Shortly after founding Slapfish restaurants, California chef Andrew Gruel experienced a barrage of negative reviews. Diners complained about the sustainable seafood chain’s high prices and small portions…and took their frustrations online to sites like Yelp and Google Reviews. Gruel jumped into action by emailing his dissatisfied customers to ask them to return, lowering his prices and pumping up his portions. As a result, he flipped many one-star shellackings into five-star reviews, and the results have been big for his business. “You can get buried by bad reviews,” Gruel told The New York Times, “so it’s a race to stop the bleeding.”
Thanks to sites like Yelp and Google Reviews, everyone’s a critic: 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal endorsements, 72 percent are prone to prefer businesses with positive reviews, and they spend up to 31 percent more at four- or five-star locations. On the other hand, a low overall score can turn potential customers away, and at least 70 percent of shoppers are unwilling to take action until they read a positive review.
In the multifamily industry, low online reviews usually highlight two key issues: poorly maintained properties and disputes over damage deposits. A comprehensive approach allows managers to identify problems in units and common areas and eliminate the major causes of bad reviews. That’s because a modern platform for inspections empowers owners to collect the evidence they need to stay on top of maintenance issues and defend themselves from unjustified complaints about deposit refunds.
With a proper inspection system, service managers review every pertinent detail of a property between rentals, flag issues that need to be addressed and take photographs for reference. By cataloguing (and fixing) any problems, owners ensure that new residents will move into their new units with minimal risk of an angry review about a broken appliance or less-than-perfect conditions. Inspections also address problems in common areas, such as dirty swimming pools or burned-out lights in parking lots, which can generate poor reviews online.
Damage deposits are often a matter of contention—especially when it comes to online reviews—but modern inspection software allows landlords to photograph and catalogue the state of any asset. If a disgruntled resident leaves an angry review on Yelp claiming that a property company unfairly kept his or her deposit, the landlord can turn to timestamped photographs to prove the wine stain or chipped paint in question was not already there when the resident moved in.
A mobile inspection platform outshines paper-based inspection forms in every way. Mobile inspections are automatically filed with no chance of misplacement, and are available to all stakeholders in real time. Inspection data is centralized, helping property managers spot issues that can lead to poor reviews not just in one unit but across an entire property.
Online reviews aren’t all bad news, though! While one- and two-star rankings can be a problem, good buzz on Yelp can drastically improve a business’s prospects. According to The New York Times, “One study even found that a 3.5-star rating that is bumped up to four stars can result in a 19 percent increase in peak-hour bookings.”
Technology allows consumers to influence one another with crowdsourced reviews, but it also gives business owners access to better and more efficient organizational tools. With smart inspection software, the multifamily business can make poor Yelp reviews—fair or unfounded—a thing of the analog past.
Jindou Lee is CEO of HappyCo, a San Francisco-based software company that builds mobile applications for enterprise workforces to run their operations more efficiently.