The great thing about a sharing economy is that if you have a horrifically bad meal at a restaurant, you can jump online and share your experience with millions of other unsuspecting consumers.
The bad thing about a sharing economy is that if your clients or residents have a bad experience, they can jump online and share it with millions of other people.
In other words: every one’s a critic. And that can be extremely stressful, because even if you provide a 5-star experience 99.9% of the time, that 0.01% can really bruise your ego (and your bottom line).
Here’s the thing: it’s against the rules on most online business review sites to solicit positive reviews from customers. The best way to earn positive buzz online is to provide glowing customer service, so when people feel like leaving a review, they only have good things to say.
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But, there are some things you can do to nudge the positive reviews along (organically!) and downplay the negative ones (or, ensure they’re never even posted at all).
- Take it upon yourself to survey residents periodically. Send out a blast email or slip it under their door. It’s free, and you’ll have immediate knowledge of what’s working (and what’s not) at your properties.
- Hire a professional service to survey residents. Companies like J Turner Research specialize in market research for the multifamily industry. They’ve developed an Online Reputation Assessment (ORA™) to help real estate and management companies track their reputation across multiple ratings sites and ILSs. Another service that provides similar feedback is Reputation.com, which provides their ReputationDefender(R) tool to send alerts when reviews are poor or problematic. Also, check out SocialMention, Reputology, and Review Trackers.
- Organize town hall sessions. The more face-to-face communications you can have, the better. Paul Chaney, editor of WebMarketing Today, based in Traverse City, Michigan, recommends to use these sessions to, listen carefully, remain open (don’t get defensive), and respectfully explain what you’ve done and why. Some attendees may be very opinionated, even argumentative, but it’s very important to be polite, he says. If anybody attempts to “hijack” the meeting, you may prefer to address their concerns privately.
- Respond promptly and act professionally. Within 24 hours of a complaint—whether it’s online, over the phone, or face-to-face—you’ll want to respond proactively. “Strike while the iron is hot,” says Chaney. If it’s on Social Media, start by thanking the person for taking the time to share their input. Then, explain that you’ll take their thoughts into consideration. And last, as soon as you’ve acted on the decision, share that with them.
- Think before you post. If a review is extremely poor, it may not be worth calling getting into an argument online. According to business litigation attorney Joe Sullivan, Most sites won’t remove negative reviews (unless the content vilifies a person or service, for example, alleging they committed a crime). Instead, engage in a respectful, polite dialogue explaining that your company takes complaints seriously and that you will take their feedback into consideration—but don’t promise to fix things.
- Don’t run to your lawyer. Even after you’ve fixed the problem, that may not convince the person to revise their review or remove it. This is frustrating, but may not merit a call to your lawyer (who will start charging you from the very first phone call). Sullivan says you should only involve your lawyer, “If you think a single review will affect your building’s bottom line or someone’s reputation. But know that many people make comments anonymously or use a cryptic screen name, so it’s hard to find out who the person is. In addition, know that opinions, even if you do not agree, are usually protected under the First Amendment. But, if the post says something to the effect of, ‘I’m an African-American male and whenever I enter your gym I’m told it’s closing,’ that could be discriminatory and a violation of the law that may require calling your attorney.
- Continue to monitor reviews and try to tout positive ones. You may want to request that your tenants and vendors leave reviews for you, but you can’t pressure them to leave 5-star, over-the-top reviews. And you definitely can’t incentivize them.
And last, but certainly not least, remember that one bad review may indicate a larger problem. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, for every customer who complains, there are 26 others who remain silent. The most important thing you can do, regardless of number of stars on your Yelp profile, is to respond proactively and quickly to keep your residents happy.
Have you found some secrets to generating positive feedback online as well as dealing with unhappy tenants? We’d like to hear your ideas.