So, you need to be the calm, composed voice of reason. Act as the professional your clients need you to be – leverage your knowledge, experience and expertise along with your research skills, to provide insightful, localized, dispassionate guidance and counsel to clients and prospects.

Second, be responsive – especially to your clients and prospects questions, outreaches and inquiries, and take the time to expediently respond to negative comments, reviews and the like. Not doing so is akin to a “no comment” you see in a media article which connotes that there is a lack of accountability, and a focus on deniability.

Third, respond to and/or engage in conversations and discussions with empathy – every comment, every word, everything you say, and more importantly what you do, matters. This isn’t meant to scare you off – rather, always be mindful of your behaviour and how you communicate and come across – perceptions, especially at this challenging time, quickly can quickly add up to reality.

Think of your communications as key messages, supported by proof points and anecdotes/examples. If you’ve ever had media or presentation training, you’ll understand what that means. (And if you haven’t undertaken such training, you should do that right away, virtually of course! – reach out to us at the Board – we can help).

Fourth, consume, digest, analyze and distill information – at some point, this too shall pass. And when we enter a new normal, either while we are still in COVID-19 or passed it, there’s going to be pent up demand among home buyers and sellers.

So, think ahead to that time, then work backwards to determine what it is that home buyers and sellers will need to know and act now, to prepare for that moment. Become voracious in your reading and consumption of information – from everything the Board puts out, to local media, think tanks, municipal bodies, forecasters, economists and related.

Fifth, know that reviews matter – whether it’s Google reviews, Facebook, Yelp and so on and so forth, you can bet your bottom dollar that clients and prospects are using the power of the Net and the additional time they have now,  to do their research and due diligence. Since you are in a business based on relationships and a good fit, you need to ensure, your are reviews accurate, timely and updated, and any negative reviews are addressed by you, online so that others can see how you handled the issue.

Finally, be genuine and remain accountable – sounds simple right? You’d be surprised at how difficult this is for many. Did you know that body language accounts for between 60 and 80 per cent of the impact made around a negotiating table and that people form 60 to 80 per cent of their initial opinion about a new person in less than four minutes? While video conferencing technologies are what we are using as a substitute for face-to-face meetings currently, they are no replacement for the real thing.

This means that during this challenging time, in lieu of body language, clients and prospects will judge and evaluate you based on how you handle your mostly online and/or virtual behaviour. When you make a mistake or have a misstep, own up, take responsibility and apologize – clients and prospects will be more forgiving and be willing to move on if you take accountability rather than ignoring the issue, or worse try to pass along the blame onto others.

In summary, the market will recover. You want to ensure that in the meantime, you safeguard your reputation for when potential homebuyers and sellers feel it’s safe and are ready come back in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Be ready when they’re looking for a Guider, Advisor and Protector. Make sure when that day comes, you’re prepared to fill the “GAP.”

Source: FVREB Communications