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Another lie: reviews!

being a professional Jun 08, 2024

If you are someone who loves getting reviews and has a lot of client reviews, you are likely to be upset by this post.

I am not a big fan of reviews. I am biased for sure, but let me give you an example.

A couple of weeks ago I needed to buy a car for my daughter. She had a car, and then one of her brothers accidentally totaled it. Everyone’s fine, but now you have some insight into why I still have to work hard!

Anyway, I was looking for a very specific type of used car. There are not a ton of them with the combination of features, model year, mileage, etc. I thought I found one being sold by a private party, but the owner was crazy. Then the dealer down the street had one, but that car then disappeared to a mechanic and the sales rep vanished with a personal emergency.

I’m desperate for a car, but I am traveling, and have little-to-no time. In other words: I have no leverage - but that’s a whole other story. At any rate, I am running out of time and one particular Thursday morning I am in Northern California with a little extra time. I start my search again and see one at a dealership 45-60 minutes away from my home. Without naming the guilty, I will call this the Silly Auto Dealership. I message the chat on the website, and lo and behold a guy answers me. Not AI, a real person! I get on the phone with him, and over the next few hours arrange for my daughter to drive up there and check it out. This guy had come in early that day, and then he offered to stay late. Super appreciative.

My daughter goes up there, drives the car, and everything checks out. The next day I emailed him my loan approval and told him I would be in on Monday to pick it up. I want all the paperwork done so I can come in, sign, and get the heck out.

Now he and I had a few conversations, and while he is a nice young man, he doesn’t know anything. He’s new(er) to car sales, and as I already said...he is young.

Late Monday morning my daughter and I drove up to get the car. As we pull into the lot I ask my daughter what the salesperson looks like, and she describes him, but adds: “He’s kind of creepy and was hitting on me when I came up for the test drive.” Awesome.

We go into the showroom and he’s nowhere to be found. We have to wait 45 minutes to get into finance to sign the docs. Then we have to wait another 15-20 minutes for someone to finish putting gas in the car and getting it ready. We finally get in the car and drive home - in more traffic. While the car turned out great, the experience of buying it was less so.

Fast forward four days to Friday, and at 5:05 pm I get a text: “Good afternoon, this is [young salesperson] from Silly Auto Dealership! Would you be willing to give me a 5 Star google review?”

I don’t respond, and the following morning at 11:06 am I receive another text: “Would you be able to before noon?”

The answer is “No! I am not going to give you a 5-star Google review” (notice the correct capitalization). You didn’t do the one thing I asked for, and while that was not totally in your control, having the car ready was totally in your control. While I appreciate you were in early and that you stayed late the previous week, the day came into the dealership was less than stellar and I don’t particularly appreciate that you hit on my daughter. Oh, by the way, you never asked me how the car was!

Now if you are someone who gets reviews - I am pretty sure you are much more sophisticated than this naive young man.

However, what makes these reviews useful? This dealership, surprisingly, has a 4.2 rating with over 3,000 reviews.

I think reviews are overrated if you are in an advisory business that is low volume, and high fee; hence you are working a database of trusted relationships. If you are looking to work with total strangers, then for sure reviews help. But if you are building a business with total strangers then oftentimes you are doing twice the work at a lower fee.

Let me ask you a question: If you are looking for an accountant, which source do you trust more: a Google review (still properly capitalized), or your wealthy client?

What about a good friend who is simply smart and good with her money? (maybe not wealthy yet)

What if both people recommended the same person, but when you went to the Google review it said 3.7? What would you do?

How many restaurants, hotels, or other high-traffic areas have less than a 4.0 but you had a good experience?

What if you simply didn’t let reviews be a focus point?

For a restaurant, probably unlikely.

For an adviser that handles a few dozen clients per year? I don’t know.

What if people stop using Google for searches and rely on AI to make their recommendations? How will the AI build its recommendations - based on Google reviews, or can companies put content on the web for the AI to scrape and feed into its algorithm? Probably likely that the AI will still count the AI reviews, but we know reviews can be manipulated, and can’t companies manipulate what the AI is fed? Who knows.

I am not saying that people don’t trust what’s online per se, however, I suspect that people take those things with a grain of salt. What if we found out that more and more of the data was manipulated? Who will you trust more? Some online ratings from strangers (or computers) or what your adviser or friend told you?

Coming back to the real estate industry: some big agents and loan originators will say, “See, I have 500+ 5-star reviews - I am going to win over the guy/gal who only has 5.”

Maybe. What if the guy/gal who only has 5 serves 20 people per year exceptionally well, and the referrals they get are indicative of that?

What about this scenario: let’s say the person with 500+ reviews has a raving fan client who refers someone new to the advisor. The person referred may go on Google to see the review, but the odds were already high that they were going to use that professional! Maybe they don’t even go on Google because they trust their friend who is referring them.

This brings me to this assumption that everyone “Googles” something before making a decision - untrue. It simply isn’t. The people who have spent enormous energy and time building reviews believe that to be true because it validates their efforts.

Look, I am definitely not saying don’t have reviews. On the other hand, consider the following points:

  • Don’t ask for reviews when you have no relationship with your client.
  • Put your service and process for serving customers ahead of your process for getting reviews.
  • Don’t be tone deaf.
  • Most importantly: establish trusted, amazing, ironclad relationships with your best clients and fans, because those people will promote you better than any review.

One final thought: maybe not a good idea to hit on your clients or their family members?