When residents write negative reviews of your apartment community on sites like Google, Yelp, and Apartment Ratings, it can leave a bitter impression on your mind and the minds of prospective renters. But fortunately there’s a lot you can do to improve the situation just by the way you craft your response.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 US-based consumers conducted in September 2016 by BrightLocal, online reviews are having in increasing impact on purchasing decisions.

They found that 91% of consumers read reviews of local businesses at least occasionally, an increase of 17% over their 2015 survey.

Overall star ratings mattered to 58% of the survey respondents, and 87% of them said they would only consider a business earning more than 3 stars. Star ratings offer a quick overview, but the overall sentiment of the review was also important to 47%.

So, with half of your prospective customers paying attention to what others say about your community online, you have an excellent opportunity to create a delicious impression by the simple act of responding to all reviews with a positive tone.

Now all you need to know is how to go about doing that. And it’s not hard.

When should I respond to negative apartment reviews?

Timeliness is your first priority in answering online reviews and it is best to respond within 24 hours of the review being posted. The longer a negative review stays online without a response, the more people will find it and take away an unfavorable impression. This means you’ll need a way to monitor reviews of your communities  so you know as soon as people publish reviews. With so many online review sites, you may be overwhelmed by that task, especially if you manage multiple communities. One way to monitor reviews is to claim your community’s listing on Google, Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, ApartmentRatings, and all of the other sites you care about. Once you claim them you can create a spreadsheet to keep track of the incoming reviews, their rating, post date, and when you responded to them as well as a link to share with your team. Fortunately, Brand Assurance Reputation Management makes this painless. Want to learn more?

What should I say in response to negative online apartment reviews?

It takes strong reasons for residents to take time out of their busy lives to write reviews about their apartments. So it’s important to take their reviews seriously. The issues must be important to them, but often times they are caused by circumstances beyond your control as a manager. These could be things like fines, late payments, broken leases, or problems that happened years ago.

So, whether your reviews are reasonable or not, make sure to respond with care. Here are some tips to help you do that.

  1. First take a deep breath and read each review a few times to understand what reviewers are really saying. What is the complaint about? Does it involve a specific issue you can address or is it a general opinion? Try imagining yourself in each resident’s place and ask yourself how you would feel in the same situation. Even if the review seems unfair, there must have been a reason to voice the grievance online.
  2. When you’re ready to write your response, type it in a draft document – not directly into the review site. This will give you a chance to let your words sit a few hours so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. You’d be surprised how many grammar, spelling and tone edits you’ll see this way. Better yet, have someone else take a look before you copy and paste your comment into the review site.
  3. Start by thanking the reviewer for the input. A negative review really can be a good thing! It gives you an opportunity to show you care and to address the problem that caused the negative comment in the first place.
  4. Then admit any mistakes without making excuses. Refrain from sounding defensive, accusing, or dismissive. This article from Rentping.com offers some excellent role play examples for doing this.
  5. Offer to discuss the problem one-on-one to resolve the issue. Provide a way for the person who wrote the negative review to contact you offline. This shows others reading the review that you will take action to solve problems. It also prevents an ongoing discussion in front of prospective tenants reading the review site.
  6. And here’s a bonus tip with SEO in mind: if the review is positive, include your community name in your response. But if the review is a bad one, leave your name out of your response. When people search on your name, they will be more likely to see the positive comment.

Better yet, outnumber negative reviews with positive ones.

With 74% of those surveyed by BrightLocal saying that positive reviews make them trust a business more, you can benefit most by encouraging your happy residents to share their opinions online. Surprisingly you can increase your number of positive reviews just by asking. According to the same study, 70% of renters said they would post a positive review if asked.

So you have a great opportunity when a resident sends you an email thanking you for something like a quick response to a maintenance order or a great move-in experience. It’s easy to just say “Thanks!!!!” But don’t miss the opportunity to ask the delighted resident for a review online. We recommend asking them to write an authentic review about their experience at your community on review sites where your community needs positive reviews most. To make this really easy for your residents, offer two links so they can just click and write the review on the site of their choice.

Real Life Examples

This resident left a mostly positive review with a small concern.

 

I absolutely love living here! A huge part of that is due to the staff. I moved here while pregnant and have since had my baby here. The staff has been absolutely amazing and so helpful! Jimmy does a great job to quickly resolve any maintenance issue I have had. Location is great, and love the landscaping here. My one complaint is that when we signed the lease they said the fitness center was supposed to open in July of 2016 and January of 2017 it still isn’t ready. They did however give you  a free gym membership to make up for this. Just not the same having to drive somewhere and that has been really frustrating. It is about to open now so I would recommend the Oaks to anyone!

And here is how the manager handled the comment.

Hi Chrystal, Thanks for the great review. It makes us so happy to hear you love coming home to The Oaks. Our team are some of the many reasons why our community is so special. We are very excited about our gym renovation and want to apologize for the miscommunication and want to thank you for your patience. If you have any questions or concerns please let us know. Happy living, Jessica G., Community Manager.

Notice how the manager thanked the resident by name and acknowledged the things she complimented, then apologized for what caused her complaint.

This review was left by another resident of the same apartment community.

You DO NOT want to live here. I repeat you DO NOT want to live here. Unless you like mold in your ceiling and a cup in your floor to catch the water in your bedroom when it rains and having them paint over it and cracks in the wall and call it renovated. The people they had renovating it were definitely some pill heads and sometimes we’re staying inside the apartments overnight that they were renovating listening to music and drinking and having a good ole time. The only good thing about this place is Jimmy the maintenance man. He should be paid more than anyone else there. He did more for myself than the actual manager of the place. Promises to have things fixed being broken, trying to solve the problem with giving residents alcohol. There’s a whole lot more I could say about this place but if you move in you’ll find out for yourselves. Don’t make the mistake of moving in here, better luck somewhere else.

Here’s how the manager answered this very negative review.

Hello, we regret that your living experience at The Oaks was not entirely positive. While we are proud of our renovations and all the upgrades to our apartment homes, we’re sorry the process was a disturbance for you. Now that our renovations are wrapping up, we hope you will come by to see the finished product. We’re also glad that Jimmy made such a positive impression and apologize greatly that your interaction with the rest of our team was the opposite. If we did not show you how much your satisfaction means to us, please know that your message has not been lost on us. If there’s ever anything more we can do to assist, please let us know. We’re only a call away! Thanks again, Ragan W., Community Manager

Notice the manager’s calm and empathetic tone. She mentioned positive aspects while apologizing for the renter’s concerns.

These community managers at The Oaks served up a healthy helping of excellent customer service for both happy and unhappy residents. It went a long way toward making this community stand out online among the many other options available. Depending on the city where you’re located, you may be one of the few communities  who  responds to online reviews and that could be a major selling point for you.

As the BrightLocal study found, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and the sentiment of those reviews is second only in importance to the star ratings. By responding to negative reviews with empathy and a willingness to solve problems, community managers can sweeten the impression of those reviews. People understand that mistakes happen, and when your response shows the quality of your service, you can turn a negative review into a reason to rent an apartment from you.

Choosing a new home is a major decision for everyone, so take the time to show prospective residents that your community cares about the people who live there by responding to all reviews your renters write online. It will be worth the effort.

Keeping tabs on all the different online review sites can be a challenge. Brand Assurance can help. Click here to find out how.

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