Let’s face it: negative online reviews and comments are a huge problem for our industry. These negative commenters and reviewers possess a certain type of bravado when they are behind a computer screen—a certainty that is usually absent in real life. The worst of these comments manifest as negative reviews that could be detrimental to your community. Conversely, they could also be a catalyst for improvement if handled correctly. Here are a few tips on how to address your negative online reviews.
When you first read a negative online review, there is no doubt that your initial reaction may be a feeling of powerlessness. After all, negative reviews have the potential to snowball into a nightmare scenario for many property managers. In addition, you may feel like there aren’t a lot of options as to how to defend yourself and your community.
Despite your initial reaction, responding to reviews is more important now than it ever has been. With the rise of mobile technology, most consumers have at least one mobile device with them at all times. We use them to gather information, initiate communication, and of course, to read others’ opinions of businesses, and in this case apartment communities, before we become patrons, or residents, of them ourselves.
When responding to comments, the first and most vital tip to remember is to remain calm. Patience is key when it comes to handling feedback on social media. Take some time to organize your thoughts before composing a considerate response. Keep in mind that 88% of consumers report that they trust online reviews as much as feedback received from people they know. Therefore, one way you can control an ultimately uncontrollable situation is to respond in a pleasant and helpful manner.
In fact, 87% of reviewers agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the property itself.
Once you have organized your thoughts, evaluate the feedback. Is it a pressing issue that requires an immediate response? Is the feedback constructive, a criticism that simply allows you to modify the issue with your community using logical judgement? Or, in the worst case scenario, is the response disgruntled? Despite the type of criticism, reviews can be a useful tool to improve your community. Remember: in most cases, residents resort to posting reviews online because they view it as their way of being heard.
When you’re ready to respond, you can do so in several ways. Some property managers choose to automate the process by investing in a service, which will notify you once a review is published online. For example, 365 Connect, a leading provider of marketing, leasing, and resident technology platforms for the multifamily housing industry, provides a SaaS platform for property managers to ease the burdens of overseeing their communities. Currently, 365 Connect is developing a tool so property managers can maintain their online reputation by reading various website reviews from a single platform.
If you decide that a paid service is not the best option for your community then you should do your best to reply to every single comment. Diligence in this practice is vital to managing your online reputation. The goal is to regain the reviewer’s trust as well as the confidence of those reading the review. The ability to promptly resolve the problem in a public space can actually become an advantage, illustrating to residents that your community has a strict customer satisfaction policy.
While taking all of these tips into consideration, it is important to consider that many tactics in modern reputation development encourage property managers to address the problem in advance—before the review is posted online. For example, if a resident’s lease is ending within the next month, it is ideal to reach out to them beforehand and learn about their experience of living in your community. Through your concern for their well-being, you will satisfy your residents, and in addition, you will be provided with the opportunity to improve your community by evaluating their personal experiences.
You can also create a designated space on your website for resident complaints. Every community deals with complaints, and by providing your residents with a way to express their concerns on your website in a constructive manner, you are creating a controlled environment where you can monitor such posts away from the public eye. It also gives you the ability to oversee these comments how you see fit, which you cannot do on social media platforms such as Facebook or review sites like Yelp where the reviewer controls the content.
Another way to utilize your website to its full potential: request feedback from residents. With their permission, you can post positive feedback in a designated section on your website with their name and photo. If your residents have had positive experiences, let them know where to find you on popular review sites. Soliciting reviews is frowned upon, but it is perfectly ethical to point your residents in the right direction. One way you can do this is by sharing the links to your online profiles in an e-mail newsletter that you send out regularly. Again, you are not asking for reviews, but just reminding residents to visit your online profiles. If you’ve offered great living experience, you should get a positive response in return.
However you choose to address resident concerns, carefully consider each review and criticism your community is receiving. Use the constructive criticism to improve your community and enhance the living experience of your residents.
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