Online review sites have forever changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions.
In fact, online recommendations are now considered to be more important than traditional word-of-mouth, according to a survey by Eccomplished.
If a tenant had a poor rental experience in 2003, her sharing was limited to Gabby from HR over a Caesar salad. Now, thanks to social media, she might just tell 1,000 strangers!
Web sites like Yelp, Facebook, and apartment-specific review sites make managing one's reputation harder than ever.
In this article, we'll reveal why getting a couple bad reviews isn't the end of the world and how to handle them when they occur.
How to Manage Bad Reviews
While monitoring reviews may feel like a chore, it can actually become a landlord's most effective advertising method.
One of the biggest challenges with traditional advertising? Getting in front of your customer. Not only must you pick the right medium, you must also pick the right time and place.
Conversely, social forums provide the rare opportunity for potential renters to reach out on their own terms. Translation: Online review sites can either be your Achilles heal or your secret weapon.
Why Do Bad Reviews Happen?
Before you begin tackling bad apartment reviews, you need to understand why they happen.
Though it may seem obvious, it's worth emphasizing—bad reviews happen when expectations are unmet.
Unfortunately, the question of what constitutes reasonable vs. unreasonable expectations isn't always apparent. Which is why having a clearly outlined mission statement is important. What level of service do you aim to provide? What constitutes a comfortable, enjoyable place to live? What sort of living experience are you committed to providing?
Communicate these standards to staff and work together to maintain them. That way, you will be in a much better position to determine what went wrong, understand what to remedy, or what lead up to a poor review.
Sometimes you mess up, sometimes it's a miscommunication, and sometimes your tenant is just having a bad day!
Why They Can Be Helpful
Obviously, avoiding bad reviews all together is unlikely. You can do everything "right," and there will probably always be someone who wants to complain. But instead of seeing bad reviews as a hurdle to overcome, begin seeing them as an opportunity to:
- Show others how you handle grievances.
- Be authentic and show the people behind the property.
- Gain invaluable feedback on how to improve your investment.
Keep in mind, the average person can recognize when someone is really trying. Thus, if your online community sees you genuinely wanting to serve others, one bad review shouldn't make or break your building.
How to Handle Bad Apartment Reviews and Improve Your Reputation
Step 1: Stay Calm
The first step to handling a negative review is to stay calm.
No one likes to hear negative comments being directed at them in any shape or form, which is why it's important to remember: This person is reviewing your property, not you as a person.
Their comments are coming from their perspective. And that perspective has been formed by years of experiences, memories, and beliefs.
Put simply, don't take it personally.
Step 2: Determine Responsibility
Once you're calm, read the review objectively.
Your goal is to determine where the responsibility lies and what sort of solution you can offer.
As previously mentioned, negative reviews are usually due to unmatched expectations, miscommunications, or bad days.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you were in the wrong:
- Did your maintenance staff fail to handle a complaint in a timely manner?
- Did your maintenance staff offer a substandard fix to a long-standing problem?
- Did your staff ignore or fail to address a persistent complaint (i.e. a barking dog)?
- Did someone on staff appear to have discriminated against or disrespected the tenant?
- Did you implement a policy or rent change with very little notice?
Obviously, there are many other potential situations where management could be to blame. If you have determined that the issue could have been handled better, take responsibility. Conversely, if you feel confident your staff did everything they could, locate any documentation that supports that (if applicable).
Step 3: Respond Publicly
Once you've determined responsibility, it's time to respond:
- Greet the person like you would a friend.
- Let them know you're sorry this happened.
- Immediately take responsibility (if it was your fault).
- Explain why the oversight occurred (and what you're doing to make sure it won't happen again).
- Offer a timely solution (even if it's just to talk over the phone at their convenience).
The above sequence will work for most situations. But what about when a tenant complains about something seemingly out of your control? Nearby construction... Outdated kitchens... Lack of outdoor space?
As a landlord, routine property upgrades should be a part of your long-term plan. Take any feedback given into account when budgeting for next year, and share your plans in your response.
Step 4: Reach Out Privately
Once you've posted your response, personally contact the reviewer. Thank them for expressing their concerns and let them know you want to arrive at a win-win solution.
Depending on the issue at hand, you may not be able to provide exactly what they want. If that's the case, be honest, explain why, and propose a compromise.
Handle this part correctly and the person may even modify their review. If they seem satisfied with the resolution, ask them to do so.
Step 5: Increase Positive Reviews
Finally, receiving negative reviews warrants a reevaluation of your services.
Are there any repeat comments?
What could you realistically do better?
What would you like to improve, but aren't sure how?
Commit to "above and beyond" customer service and routine property upgrades, and your tenants should have very little to complain about. If you know you already have several satisfied tenants, create an incentive program that encourages them to post positive reviews.
You may have to get creative to motivate someone enough to take action, but it's worth it.
Apartment Reviews—It's Never Too Late
As you can see, a few bad reviews are not the end of the world. Work with your staff to create a routine review monitoring process. Ideally, have someone checking popular review sites every day.
By staying on top of negative reviews and encouraging the posting of positive ones, you can turn things around fairly quickly.