Can Marks Out Of Tenancy Improve Customer Service And Conditions For Renters?
In this blog post, we discuss the why various groups and organisations are backing, supporting and promoting the work we’re doing at Marks Out Of Tenancy, not for direct commercial gain, but with a desire to make significant improvements to the private rental sector in the UK.
Local Authorities, Universities, Students’ Unions, Government departments, Tenant Unions, Research groups, NGOs, landlords, letting agents and renters are working with us to promote Marks Out Of Tenancy to their colleagues, stakeholders and customers - in the knowledge that sharing information and experiences about rental experiences helps to polarise the good from the bad. Take a look at our Partners page to find out who has already partnered with Marks Out Of Tenancy.
Our backers and supporters think that access to this new level of information has huge potential for change - but could Marks Out Of Tenancy actually improve conditions for renters?
Renting is complex
Renting is complex, with various different types of rental contracts/agreements (Non Assured Tenancy Agreement, Excluded Tenancy Agreement, Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement - Room Only, Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement), differing fee structures, differences in law depending on whether you're in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Regulations and legislation are put in place in an attempt to balance the imbalance, improve housing conditions and weed out the criminal operators.
But the law is highly complex, very time consuming to understand, and stressful to grapple with. Plus levels of enforcement vary depending on where you live.
Reviews from tenants on Marks Out Of Tenancy transcend country borders, county lines, and local authority enforcement capabilities.
The website is a dedicated platform for renters to share their experiences, it's these voices and experiences which bridge the gap from one tenant to the next, influencing future renters' decisions and empowering them to make better informed decisions.
Renters now have the information available to them to choose who they rent from, be forewarned about the behaviour of a landlord and read about the track record of a letting agent - before entering in to a legally binding tenancy agreement, before renting a hellish place and before being exposed to the darker end of the market.
More than just reviews
For us, it doesn’t stop there - at Marks Out Of Tenancy we're not only focused on enabling renters in the private rented sector to have their voices heard - we're working with organisations who truly want to change their behaviours.
They can only do this if they listen carefully to their customers, then vitally, make changes to their operation in order to provide customers with a better level of service.
‘There are two aspects to this, service providers are motivated to improve their services in order to avoid negative comment that can reach a wide audience and they are informed about what should be changed in order to improve their service.’ Source: Does TripAdvisor Make Hotels Better
We help letting agents to change their behaviour by providing them with analytical tools to help them identify which of their branches has the highest ratings, which is under-performing, which is collecting the most reviews, which is responding quickest to their customers.
With this new level of insight letting agents can change their behaviours, improve the relationships they have with their customers, avoid having bad landlords on their books, avoid the poorly rated properties - and in turn, help to improve renting.
It’s a step in the right direction, these insights help to close the feedback loop.
Wild stab in the dark?
As yet we have no concrete, empirical qualitative or quantitative evidence that reviews on Marks Out Of Tenancy are improving conditions for private renters, so we have to look at other industries and their review websites for input.
Professor Alex Marsh (University of Bristol) and Professor Ken Gibb (University of Glasgow) stated in thier paper 'The private rented sector in the UK', 2019: "...technological developments open up possibilities for new forms of accreditation operating outside the control of local or national government. One such recent development is the Marks Out Of Tenancy website that invites tenants to provide a TripAdvisor style rating for their landlord, agent, property or the area in which it is located.
Let's look at TripAdvisor - how have reviews on TripAdvisor made a difference to the hotel industry?
Main findings: if the percentage of excellent reviews grows by 10%, a hotel’s search ranking on TripAdvisor improves 11.3%. A 10% increase in the hotel’s average review score will also push a search ranking up by 6.1%.
How does this relate to Marks Out Of Tenancy?
Marks Out Of Tenancy was built to highlight the best performers, the highest rated, the outstanding landlords, letting agents and properties. We do this by showing the ‘Top 5 Box’ immediately on the homepage map, which ranks the best 5 landlords or letting agents or property ratings within the map view that you’re currently looking at.
Zoom in to London and click the ‘Landlord’ button, you’ll see the highest rated landlords in London - scroll in to Birmingham with the ‘Agencies’ button pressed and you’ll see the top 5 highest rated letting agents in Birmingham. With the ‘Properties’ button pressed and zoomed in to Nottingham, you’ll see the top 5 rated properties in that area.
Marks Out Of Tenancy was built to highlight the best landlords and letting agents.
"It seems reasonable to expect that the emergence of opinion sites such as TripAdvisor should result in significant behavior changes among service providers. They might be expected to improve their service because disgruntled customers have the facility to share their impressions with a wider audience. There are two aspects to this, service providers are motivated to improve their services in order to avoid negative comment that can reach a wide audience and they are informed about what should be changed in order to improve their service. We report on an analysis of reviews relating to the hotel sector in Ireland that demonstrates this "TripAdvisor effect".
It is to be expected that the improved information efficiency arising from sites such as TripAdvisor will result in an increase in standards of service because the views and opinions of customers will rapidly reach a wide audience. We also expect that this will be a once off phenomenon that will occur in a region as TA usage ramps-up, and awareness of the potential impact of TA on sales becomes widespread in the hospitality industry in that region.
When we went to examine whether the above hypothesis holds true, we found that there was an appreciable improvement in TA ratings for Irish hotels over a two year period between 2007 and 2009 as review volume was seen to grow. A similar improvement was not evident in Las Vegas hotels, where a critical mass of reviews already existed, resulting in an apparent steady-state in average ratings."
"High responsiveness does not just impact occupancy rate, either. A commitment to social media engagement was found to drive similar gains in overall customer satisfaction. Properties that responded to over 50 percent of social reviews saw their Net Promoter Scores® (NPS) increase by an average of 1.4 points — while all properties with less than 50 percent responsiveness saw their scores decrease."
- The speed with which properties respond to customer feedback also has a significant impact on their occupancy rate.
- Hotels with the highest responsiveness to social media outperform competitors in their overall social reputation.
Dorian Stone, Medallia’s Vice President of Customer Experience Strategy. “Engaging thoroughly and promptly with all kinds of customer feedback shows frontline employees what they need to do to deliver better experiences — and when social media is utilized in that spirit, the gains are significant.”
OK, so good ratings and reviews improve the rankings of hotels, and reviews on TripAdvisor have improved the standard and therefore the ratings of hotels, and providing constructive customer feedback to suppliers which is then promptly responded to helps them to outperform their reputation. Responding to review results in significant gains.
So can Marks Out Of Tenancy improve customer service and conditions for renters?
We think so, otherwise this whole project has been a massive waste of time, but joking aside, giving the opportunity for holiday makers to share their experiences on TripAdvisor has:
- helped hoteliers gauge and make improvements to their service based on customer feedback,
- helped them interact with their customers,
- improved the quality of the hotels.
Is it that far of a jump to imagine reviews on Marks Out Of Tenancy could have a similar impact on the private rental sector?
Professor Alex Marsh, from the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence states in 'Private Renting, Technology and Anticipatory Governance': "Technology also has the potential to reshape the way in which tenants relate to the private rented sector in at least three ways. First, a longstanding characteristic of the sector is poor information and communication: small-scale landlordism coupled with transient tenants compounded, in many areas, by high demand means that there is a market for poor quality and the market does not discipline poor quality providers. The arrival of websites like Marks Out Of Tenancy may eventually herald a substantial shift in this dynamic: they allow the market to develop a form of memory."
Do you and your organisation want to be part of this substantial dynamic shift?