As a property manager, you have a lot on your mind: How to grow your business, differentiate yourself from the competition, build strong relationships with your residents and clients, and become more efficient (and less stressed!).
Unfortunately, from time to time, bad reviews can pop up on your radar, adding another source of stress to your day. Bad reviews might surface on the internet when someone searches for your property, the name or address of your building, your company, the property owner, or you. Reviews can appear on sites like Yelp and Google, on social media, and in discussion forums.
Bad reviews can hurt your business. They can scare residents away and increase vacancy rates. They can convince property owners that you’re not a good bet to work with.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can manage bad reviews. You can respond effectively and even turn a bad review into an ultimate win. Here’s how.
Remember, not every review you have is bad. You probably have reviews like the one below that extol the virtues of your business. Now, take a deep breath, and get ready to respond to the not-so-nice review. Not responding to a negative (or a positive) review is not an option: Not responding still sends a message.
As Ernest Hemingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure,” and many businesses don’t have the courage to approach areas where they can improve. So, thanking your reviewer—whether their feedback was positive or not—is a good practice, since they’re giving you a valuable opportunity to improve your online presence and wow them with your customer service and problem-solving skills.
Bad reviews are an inevitable part of doing business. Multiple review sites are out there, and across all industries, customers turn to them when there’s an issue. That’s why it’s important to take the time to devise a proactive strategy to deal with bad reviews.
First, search for your business, name, and properties periodically to find out what kind of reviews you’re receiving. A monthly search will alert you to bad news so that you can respond proactively. You can also set up a Google Alert that will notify you every time your business’ name appears online.
Second, draft a standard response. It needs to be calm, courteous, and take the reviewer’s issue very seriously. It needs to stress your commitment to good customer service and your sincere desire to resolve the issue.
Most importantly, having a standard response prevents you from being blindsided when a bad review comes in. You’ll know that you have a large portion of the response already crafted—and it can prevent you from firing off an angry response.
You don’t want to settle with using a canned response, because every circumstance will be different. You will want to respond specifically to the bad review. Respond both to the content (what the complaint is about) and the tone (whether the writer is angry or annoyed). Acknowledge that the writer is disappointed in your service or building management, but don’t respond in kind with a negative tone.
Take some time to calm down before submitting your response. You want to take every precaution to appear calm and respectful, not angry and defensive.
One of the most important things that you can do is to reflect on the truth of any issues that the review raises. Acknowledge any issues frankly.
You will discover creative ways to identify and eliminate routines that are no longer benefiting your business.
For example, say that a negative review blasts an apartment building for repeatedly not having hot water one winter. If that did happen, it needs to be acknowledged. You need to give context to any issues that were beyond your control. If the hot water heater needed to be replaced but your contractor repeatedly experienced delays, you can say that. Don’t point fingers or make excuses; but remain straightforward about the attempts to resolve the issue and why resolution didn’t happen.
If the review highlights any problems in your service, work hard to improve that aspect of your business. Consider investing in property management software to automate day-to-day tasks easier so you can focus on fixing issues that arise unexpectedly.
You may encounter reviews where the experience that’s described doesn’t match your own. In this case, acknowledge that the reviewer feels a certain way, but that there were real, standard reasons for the procedure that they’re criticizing.
Say, for example, that one commenter complains that his security deposit was not returned in full even though he left the apartment very clean. Meanwhile, you may have documented that the walls were scuffed and the carpet was stained. Calmly explain that the condition of the apartment was not up to par, and that you only rescinded as much of the security deposit as was necessary to pay for a cleaning service before the next resident moved in. Most people will understand that this is a reasonable argument.
If the bad review is legitimate, your reply should include an offer to resolve the issue. Such an offer will go a long way toward building trust in your good faith and commitment to excellent customer service. It’s a crucial part of changing a negative experience to a positive one.
The resolution offer should be commensurate with the problem. If people repeatedly went without hot water, for example, it may be fair to compensate them with a break on the rent.
If it isn’t immediately obvious what a good resolution would be, take the discussion offline and ask what the reviewer thinks is fair, if they seem like a reasonable person. Avoid having an extended back-and-forth exchange with a negative reviewer on a public site. No matter who’s in the right, it draws more attention to the negative experience and makes you seem petty or defensive. Get the reviewer’s contact information and discuss the matter privately.
If a resolution is reached, ask the reviewer to post a positive review, or at least to remove the negative one. If they agree, you’ve converted a bad review to a good one for future customers to see—and reinforced your desire to provide fantastic customer service.
Bad reviews can be frustrating, and they can also be bad for business. We hope that these steps will help you to convert bad reviews into good management and improved customer service.
Which responses to bad reviews have you found successful in the past? Let us know in the comments!
If you liked this post, be sure to read this one next: Should Landlords Sue if Tenants Post Unfair Reviews Online?
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