Online Reviews as Free Market Research
Many companies dedicate significant energy toward gathering information about consumer needs and preferences. A generous portion of marketing budgets is often earmarked toward diagnosing these consumer tendencies, as well.
Many in the apartment industry, however, don’t yet realize that they are receiving much of this invaluable market research for free. It comes in the form of online reviews.
While sometimes raw and unfiltered, online reviews provide the most unsolicited, genuine feedback available on the market. Sure, surveys are valuable, but most respondents aren’t as transparent or emotional when they understand they are being asked to rate a property and its service levels.
Many community management teams are quick to dismiss the validity of negative online reviews, particularly if they perceive them to be unfair. And objectively, in some cases, a one-off review might not hold much weight. The resident in A-23 who sarcastically claims a rhinoceros must live above him might just be ultra-sensitive to noise.
However, themes are often revealed when closely monitoring a community’s online reviews. Even the review is off-putting or you don’t immediately agree, your residents might be on to something. If one person indicates that your parking system is frustrating, it might be a singular opinion. If seven people hint that it’s atrocious, it’s probably time to reevaluate it.
Part of the process of making the market research valuable is to engage in proper reputation management efforts, which include responding to every review – positive or negative – and following through with the action you’ve promised to take. Perhaps the only reason you know the gym gets too hot on weekday nights or that the landscaping outside Building C requires some love is because of the themes that emerged in your reviews.
Don’t ignore them. This is free unsolicited feedback, even if you might have to weed through some poppycock before you diagnose any valuable themes. If you can properly pinpoint widespread resident concerns and take action to improve their living experience – whether it’s through increased service levels, better resident events or a one-time repair that needs to be made – it can make a profound difference in generating renewals.
Well-done review responses can reflect well in the eyes of prospects considering your community, as well. And if you follow through on the action you’ve alluded to in your responses, positive reviews will start to outnumber the negative ones.
Market research is a necessary facet for many businesses. It can be expensive. But in the apartment industry, you can find plenty of it for free on the pages of Yelp and Google. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.