Before signing a lease with you, your prospects are going to research your community’s online reputation on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, Apartments.com, and ApartmentRatings.com. It’s important that what they find inspires their confidence. Incorporating a reputation management strategy in your real estate marketing plan is key, because a poor online reputation means fewer prospects make it to your website, choose to schedule a tour, or take the plunge and sign a lease with you. In fact, Harvard Business School recently published a study showing that a one-star increase in your ratings can result in up to a 9% increase in your overall revenue.
So how can you avoid the trials and tribulations of negative property reviews (and worse, fumbled review responses) and ensure that your reputation works for you and not against you? We’ve been around this block a time or two, and here’s what has always worked for us.
Ask for Honest Reviews
Having no reviews at all can sometimes be just as damaging as having a low average star rating. But you don’t have to just wait around hoping someone will share their experience online. Your average visitor or resident won’t be motivated enough to write a review on their own, but asking politely for a review can turn some of those people into your best advocates.
As long as you don’t ask too often, current residents or leads you’ve been nurturing usually won’t mind you asking for their honest review on sites like Google, Yelp, and ApartmentRatings.com. You legally can’t (and shouldn’t) incentivize review-writing, but you also don’t have to. Providing a great customer service experience such as a well-executed tour, a prompt email response, or well-maintained amenities is usually enough to earn a few minutes of a reviewer’s time. Just don’t be pushy; a simple, “If you’re able, we’d love to hear your review of our service on Google or Yelp” will suffice.
It’s going to happen. Sometimes it’s genuinely your fault and sometimes it may not be. But no one trusts a brand that can’t accept an honest critique without trying to brush it under the rug or rattling off a defensive response. Consumers trust a brand that learns from its mistakes and seeks to right wrongs for the good of the consumers that they serve. Speaking of which…
Learn From Your Mistakes
Negative reviews can become positive growth if you treat them the right way. Many of the common complaints real estate brands see can provide invaluable insight into how to create a better user experience for prospects and current residents alike.
For example, when a prospect arrives for a tour but feels neglected, it may be an opportunity to discuss new strategies with on-site staff (or reinforce existing ones). When a resident complains about a lack of communication from property staff, you may need to rethink your existing processes around mass resident communications or direct follow-up emails from office staff. Nine times out of ten, even a belligerent review that may feel unfair presents some valuable kernel to learn from.
Respond Promptly & Honestly
When you get an online review, especially a negative one, it’s important that it doesn’t go unanswered. As often as possible, craft a personalized response to the reviewer’s specific concerns. Express that you’re sorry you’ve contributed to their negative experience and you intend to do better in the future or to rectify the situation if possible. If necessary to expedite review responses, draft a few templates for responding to common issues so that your staff has a head start on the response content (this way they’re also sure to stay on-script with PR-friendly strategies).
If the reviewer is a current resident, let them know you’ll call or email them to follow up on their concerns (and then actually do it). If your customer service response is truly top quality, they may even update their review to indicate that your team resolved this issue for them, and these kinds of review updates can inspire even more trust for those who read them than a handful of non-specific 5-star reviews.
These guidelines should help you make the most of your online reviews and even allow you to turn challenges into triumphs. If you’re looking for professional help with a particularly challenging situation or you just want to free up your staff’s time for property management needs, there’s always the option of hiring a real estate marketing agency like Threshold to help you out. Our team is here to chat if you’re interested.