By Dawn Miller
As challenging as it may be to effectively monitor and respond to your community’s online reviews and ratings, it’s an absolute necessity in today’s multifamily industry. More than 91 percent of prospects rely, at least to some extent, on online reviews and ratings when searching for their next apartment home, according to a study conducted by Kingsley Associates on behalf of RentPath.
Apartment companies simply cannot afford to ignore online reputation management (ORM). If they do, they will lose prospects to those operators who put the needed time and resources into this area. So how does an apartment company execute an effective ORM program? Below are some important tips:
Don’t argue with reviewers
Taking an argumentative or defensive tone when crafting review responses is one of the most common mistakes operators make in their ORM efforts. Anytime the person responding shows frustrations or anger, that’s certain to be a serious turn off to a prospect who reads the review, and it’s bound to anger the resident who wrote it and put their lease renewal in jeopardy.
Don’t argue with someone who leaves a negative review. Be apologetic and understanding. Craft a response that says something along the lines of “We’re sorry you had this experience,” and make clear your commitment to addressing their complaints. Then try to take the conversation offline so that you can contact the reviewer directly and deal with their problem.
Respond to bad and good reviews quickly
Generally speaking, communities should aim to respond to reviews within 24 hours. And they should respond to all reviews, whether they are positive or negative. Prospects want to see communities that take complaints seriously and are appreciative of positive feedback.
Consider less-than-positive reviews a chance to improve
Look at online reviews for what they truly are: invaluable—and free—market research. When someone writes an online review, they are truly motivated and will provide the sort of raw, honest feedback they likely wouldn’t while rushing to fill out an expensive resident survey that you’ve nagged them to complete.
While positive reviews certainly let you know what you’re doing right, negative ones are important because they let you know if your community has a perception problem or an actual problem. If you’re seeing lots of comments about inadequate lighting in the parking lot, for example, then it’s time to assess the situation and make any needed changes. If you make changes, make sure you highlight this on your online review sites. This will show both the reviewers and prospects that you are responsive to resident feedback.
In today’s market, there is a wide array of review and rating websites that operators need to monitor. A program that provides a way for an operator to see and respond to all of a community’s reviews in one place can make for a much more efficient ORM program and is definitely worth considering.
Implement a clearly defined procedure
There is no shortage of demands on a leasing staff’s time, and it’s all too easy for a haphazard and ineffective approach to ORM to result. Make sure it’s clearly defined who is responsible for responding to a review—be it an onsite associate, a regional manager or a third-party vendor—and how quickly responses must be posted. As stated earlier, within 24 hours is ideal.
Operators also need to specifically spell out who needs to review a response before it is posted. It’s a good idea to have at least one person do so to make sure the response strikes the right tone and messaging. Now more than ever, it’s crucial for operators to take ORM seriously. Not doing so will cost you dearly.
Dawn Miller is the vice president of marketing for ROSS Management Services, with more than 30 years of experience in the multifamily property management industry. She is a member of the Property Management Association, the Apartment Office Building Association, the Maryland Multi Housing Association and the National Apartment Association.