How to Properly Manage a Negative Online Review
The resident decided to trash your apartment community on the pages of Yelp. For good measure, he made certain to copy the rant to Facebook and Google.
This particular diatribe is littered with inaccuracies and is a purely one-sided account of the situation. It’s like an NBA player bemoaning an uncalled touch foul that occurred after he traveled and bulled over his defender.
The knee-jerk reaction is to defend your apartment community and your onsite team. You’re determined to set the record straight by pointing out every inaccuracy in the review and respond with a more precise account of the way things truly transpired.
But it doesn’t work that way when effectively managing an online reputation.
No matter how tempting it can be to counter with more realistic and accurate information than that provided in the tirade, it is going to come across as defensive. Multiple studies indicate that those scouring review sites will generally side with the reviewer. So when a malcontent resident aggressively takes their thoughts online, there is a more effective way to handle it.
Empathize and apologize. Perhaps you are not truly sorry for whatever situation occurred, and in many cases, the resident is genuinely painting an inaccurate picture in the review. But keep in mind that those reading through the interaction usually don’t have any context of the actual event or situation in question. In your response, demonstrate that you understand the frustration of the resident and that it’s your ambition to make things right. Apologize for whatever is troubling the resident, even if your conversations offline might go a little differently. If it’s too much of a force to apologize about the specific situation, you can apologize for the negative experience.
Keep your target audience in mind. Sure, the idea is to help smooth things over with the resident. But when constructing review responses, always be aware that prospective residents will read them. Apartment searchers now regularly peruse review sites when deciding on their next home, and you want to demonstrate that you take resident complaints seriously and that you will proactively work to remedy them. Reviewers don’t expect to see five-star ratings across the board and might get suspicious if they do. They expect to see some variance, but will be put off if the community manager is defensive, escalates the situation and engages in an online argument with the resident.
Take action but don’t offer concessions. No matter how luxury or Class A-to-the-max your community is, negative reviews are inevitable. Residents will rant – about move-out fees, hallway cleanliness, negative interactions with onsite team members, pests, leaves in the pool, irresponsible dog owners, rent hikes and almost anything imaginable. When someone is upset, a natural reaction is to compensate them for their experience. Maybe a Starbucks or Best Buy gift card will smooth things over? Not often a good idea. Once you offer concessions, you set the precedent that anyone who complains will be compensated in some manner. It’s important to follow through by taking action on the online complaint – even if that only means meeting with the resident to discuss – but not to offer concessions as part of the effort to improve things.
Negative reviews can be difficult, particularly when the resident is sharing information that isn’t a fair representation. Because of the emotional tie to the onsite teams, many apartment operators hire third-party companies to assist with reviews because the outside source doesn’t carry that emotional connection to the situation and can evaluate more neutrally.
But whether you’re managing your reviews onsite or with assistance, your response to negative reviews is crucial. It could be the difference on whether prospects decide to give your community a chance or move on to others in the neighborhood.