We have had the pleasure of facilitating several strategic plans in the past few months with many of the nation’s leading Associations. We have seen an important theme emerge in many of these discussions – Professional Standards.
While most organizations feel as though they are doing a good job of maintaining current expectations for professional standards, some weaknesses have been revealed. When asked, most organizations will readily admit that there are agents and brokers that are NOT upholding the Code of Ethics and standards of conduct to the level that most members are. Even though boards regularly admit that there are those among them that are not doing the right thing for their clients, most associations have NEVER or rarely dismiss a REALTOR® from duty. We say we live up to the Code of Ethics, but in reality there is a small percentage of REALTORS® in every community that are sullying the name of the entire REALTOR®.
The sad part is that sometimes their tactics go unnoticed by their clients. Consumers do not clearly understand the real estate transaction and can be fooled into thinking they are following the proper course. Agents are the only ones that sometimes truly know if there is a problem and yet, as an industry we do not address the “problem-children”.
How can we expect to create a strong trusting relationship with the public when we knowingly allow those with a lack of integrity to continue to operate? Isn’t it time for us to think about stepping up the game for professional standards?
Here are a few suggestions to consider:
1. Anonymous Reporting of Complaints
Agents are reticent to report their fellow practitioners. They are afraid of negative repercussions for their own business. They tell us that if I report unethical behaviors, other agents may target me unfairly. In most cases they remain silent.
What if the industry adopted a “crime hotline” like Police Departments have to anonymously report a crime? How about creating a Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division that allow parents to report questionable behavior at a preschool anonymously? Both of these cases are handling delicate issues that would likely not be reported without the promise of anonymity.
The cases could be referred to an investigative group that could look into the legitimacy of the claims without involving the original person that reported the problem.
2. Client Performance Transparency
Doesn’t it make sense for the industry to take control of performance transparency? Here’s some heresy for you to think about: What if each association required each of its members to share feedback from past customers so that consumers would have full transparency about consumer perspectives before they chose to work with an agent. The Association could, in effect, become the Better Business Bureau for the real estate transaction. If members don’t do the right thing, consumers could call them on it. The reality is that in just about every case, REALTORS® will get great feedback and it would be a great marketing win for the industry.
By the way, Zillow.com now has over 675,000 customer reviews on their site and the number grows by about 8,000 to 10,000 per week!
3. Agent to Agent Performance Transparency
Now, here’s an even scarier one for us to consider. What if we allowed agents to review each other during a transaction?
On Lawyers.com, BOTH clients AND peer attorneys can provide reviews. Do you think our industry would operate at a higher level of professionalism if every agent knew they were going to be rated by their peers at the end of the transaction?
Have any of our readers put programs in place that have helped increase the level of professionalism in their market? Please share them with us and we’ll share them.