Learn from Reputation Management Mess in Pro Sports
Earlier this month, the professional sports world provided a pair of shining examples of what not to do in terms of reputation management. Hopefully, the multifamily industry was taking notes.
First came Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, who fumbled his way through an interview regarding his team’s illegal electronic sign-stealing campaign during their run to a 2017 World Series title. Though the scandal was fully uncovered during a league investigation bolstered by players’ confessions, Crane took the path of denial.
“Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game,” Crane said. “We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”
Naturally, nobody was buying Crane’s outright dismissal of the situation, and his comments merely served to fan the flames he was trying to put out.
It’s reminiscent of an apartment community eliminating its fitness center and pool in order to expand the leasing office, and responding to resident complaints with a statement saying, “In our opinion, this has no impact on the living experience at our community. We are a premiere apartment community, and we’ll leave it at that.”
Denying the existence of a problem isn’t exactly endearing. Crane showed a lack of understanding, remorse and responsibility in three tidy sentences. That’s also how quickly he lost credibility and alienated his customers.
Apartment managers can’t afford to make the same mistake. While it isn’t necessary to see eye to eye on the situation, respecting the opposing viewpoint and remaining open to discussion and even criticism is crucial.
A few days after Crane’s infamous interview, the NHL Stadium Series, which features outdoor hockey games, ran into access issues in Colorado Springs due to the campus design at the U.S. Air Force Academy venue. The snarled traffic had fans delayed for hours on their way to the game, and many demanded ticket refunds.
Rather than offering any sense of an apology, the NHL’s first instinct was to blame fans for not arriving earlier and reminding them that the league had issued warnings that delays may be possible. In the opening lines of the NHL’s official statement on the situation, the league squarely pinned the blame on fans, then listed the various forms of notification that fans should have heeded.
Nobody wants to hear, “I told you so.”
Customers were legitimately upset with their experience, and the simple acknowledgement of that frustration would have gone a long way. Yet, the league chose a defensive stance in a situation that called for empathy.
A comparable situation in the multifamily industry would be a new resident who signs a lease during the middle of an ongoing construction project, then complains about the impact of construction.
Responding to a resident with, “You knew there was construction when you signed the lease,” misses the point, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate compassion for the situation.
Yes, it’s a pre-existing situation that the resident was fully aware of, and the truth is, the resident was willing to accept their living situation based on the impact they envisioned. But perhaps during their first week of residency they realize that the daytime construction noise prevents them from taking work calls at home. Maybe they didn’t expect that the pool would be closed during their child’s entire summer break.
Hockey fans who listened to the NHL’s warnings and left home early to see the Avalanche and Kings play didn’t think they would miss the first two periods, either.
It’s not the fault of community management that the resident didn’t fully weigh all potential construction-related factors, but it is their responsibility to take a step back and recognize the situation for what it is, rather than react and respond emotionally.
There is a better method to manage these situations, and your reputation depends on it.