Podium is an interaction management platform that makes the process simple – giving agencies the ability to effectively communicate with customers and team members and manage their online reviews, all through text messaging.
Regional Sales Director Sean Smit has a background in real estate, both customer-facing and at tech firms like REA Group. Here he tells Samantha McLean why you should be using Podium and how it can build your business.
Podium has actually been around for some time, but it’s recently expanded into Australia. Tell me a bit about the company?
Podium started in late 2014, around the time when Google started to change the way that businesses were being found online.
We’re still privately owned, and have two dedicated, hands-on founders in the US: Eric Rea and Dennis Steele.
Eric’s father owned a tyre shop in Canada, and he’d built a great business with plenty of loyal customers.
Unfortunately, their online reviews didn’t reflect this, and Eric’s father was struggling to figure out why.
This was the inspiration for Podium, to provide a tool to make it easy for businesses like this one to engage with their clients, and for those clients to submit valuable feedback on the review sites that matter for their business. From there, it’s become a complete interaction management tool, helping businesses engage with customers across the platforms they prefer.
Which review platforms should agents focus on?
If I’m a vendor doing my research on a new selling agent, or a landlord looking for my next property manager, I’m primarily going to look on Google, and maybe Facebook.
Internally, we have a saying: ‘all roads lead to Google’.
Even if you are referred to an agency by someone close to you, you are still likely going to Google that agency to make sure the reviews reflect the experience that your family member or friend had with that business. .
Despite the numbers of review platforms in real estate I would always make sure that Google is the number one priority, because that’s where people are looking.
Facebook would rank a consistent second, based on the fact that ‘recommendations’ on that platform are aligned with how people are searching socially.
In practical terms, how would agents get a Google review using Podium?
We have another saying within Podium: ‘convenience wins’. It’s likely that your clients are overwhelmingly happy with your services, but getting their positive words onto the most important review sites can be like pulling teeth.
Podium is a text messaging platform, which serves many purposes.
It’s difficult to call people to ask them for a review, because you are likely to play phone tag and waste valuable time. If you send them an email, their inboxes could be noisy, like yours and mine and they might never see it.
But we know that upwards of 90 per cent of text messages are opened within the first three minutes.
And, unlike email, nobody has 2000 unread text messages!
So, essentially we make it easy to ask for a review through a text which is seen by the client straight away.
We then integrate with Google and Facebook to facilitate the client leaving the review.
The moral to the story: if you make something too hard, it doesn’t happen. If you make it convenient, not only do you get the results, but you get happy clients who are also happy to be your raving fans.
Our intention when we began was to dominate the online review space. We did that, and that’s when Google invested into Podium – Google Ventures (GV) sits on our board.
What is the thing that will get you to the top of the Google local search rankings?
Most offices have thousands of clients, but their Google reviews tell a different story.
A scenario I see every day is a great office with many happy clients but only a handful of (often negative) online reviews.
With Podium we can fix this by simplifying the process and making it easier for agents to ask, even after very brief interactions. For example, if you have a positive interaction with a guest at an open house who doesn’t suit the property, there is still an immediate opening to request that review.
When they go to leave, ask them: “Hey, I understand this property probably doesn’t meet your needs. But part of the growth strategy for our agency is obtaining reviews from people such as yourself who’ve interacted with our brand. If I made it easy for you and sent you a text, would you leave us a review? It will take you 30 seconds on your way back to your car.”
This product is quite new to the real estate space – how are agents using it at the moment?
We currently have over 100 agencies using Podium in Australia.
Cameron Garry from City Realty in Adelaide was an early adopter of the platform; he says that the product caught his attention when he was searching ways to remove some fake reviews which were hurting his overall rating.
For most agencies, the tendency is to try to remove the fake reviews, but instead, what Cameron did was to smash out a mountain of positive reviews by using the Podium Platform.
So far, we’ve helped City Realty drive over 200 Google Reviews in their first three months and as a result his Google ranking has improved considerably.
Reviews tend to drive traffic to your website, so the next question is how do we capture those leads to start nurturing them?
Many people use a live chat tool or chat bot – but these have limitations.
I recently spoke with an agency who had a bot, and they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. I told them what my experience was prior to that call (because I always test those things out) and they were shocked at what the actual customer experience was!
Most people don’t want to message with a bot, they want to speak with a real person. And, if it’s a contact form, people expect that it’s going to get lost in someone’s inbox.
What customers experience if you’re using Podium is super simple; “send us a message and we’ll text you back”.
The business capitalises with the lead in real-time, and then it’s up to the business when they choose to respond, and who actually communicates back with that client.
What happens if someone doesn’t respond to a review request, is there a way to handle that?
You’ve got complete visibility over all messaging communications – and that’s not just text messages.
You have the ability within Podium to segment anyone you’ve sent review invites out to who haven’t responded so that you can really quickly trigger a reminder.
It’s the same thing if I remind you about an appraisal and you don’t confirm. I’m going to send you a text saying, “Hey, just a friendly nudge. I want to make sure you’re good to go”.
Can I bring all of my messages into the one spot or is it just the messages that have been initiated within the Podium platform?
Absolutely. I think that’s one of the best things: this doesn’t just become another tool, another app, another platform.
Let’s say you’ve got a Facebook Business page, and you get the odd message, but you don’t monitor it too heavily. You can direct these into the Podium inbox, and you respond the way you would anything else. The same can come in from Messenger, Instagram, direct text messages and Google Maps.
How long would it take to get an agency to get up and running on Podium?
After you speak with one of our consultants and decide that it’s a good fit for your business, you get access to the platform within minutes.
We’ll schedule in training, and perform a full onboarding to make sure that all those accounts that we talked about – like Google, Facebook, Instagram, all the different accounts that we’re consolidating into the inbox are connected and the system works as it needs to.
Have you got any future plans for the product moving into 2021?
We will continue to focus on ways to streamline the online review process, drive traffic to agency websites and capture those potential vendors and landlords at that critical moment. Podium has always been designed as a revenue-generating platform.
But there is a third aspect, which is gaining a lot of popularity at the moment, around internal (offline) feedback, which is two things:
- General feedback – For example, why you won or lost a listing.
- Retaining clients – For example asking for feedback from a landlord or tenants once the honeymoon period is over.
Again these interactions are not coming from a new system eg – Survey Monkey; it’s the same text messaging system so the client is not getting a request from an unknown email address. And the insights you can get from this type of feedback is just invaluable to your business.
To find out more about how Podium can make getting Google reviews simple, as well as supercharging your inbound market you can:
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