Reputation Management and the Community Manager
- Jul 27, 2016
An NHL team wouldn’t acquire a new player without consent of the general manager. A restaurant wouldn’t completely revamp its menu without input from the lead chef.
So, why would some apartment communities handle review management without the community manager playing an active role in the process? Unfortunately, this trend is growing in order to alleviate pressure from on-site teams and create what some see as a more efficient way of dealing with negative online reviews.
However, no one is more involved in the daily operation of a community than the community manager, who is vested in ensuring the community has a solid online reputation. Outsourcing reputation management to companies that never consult with the on-site team before posting a response disconnects the manager from the reputation of the community, limiting the effectiveness of your reputation management program.
Manager involvement is critical to authenticity
Nobody knows the backstory of a review better than the community manager, who has most likely already worked with the reviewer in the past. Community managers often know who the reviewer is, what’s been done to address the reviewer’s concerns and what the reviewer is really upset about. Their perspective is invaluable in developing an authentic response that shows prospective residents what is being done to resolve the concern.
The more specific the response, the more likely the prospective resident reading the review and its response will trust that the community manager is trying to resolve the concern. Generic responses without specific details from someone disconnected from the community are vapor and do nothing to prove to prospective residents that the manager actually cares about the resident.
One of our community managers at a larger property (more than 900 units) has made responding to reviews a principal part of his daily routine. The community has received more than 460 reviews on Apartmentratings.com and scores an 81 percent recommend, which is much higher than the scores of his competitive set, and his community has a 4.1 SatisFacts Rating.
Involved managers are more empathetic, responsive
When dealing with a negative review, the community manager understands the situation best and can be empathetic, upfront, compassionate and sincere with unhappy residents.
They know the resident personally and have tried to help them with their concerns. With the right customer service training, they’ll know how to manage the resident and address their concerns.
Involved community managers are also more responsive, because they know that unanswered negative reviews will hurt their leasing efforts. Our general practice is to respond to every review within 24 hours—positive or negative—although there are circumstances such as staffing challenges or emergency situations that prohibit this from occurring 100 percent of the time.
Our community managers are notified when a new review is posted and are responsible for responding, with the exception of communities with more than 1,000 apartments, where we have a resident services manager who handles the duties.
Community managers use reviews as market research
Community managers who are in tune with the reviews being posted are more likely to utilize trends in their reviews as free market research. They will adjust operational practices to prevent negative reviews from being posted in the first place.
I’ve seen managers increase maintenance staff or suggest capital improvements because they’ve noticed a trend in negative reviews about maintenance response times or aging clubhouses. If one reviewer complains about the water pressure, it might be worth a look. If eight reviewers do, you might need to consider changing your boiler or devising options to help solve the problem.
When a community receives a fair sample size of reviews, certain themes will emerge quickly for a manager. This is your opportunity to make the community better. Reviews are essentially free feedback and a chance to take action.
But if a manager isn’t involved in the review process, their visibility into that feedback is greatly limited. That’s why review management should start with the community manager.
Elaine De Lude, chief marketing officer, ROSS Management Services, is responsible for corporate and property marketing, including brand strategy and management, oversight of media and community relations, revenue management, advanced analytics, interior design and all integrated marketing efforts. She began her multifamily housing career in 1992 as a leasing manager and held various operational and marketing positions prior to being promoted to CMO.