There’s no denying that last week was a tough one for Unbiased.
The largest and oldest adviser directory is going through a period of transition, and being heavily criticised by a vocal section of advisers; who are, after all, paying customers.
The two changes which have most annoyed advisers are the introduction of ‘matched’ enquiries and, last week, the ‘Response Rating’.
For what it’s worth, I believe they have correctly diagnosed a problem; it’s clear some advisers fail to contact enquiries. Unbiased has over 250 reviews on Trustpilot, those with one and two stars are almost all from consumers who, for whatever reason, were not contacted by an adviser.
These reviews reflect poorly on Unbiased and I can see why they decided to act. However, I am less convinced by the solutions.
Firstly, I’m nervous that consumers will conflate speed of response with quality of advice, when there is zero correlation.
Secondly, an adviser’s ‘Response Rating’ reflects the time it takes to accept an enquiry. While ‘match’ enquiries are a ‘fastest finger’ exercise. Neither guarantee the adviser will subsequently contact the client in a timely way. That said, Unbiased has claimed match enquiries have 'significantly reduced waiting times', so perhaps my concern is misplaced.
Finally, advisers cannot pause their membership if they are on holiday. If their rating is not to suffer, having built it up from the starting level of 7/10, they need to log in to Unbiased every day they are away to check for enquiries. The same applies during busy periods. That’s a flaw which should have been addressed before the ‘Response Rating’ was introduced.
I speak with many advisers and I am yet to hear any positive feedback about matched enquiries. Logically some advisers must be winning the fastest finger first race and are consequently happy. I’ve just not found one yet!
What is the solution?
Assuming the speed ratings system is not withdrawn, as many advisers would like, it should be recalibrated.
One adviser suggested enquiries are matched to a single, best suited, adviser in the first instance, who is given say four hours to respond. If they fail to respond, the enquiry is then matched to a wider number of advisers, who, the evidence shows, would snap it up quickly. This would not impact Unbiased’s revenue model, nor would it lead to the consumer waiting for an unreasonable period.
As for the ‘Response Rating’, most advisers feel it is flawed; speed of response is well down the list of things a consumer should be looking for in the ideal enquiry.
I do have sympathy for Unbiased, the evidence shows there is a problem and the negative reviews may deter consumers from using the website. I’m just not sure their chosen solutions will stand the test of time and I’d encourage them to listen to the concerns of advisers.
Having said that, I am still very happy to recommend advisers take an Unbiased membership as part of a wider marketing strategy. I speak to advisers daily who are extremely positive about the quality of enquiries and their return on investment. Sure, they have niggles and gripes, but for many advisers the evidence shows it works.
Phil Bray is director of consultancy The Yardstick Agency.