What to do about a bad review? Follow these 7 steps to turn negative reviews positive

Megan Wild
Megan Wild | 8 min. read

Published on March 17, 2020

As a property manager, you have a lot on your mind: How to grow your business, differentiate yourself from the competition, build strong relationships with your residents and clients, and become more efficient (and less stressed!).

Unfortunately, from time to time, bad reviews can pop up on your radar, adding another source of stress to your day. Bad reviews might surface on the internet when someone searches for your property, the name or address of your building, your company, the property owner, or you. Reviews can appear on sites like Yelp and Google, on social media, and in discussion forums.

Bad reviews can hurt your business. They can scare residents away and increase vacancy rates. They can convince property owners that you’re not a good property management company to work with.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can manage bad reviews. You can respond effectively and even turn a bad review into an ultimate win. Here’s how.

#1: Keep Track of Your Reviews

Before you can do anything about a bad review, you have to know it’s out there. Clipping, social listening, and web crawling tools can alert you to reviews across the internet. Buffer, Mention, and similar services will search for reviews, classify them as positive or negative, and place them on a single dashboard for you. Some use messaging apps, even Slack, to allow you to respond directly through their platform.

Then, there are services like Yext that will search for listings on sites like Yellowpages or Google to make sure your business and contact information is correct. If it isn’t, you can fix it on the spot. You can even list yourself on sites where your business isn’t popping up.

You can also set up a Google Alert that will notify you every time your business’ name appears online.

#2: Respond Graciously to Every Review

Not responding to a negative (or a positive) review is not an option; it still sends a message. If someone leaves a positive review, thank them. A simple thank you shows potential clients and tenants that you’re engaged and responsive.

Remember, not every review you have is bad. You probably have reviews like the one below that extol the virtues of your business. 

How Property Managers Should Handle Bad Reviews | Buildium

Now, take a deep breath, and get ready to respond to the not-so-nice review. 

As Ernest Hemingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure,” and many businesses don’t have the courage to approach areas where they can improve. So, thanking your reviewer—whether their feedback was positive or not—is a good practice, since they’re giving you a valuable opportunity to improve your online presence and wow them with your customer service and problem-solving skills.

#3: Have a Proactive Strategy

Bad reviews are an inevitable part of doing business. Multiple review sites are out there, and across all industries, customers turn to them when there’s an issue. That’s why it’s important to take the time to devise a proactive strategy to deal with bad reviews.

For bad reviews, draft a standard response. It should be calm, courteous, and should take the reviewer’s issue very seriously. It should stress your commitment to good customer service and your sincere desire to resolve the issue, as well.

Most importantly, having a standard response prevents you from being blindsided when a bad review comes in. And it can prevent you from firing off an angry response.

How Property Managers Should Handle Bad Reviews | Buildium

#4: Customize Your Response

While you should have a general standard response ready to go, you don’t want it to sound canned. The circumstances around every review will be different, and your response should reflect that. 

Respond both to the content (what the complaint is about) and the tone (whether the writer is angry, annoyed, etc.). Acknowledge that the writer is disappointed in your service or building management, but don’t respond in kind with a negative tone.

#5: Acknowledge Any Issues

One of the most important actions you can take is to reflect on the truth of any issues the review raises and acknowledge the issues frankly.

For example, say a negative review blasts an apartment building for lacking hot water consistently throughout the winter months. First, acknowledge there really was no hot water, acknowledge the issue.

Then, give context by communicating any issues that were beyond your control. If you were replacing the hot water heater, but your contractor delayed the project repeatedly, you can say that. Don’t point fingers or make excuses; but remain straightforward about the attempts to resolve the issue and why resolution didn’t happen.

If the review highlights any problems in your service, work hard to improve that aspect of your business. Consider investing in property management software to automate day-to-day tasks more easily so you can focus on fixing issues that arise unexpectedly.

You may encounter a reviewer who disagrees with you on the outcome of a particular issue or procedure. In that case, acknowledge the reviewer’s point of view and explain the reason for the discrepancy.

Say, for example, a commenter complains that his security deposit was not returned in full even though he left the apartment very clean. Meanwhile, you may have documented scuffs on the walls and stains in the carpet. Calmly explain that the condition of the apartment was not up to par, and that you only held back as much of the security deposit as was necessary to pay for a cleaning service before the next resident moved in. Most people will understand that this is a reasonable argument.

How Property Managers Should Handle Bad Reviews | Buildium

#6: Offer to Resolve Any Issues

If a bad review is legitimate, your reply should include an offer to resolve the issue. Such an offer will go a long way toward building trust in your services and underscore your commitment to excellent customer service. It’s a crucial part of changing a negative experience to a positive one.

The resolution you offer should be commensurate with the problem. If people went without hot water repeatedly it may be fair to compensate them with a break on the rent.

If it isn’t immediately obvious what a good resolution would be, take the discussion offline and ask what the reviewer thinks is fair, if they seem like a reasonable person. Avoid having an extended back-and-forth exchange with a negative reviewer on a public site. No matter who’s in the right, it draws more attention to the negative experience and makes you seem petty or defensive. Get the reviewer’s contact information and discuss the matter privately.

#7: Convert Negative Reviews to Positive Ones

If a resolution is reached, ask the reviewer to post a positive review, or at least to remove the negative one. If they agree, you’ve converted a bad review to a good one for future customers to see—and reinforced your desire to provide fantastic customer service.

Bad reviews can be frustrating, and they can also be bad for business. We hope that these steps will help you to convert bad reviews into good management and improved customer service.

Which responses to bad reviews have you found successful in the past? Let us know in the comments!

If you liked this post, be sure to read this one next: Should Landlords Sue if Tenants Post Unfair Reviews Online?

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Megan Wild

Megan is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate, home improvement, and coffee consumption. Follow her on Twitter @Megan_Wild, or subscribe to Your Wild Home's weekly newsletter.

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