JCH Spotlight, The Resident Connection, Video Posts

Handling Online Reviews

1 Comment 02 November 2010

Earlier this year I gave a presentation at the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference on “How to Stop Worrying and Start Loving Online Reviews”.  This was a fun way to get my thoughts out there about embracing online reviews.  The topic continues to linger as people are frustrated with their online reviews at ApartmentRatings.com and some other sites.  Recently, Brent Williams at MultifamilyInsiders.com asked if anyone had best practices in handling online reviews.  So here’s my response to Brent outlining how we handle online reviews at J.C. Hart, and my recommendations for how others should handle them as well.

1. Respond

– Create an email account like satisfaction@ or info@ that you can use to create an account at ApartmentRatings.com or other sites.  Have that email address forward to a central marketing or cust. satisfaction person that can forward the alerts and notices to the appropriate parties. (Be sure to consult with your CIO, Dir. of Communications, or Dir. of Marketing about create online user names)

– Take time to respond to reviews about your properties.  Thank people for taking the time to write a review and respond appropriately.

– Apologize when necessary (even if the customer is wrong), and share the email address where they can further discuss their concerns.

– Don’t have your on site teams do the responding.  Have a dedicated corporate person (ie- regional, etc.) respond as they won’t take negatives so personally.

– The idea is to show others that may read the review that you are listening and care, and to attempt to take the conversation away from the review forum by suggesting other channels of communication.

– If you haven’t responded before, respond to at least the most recent 3-5 reviews for the property.

– If the review is from someone Anonymous, don’t feel obligated to engage further than thanking them for the review and directing them to discuss further at the email address you share in the response.

– Avoid getting into a debate online with a customer.  Try to respond just one time, and if you need to write a follow-up response direct the person to engage with you at your email address.

2. Monitor

– Be sure to set up Google Alerts for your property names, and your management company name.

– By replying to reviews on ApartmentRatings.com you can then subscribe to future reviews.

3. Survey

– Don’t just sit back and wait for the unsolicited feedback.  Survey your customers yourself to get a pulse on how you are doing.  Online reviews won’t be as shocking if you already know what some issues are.

– Include surveys or feedback forms on your resident portals and/or websites.

– Utilize old school comment cards for service/maintenance feedback.

4. Encourage Online Reviews

– No, I’m not suggesting you “game” the system by asking all your favorite residents to leave a review.  However, make it known to everyone where they can leave online reviews.

– NEVER pay for reviews

– Include links to review sites on your website or in email messages.  I recommend including links only to review platforms that do not allow anonymous posts.  (Sorry ApartmentRatings.com you’re off that list.)

5. DON’T JUST IGNORE IT

– I think it is a mistake to ignore reviews.  While some of the reviews you will get are not necessarily a great summary of what your property is about, that doesn’t mean you can ignore them.

– Keep an open mind and investigate.  In the end, you know where you stand on an issue, and you can choose what types of responses (if any) are necessary.

– It’s better to leave a response than do nothing at all. (ie- “Thank you for your review.  So we can further assist you please contact us at satisfaction@blahapartments.com.”)

In general, embrace the feedback.  While it’s not all easy to swallow, it can be an eye opener.  Some of it will be exaggerated and untrue, but don’t let it get to you and at least show that you are listening.  Use it as a tool to build a better business and better processes.

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