The Pros and Cons of Insourcing Reputation Management

Blackboard list of pros and consAs a communications director at one of the largest public REIT’s at the time, I helped put together one of the first insourced reputation management programs in the industry. Today, I work for an agency that responds to reviews on behalf of apartment owner/operators that have chosen to outsource reputation management.

While our agency benefits from outsourcing, I can understand the desire to keep it in house. And sometimes, you simply don’t have the budget to outsource review responses.

But if you’re on the cusp of deciding whether to insource or outsource your reputation management, here are some pros and cons of insourcing to consider before making your decision.

Although I’d like to be able to say there aren’t any pros, that wouldn’t be honest. There are some meaningful pros to take into account:

  • Managers feel the full impact of poor service. They have to respond to the reviews, so they have to go through all of the emotions and figure out how they’re going to reply to a very angry resident. This can, at times, lead them to improve service because they are held accountable.
  • Managers have easy access to the information about the incident and the resident. They often know the situation, have dealt with the resident on the issue and can reach out to the resident seamlessly. Theoretically, they should be able to respond more efficiently, but that isn’t always the case, which I’ll discuss in the cons section.
  • It looks less expensive on paper. Your managers are handling it and you already pay them to manage their communities. So, you don’t have to ask your C-Suite for more money. All you have to do is train them, right? On paper, it seems less expensive, so it won’t be a hard sell to the executive team.

Sure, I’m a little biased today, but having insourced and outsourced in my career, I know the cons of insourcing:

  • Responding to reviews is a public relations task, not a customer service task. The resident has, in most cases, already tried the customer service route in private and hasn’t been satisfied. They’ve taken their concerns public and in some way want to hurt you as much as they perceive you have hurt them. Your task now is to not only try to help them one last time, but also to show the readers of that review what you believe in from a customer service standpoint. This requires some public relations skills, which are not the kinds of skills you’re trying to hire for when you hire a community manager.
  • Emotions are really difficult to manage when you’re criticized publicly. Expecting a manager who has been publicly berated by a resident to bury their emotions and respond in a timely, well-reasoned manner is unrealistic. Having asked this of very experienced, professional and highly talented managers in the past, it’s simply not fair to them. Most of them benefit from the assistance of an outside party to step out of their emotions and be able to deliver a response that works in a public relations environment.
  • Responding poorly can harm your corporate reputation. A defensive or inappropriate response from an emotional manager can hurt the corporate brand, not just the community brand. While this is rare, the risk is real and could be mitigated by outsourcing to an agency with the core competency to respond appropriately in collaboration with the manager.

Insourcing reputation management can work with the right training, processes and collaboration. But you can also outsource to an agency that specializes in multifamily.

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