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Here’s how to survive in the age of online reviews

As a property manager, you’ve probably encountered a negative online review at some point in your career. Some shake it off and move on. Others let it stew in their minds, going over every word in excruciating detail with a mix of rage and hurt. And then there are those who see a negative review and go ballistic, responding with a vicious diatribe that will only end up driving potential tenants away.

It would be nice to live in a comfy bubble and think that no one puts much stock in online reviews. However, no matter how you shake up the data, it always produces the same result: online reviews are incredibly important and can influence purchasing decisions like nothing else. The Local Consumer Review Survey from 2016 has it by the numbers:

  • 92% read online reviews.
  • An astounding 84% of those surveyed trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.
  • Nine out of ten consumers will read fewer than 10 reviews before forming their opinion.
  • For 74% of the respondents, a positive review will make them trust a business.
  • 58% said that the star rating was the most important indicator of a business’ trustworthiness.

The numbers on this are nearly endless, but they all say what we all already know: online reviews can drive more business or sink you. So how do you keep them from doing the latter? Here are some tips for managing your online reputation without losing your mind:

  1. The first thing you need to do is research your property. Hunt down every review you can find and do it like you’re a prospective renter. Would you rent from you based on the feedback that’s out there?
  2. Your first reaction will probably be anger. Take a deep breath to give yourself time to cool off and distance yourself from those feelings. Investigate the accusations in the review by speaking to employees and gathering information about what actually happened.
  3. Respond to the positive comments to show that you’re engaging in the conversation. Then, answer the negative review with a “thank you” for the feedback, an apology if one is warranted and a follow-up email to the poster to see if you can do anything to fix the situation (or prevent it from happening again).
  4. Don’t be afraid to speak directly to potential tenants in your response. You can say something like, “If anyone reading this review is looking for an apartment, please understand that we are addressing the concerns of the poster to not only exceed their expectations but to exceed the expectations of everyone who lives here. We would love to find out how we can do the same for you. Give us a call at (000) 000-0000.”
  5. Don’t always be on defense. Maintaining an active online presence is about more than just combatting bad reviews. You want to generate positive buzz, so ask currently satisfied residents to leave good reviews on sites like Yelp, and, of course, Google Reviews.

Managing your presence online is one part of the process that can’t be put on autopilot. So always be monitoring reviews, processing new information and responding to needs. Remember: your reputation is a living thing that must constantly be attended to if you want your community to be a success.

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