At the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA), one of our trademark sayings is “Building Consumer Trust and Confidence.” In fact, if you Google this phrase, you will get 4 million results and RECA results are in positions 1 and 2, listed immediately after three scholarly articles. As good as those search results are, though, they got me wondering if RECA is really doing what is necessary to build consumer trust and confidence?
I recently attended a Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) conference in Toronto, on the topic of “Public Confidence in Professional Regulation.” CLEAR is an international association of organizations that regulate professions. It became very clear to me that in order to earn and keep public confidence in the work we do, we have to do the right things, do things right, build trust with the public, and increase public awareness of our mandates and the work we do.
Bruce Matthews, Deputy Registrar at the Real Estate Council of Ontario, suggested we need to take a serious look at what actually needs to be regulated, with an eye to avoiding over-regulation. Instead of a new rule or regulation, can we educate instead? We should adopt a “right-touch approach,” which means not applying the force of a hammer to every issue that comes before us. We should be proactive, not reactive. Knee-jerk regulation is a bad way to operate as a regulator. We need to be consistent, follow good practices, and seek continuous improvement.
Jan Robinson, Registrar and CEO of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, said we need to continually focus on what’s in the public interest. Regulators need to be deliberate and do things right. This includes good governance, tending your culture (organizational values), adherence to rules of fairness, customer service, building capacity, continually evaluating risks, and ensuring a sense of accountability or social responsibility in regulatory staff. She also encouraged regulators to speak up, report publicly and let the public and their licensees know what they are doing. She concluded by saying as regulators, “we end up with the reputation we deserve.”
Claudia Newman, a CLEAR member, reinforced the importance of trust. In addition to wanting to establish trust, you have to act in a trusting manner. Trust is earned and takes a long time to establish; but it can be lost very easily. The perception of your organization may be based on false or inaccurate information; you need to take steps to break down that perception.
The importance of building trust and establishing your reputation was reinforced by Sherri Haigh, a communications specialist with the Real Estate Council of Ontario. Sherri said we need to be aware of “reality.” People need to know you exist and are doing things right. We need to define ourselves, to the public and our licensees, before someone else does it for us. Regulators should establish and promote a consistent brand, use social media, develop a crisis management strategy and, perhaps most importantly, have professional staff to help manage communications on a day-to-day basis.
Having listened to the various presenters and the discussion that took place, I returned to RECA knowing that in many ways, RECA is already doing many things that build industry member confidence and trust, including initiatives that others have not yet tried, for example Council formally adopted a “Statement on Self-Regulation,” which addresses many of the issues that were addressed at the conference.
Now we are beginning to enhance our efforts to “build consumer confidence and trust.” Though RECA does many things well, we can always learn from others. Going forward you will see RECA have more face-to-face time with consumers, and more communication produced specifically for consumers. The greater trust consumers have for RECA and the industry, the greater trust and confidence those same consumers will have in our authorized industry professionals.
RECA is an organization of transparency, accountability, engagement with its industry, communication, customer service and continuous improvement, which is exactly what building consumer trust and confidence requires.
RECA Executive Director
How are you building consumer trust and confidence in your own business?