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Fighting the good fight: Supporting legislation on customer reviews

The Consumer Review Freedom Act bill cracks down on so-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms of service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

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If I’m a business owner, obviously I want to get glowing reviews. Positive feedback spreads good word-of-mouth which is good for the bottom line. In a perfect world everyone would be happy with whatever is my latest product or service. But the world is not perfect so there is bound to be someone who just doesn’t grasp what I’m promoting.

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The flip side of this coin is that if I’m a consumer and I just don’t like you’re selling I should be able to voice my opinion in public and online. I mean, the Constitution protects me, right? Freedom of Speech and all that?

I’ll teach you…

Well not exactly and I’ve written about this very thing: So-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms-of-service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

Fortunately smarter heads have prevailed with the proposal of the Consumer Review Freedom Act (CRFA) which most recently was passed by the Senate in Mid December 2015 and now goes before the House.

I can’t begin to tell you how important this bill is. The bill cracks down on so-called gag clauses that businesses can place in their terms of service that allow them to take legal action against customers who post negative Internet reviews.

Banning the gag clauses

More specifically, as pointed out in an online article on marketingprofs.com, the CRFA will provide:

  • A nationwide ban on the use of “anti-review,” “gag,” or “non-disparagement” clauses
  • Empowerment of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and states to take action against businesses that attempt to keep consumers from posting negative reviews

Important for all businesses

For business owners this proposed legislation will guarantee a number of things that many of us may take for granted:

  • Freedom of speech in online reviews
  • Access to honest information from customers
  • The chance to learn from constructive criticism
  • The chance to turn negative reviews into positive experiences
  • An opportunity to work together against fabricated reviews

Living and dying by the review

It doesn’t really matter if you sell hotdogs or you sell real estate because you should stand by the validity of what you sell. Real estate in particular is filled with practitioners that live and die by ratings and reviews of their services, and therefore, in my humble opinion, this legislation needs to be supported by all industries.

And guess what? If you get negative reviews (as opposed to fake fabricated reviews) then learn from it and use the opportunity as a perfect chance to put everything you’ve ever (hopefully) learned about customer service into practice.

#CustomerReviewFreedomAct

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Real Estate Brokerage

Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s how

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but absolutely should.

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It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh personally and professionally. Help your organization start fresh by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re headingm or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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Real Estate Brokerage

How to achieve a winning business culture

(BUSINESS) Achieve a winning business culture by checking in on four important categories that are time-tested and proven to improve your company.

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When it comes to the term “business culture,” we all have a tendency to throw it around without a precise definition that fits our respective companies specifically. It can be argued that some type of culture will form, regardless of the emphasis you put on it – that’s just human nature. But, how can we check in to make sure that the business culture we’re exuding is an effective one?

A few months back, I was told about a simple way to test your business culture, in a method developed by Franklin Covey. In order to have a winning culture, a culture must have organizational focus and execution shining from great leaders and effective individuals.

With this, there are four categories which contribute to a winning culture. These include: distinctive contribution, engaged team members, loyal customers, and sustained performance.

You may be reading this and going, “well, no duh,” but let’s think about this for a second. Even if you can explain the factors that would make up a strong culture, does that mean that your company has them?

In terms of distinctive contribution, it’s important to look past what your company does on a day-to-day basis and see what you’re doing to make a difference in the world. Does your company give back to the community? Does your team feel proud to work for a company that does good for others?

Speaking of your team members, do they seem to be engaged? So many people go into work with a lackluster attitude and that has a poor effect on their output.

Are you doing things within your culture to make your team feel engaged and productive? This can range from weekly meetings designed to brainstorm and hear everyone’s opinion, to programs that award hard work with fun incentives.

When you have team members that are engaged and hardworking, they will display this to the public and will likely help in attracting loyal customers. Customers can tell when a company and its team are being genuine, and that carries so much weight in terms of retention.

This leads to the final aspect of sustained performance. You must be present and consistent with your customers in order to give them repeated satisfactory performance time and time again.

It’s likely that our business cultures can all enhance in one or more of these categories, and, what better timing than going into a new year?

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Real Estate Brokerage

How JetBlue earns undying loyalty, and how you can too

(BUSINESS NEWS) Getting people to remember, let alone love a brand is near impossible, but JetBlue shows a promising path forward.

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As customers become increasingly aware of marketing techniques and underlying motives for brands, it becomes more difficult to sell to them. Luckily, there are still a few brands whose techniques you can learn from – and, perhaps surprisingly, one of them is JetBlue.

JetBlue, a major airline, sees their customers as individual people, not just numbers. This “human” aspect of JetBlue’s branding is their most important trait; especially in the airlines industry – a market oversaturated with stale experiences (and peanuts)—it’s crucial to stand out. JetBlue does so by going the extra frequent-flyer mile to make customers feel at home through genuine, human interactions.

Another interesting JetBlue method is categorizing their customer engagement.

There are two different categories of interaction – micro and macro – that refer to small, one-on-one encounters and the big picture, respectively. With an emphasis on making the individual experience as pleasant as possible without losing sight of the forest in the process, JetBlue creates an atmosphere that balances hospitality and efficiency.

One of the most oft-overlooked aspects of customer engagement is that it goes two ways. Responding to customers is objectively important, but it’s an exercise in futility if you aren’t also listening to what they’re saying in the first place. Too often, a customer service team’s first response is to address comments or concerns with damage control in mind; instead, have a dialogue with your customers.

If the interaction doesn’t feel like a conversation, you’re doing it wrong.

JetBlue also has a profoundly healthy response to crises. Where others merely apologize, condescend, and/or brutally drag people off of the airplane when faced with an overbooking or a late departure, JetBlue bends over backward to ensure that their response is both heartfelt and actually useful to those affected.

This is something with which I actually have experience – at one point, JetBlue had to delay one of my flights for several hours, a circumstance to which their response was complimentary drinks and $75 vouchers for future flights. There’s no replacing convenience, but JetBlue did their damnedest, and that’s what I remember about them.

As you approach this year’s customer encounters, remember the two-way approach and avoid falling into the trap of talking rather than listening.

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