A fun little debate thread on Lisa Trosien’s Facebook page has me thinking today about where we’re going with online ratings. As the title of this post states, I feel the online ratings game has just become another marketing play. Here’s my comment from Lisa’s page, and then I’ll continue below.
I’m somewhere in the middle here, and I think that’s where we need to be. Yes, we should be paying attention to what people are saying and try to fix things. However, after taking a strong position for the past few years that we should care tremendously about the reviews and respond to every one I have changed my tune a bit. Like some have said here, there are some things that just can’t really be changed and there’s no use fighting them.
I feel it’s now a game (and really became a game when we decided to care), like many marketing avenues are. We and our competition are attempting to influence or change it to our favor. I think programs that integrate with ApartmentRatings are good marketing strategies. They help even some of the good and the bad.
I guess my bottom line is that if you choose to play the ratings game just understand it’s a marketing play. I don’t believe it’s a customer service play as much as we’d all like to believe. It does carry weight though, and in the eyes of Google it weighs more than many other marketing avenues right now. I’m not ignoring it as a result, and would recommend marketers invest in the review game a bit. That said, I’ve often said there is more than one way to skin a cat, and if you can get the job done without getting in deep on reviews then I say well played.
So where am I today compared to even 2 or 3 years ago? Not too far off. I still pay close attention to reviews online, and we survey our residents internally with a reliable system. To me that’s really what matters. Asking your customers for honest feedback, actually paying attention to what people are saying, and developing plans to fix things that are missed should all be part of your customer service strategy in my opinion. We can do all of that internally and ideally make a big impact on the way our customers feel about our brand. It blows me away that some companies don’t invest in surveys internally and then complain about ApartmentRatings.com or other sites. Please get a pulse on what’s going on out there first before you just start blaming someone else.
Now, if those survey comments and reviews can trickle out to the online space by asking people to participate there as well I’m all for it. It’s good marketing. We have to pay attention to what is working and where our customers are going. Are any of us avoiding Craigslist because of the negatives that come along with it? It’s cumbersome, it can be spammy, it’s ugly looking, and it needs to be monitored. All of those things and other negatives don’t stop us from utilizing this marketing tool that works. ApartmentRatings.com and other review sites are the same way. They can be cumbersome to monitor, they may cost money, and sometimes they are ugly. However, they do work. ApartmentRatings.com brings leads. If you monitor your analytics and have linkbacks to your websites you will see the results and they are good. So I say play that game too.
At this point in the ratings game I don’t think you can argue against it. You can surely ignore it if you’d like, but I believe that is a marketing mistake. Just my opinion today, but as with any marketing strategy it’s ever changing. Good luck with your strategy!