I’d give you 1-star if only the site would allow it

Peter Ambrose

Remember the good old days when gentlemen used to settle disputes with a duel? These were highly civilised affairs, usually involving an early morning start, some staff and a couple of pistols.  If you were a rich person and had a disagreement with another rich person, one of you would be dead by the end of the process.

In these times, such a certainty of outcome certainly has a pleasant ring about it.

Especially when it comes to buying property, because if someone asks “Would you rather move house or stick one of these pins in your eye” it’s definitely not a clear-cut decision.

The slightly good news is that instead of guns, now the disgruntled have a wide choice of weaponry. Columns such as these, social media and especially review sites which provide a direct replacement for the death – not death scenario, with what we call the 1-star, 5-star option. You’re either outstandingly brilliant or obscenely incompetent, and nothing in between.  Unpleasant but not quite so terminal.

How on earth did it come to this?

It was always going to go this way

In the last few years, anyone involved in providing service knows that people have become far less tolerant of when things don’t go to plan.  This is particularly acute in the home buying process – one that is fraught with challenges most of which are beyond any one person’s control.

This is why we see the unedifying spectacle of agents getting frustrated with lawyers, lawyers getting frustrated with agents and clients getting frustrated with everyone.  Especially that couple three doors down whose deal took only six weeks, while theirs has taken over six months.  And the buyer is chain free.  And cash.

But it’s too easy to rue those good old days, with their rickets and typhus.  Earnest discussions about how agents and lawyers used to go down the pub on a Friday afternoon and six pints of Old Wallop later, every case would have exchanged, are for the birds.  The reality is that the opening times of the court of public opinion have been extended to 24 hours per day, and calm, measured opinion sharing are behind us now.  It was inevitable, but like many other issues, the recent years of increased isolation and lack of cohesion between people have accelerated this change.

We need to accept that the genie of shooting-from-the-hip is not going back into the bottle.

So how do we deal with this?

The challenge for everyone in property is that people are used to getting results from complaining.  Especially when it makes commercial sense for large companies to give refunds rather than deal with an unhappy client.  However, with property, the stakes are much higher and it’s not the same as sending a replacement packet of Weetabix when a customer complains that one of the biscuits arrived broken.

One thing that is clear is that it’s going to take action from those who understand the complexities and inadequacies of the process to dial down the rhetoric.  Agents claiming they could do a better job than the lawyers, lawyers criticising other lawyers for asking unnecessary enquiries, or brokers blaming lenders for incompetence, merely pours petrol onto a highly combustible fire.

As long as we’ve got people looking to blame someone, in the hope of a reduction in fees, or money back or something for nothing, such talk is only going to cause more problems.   As we say, that genie is already out of the bottle, so when the professions duke it out online, this is only going to make things worse.

Let’s be clear.  We know lawyers take on too many cases because their owners have prostituted themselves to the panel managers for low fees.  We know the no-sale no-fee model of estate agents can drive huge pressures on negotiators to aggressively pursue deals.  We know that lenders, management companies, freeholders and in fact, anyone who has to employ humans, can be slow and inefficient.  But highlighting these issues will not solve them in the same way that any Spaniel will tell you that barking at the moon never made it go away.

It’s time for the grown-ups to take a stand

It was telling during the lockdown years and the associated property boom, that there were relatively few arguments between the parties involved in transactions.  However, with things going back to normal, those old pressures are rising.

With client expectations never higher and deals becoming more valuable, it’s time for everyone who knows what they are talking about, to stop, take a breath and realise that beating the angry drum is not going to help.

It’s olive branches we need right now, not pistols.

Peter Ambrose is founder of conveyancing specialist The Partnership. 

 

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5 Comments

  1. leelee30

    We have seen this 3 times, a one star review, we would given that .Blah  Blah!.

    Generally from all 3 tenants  that lost the bond, due to leaving a house dirty or damaged. With our evidence we won the bond, but that review is still on.

    So google was sent the information, but refused to remove it.

    why, it’s that persons opinion, even when they are in the wrong.

    We as agents want to protect the landlords which is why we have the evidence to back up the check in.

    We as agents are been exploited and used, pulled into this discrimination malarky, I.e we don’t work we want your rental you must give it me as the government says so!

    Or we have three big dogs, we must have the house as you can’t discriminate!

    Or  “we just found out we are been evicted” well we didn’t pay the rent as it was mouldy! “agent” oh dear , do you have a dryer “No” Do you have C/heating in the property”Yes but we don’t use is as it too expensive, we just sat in the cold with throws on”  agents asked how do you dry your washing with no tumble dryer, “Oh we Don’t  we hang it on the radiators, and over the bath to dry, or sometimes open the oven door and use that’s, “Mm Agent”  mentioned sounds a lot like you have condensation problems then”

    Really we are going to give them a 250k home! Come on Alarm Bells !

    Really, you won’t hear  that’s from the horses mouth thou! Mr PM!

     

    I’m afraid to say in 2022/3 now tenants believe they are the ones holding the cards, and put cleaning and gardens down to the landlords issues. Why as the government says it’s our standard of clean! We don’t have to professionally clean the house!

     

    How wrong has the government been giving all the support to the poor old tenant, yet it’s the landlords that’s are taken full advantage of:

    Personally I would be ashamed leaving a house not clean, or if my gardens were a mess, “it’s not how I was brought up” I was brought up to respect someone’s property not to abuse it.

    “Today the younger  generations are disrespectful and should be ashamed” not knowing how to talk, how to act, only to shout or swear at the agent doing her job!

    Sorry I could go on, as it’s heartbreaking when I gave my all, heart and soul in this job, and it’s now making me think after 26.5 years, is it worth it?

    Why Do I Bother! For My Customers, For My Clients For The Love Of The Job.

     

     

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    1. Russell121

      Couldn’t agree more, that’s why I took us off google. I even got a bad review because we didn’t accept someone with multiple CCJ’s. I’m lucky, I’m getting to an age when I don’t need to grow but still could if wanted to but don’t see the advantages at the minute with a more impatient and unreasonable public.

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  2. Mike Stainsby

    A beautifully crafted piece that eloquently highlights this issue for the industry.

    Whilst this problem exists, simply ignoring it is a real mistake in my view. I have seen hundreds of these reviews that are not answered at all and will build up, fester and damage a brand. It is clear that the serial 1 and 2-star giver will keep doing it the same way my Spaniel keeps barking at the moon.

    It is of course possible (on many review sites) to see their other reviews and a picture can be built up of the individual that penned the vitriol where their credibility has to be drawn into question.

    My late father used to say ‘if you haven’t got anything good to say, then don’t say anything’ quite a mantra to live by.

    A considered (standard even) reply – ‘conveyancing is a specialist and complicated process where things do go wrong. Sometimes this is unavoidable and many parts of the process are entirely out of our control’

     

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  3. Anonymous Coward

    We have a one star review without comment from someone who (as far as we can tell) has never been a client.

    Google refused to remove it as it does not break any of their community guidelines.

    And of course there is no-one to actually speak to.

    How is that fair?

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    1. Rob O'C

      The main reason Google reviews are unfair, is due to the fact they encourage consumers to leave reviews but have decided to ignore the investment required for the infrastructure to check, and investigate the authenticity of each review. I understand to police and verify every review it would be a massive undertaking and investment for the implementation of new software and staff, however if they are not willing to facilitate in a fair and ethical way then remove the review function until they are ready to improve the process.  At least with the majority of the other review platforms you can contact them and have an in-depth. educated conversation to put your point across and remove unfair or fake ones.

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