Most people think about ApartmentRatings.com in a micro sort of way, analyzing their own community’s rating and that of their immediate competition. But ApartmentRatings impacts the industry in a far greater way, by appearing to show what the prevailing opinion is on apartment living overall. For example, if there was a rating site for almond butter and the average rating was 40% across the site for all brands, you would probably assume that almond butter as a whole isn’t very good, even if some of the brands had 90% ratings while others had 20%. So in this way, ApartmentRatings on a macro level was shaping the debate on whether people really enjoyed apartment living in the first place.
Not only is this consolidated effect important on dictating existing attitudes on apartment living, but it also works to perpetuate those very attitudes. Going back to the almond butter analogy, if you already knew that almond butter overall had a 40% satisfaction rating going into a tasting, you would be more likely to have a negative predisposition before you even started. Most people follow the herd with reviews, so if there are thousands of negative reviews already, they will likely not question that assessment. So the negative reviews themselves breed a negative perception. This is why ApartmentRatings has been the biggest negative PR campaign the multifamily industry has ever seen.
The winds appear to be changing, however, as big changes with ApartmentRatings.com, as well as apartment communities approach to reputation management has dramatically improved over the last year. The website just released some very important stats: The number of active properties that had a “Recommend” score above 50% grew an astounding 18% during 2013 to 68%. In other words, since we are talking about industry averages, it’s as if the very idea of apartment living got an incredibly large perception boost. Although the multifamily industry is constantly improving, it is safe to say that the industry as a whole didn’t suddenly have an operational epiphany leading to an 18% increase in customer satisfaction in just one year. More likely, it always enjoyed that level of customer satisfaction, and ApartmentRatings simply didn’t accurately portray that level on their website. The increase was due to a couple of factors, including more communities proactively encouraging residents to rate their communities, and the use of programs such as ApartmentRatings' Verified Resident Program™ (VRP) and SatisFacts' Insite™ touchpoint program. This resulted in an increase in the total number of reviews by 16.5%, many of which were inspiring happy residents to post a review, which created a more balanced review pool.
If prospects continue to see ApartmentRatings as an unbiased source of reviews, this surge in ratings should have an overall positive impact on the entire industry and help it continue on its path to being a lifestyle choice for renters. This could be an incredible PR move, and the industry could enjoy a nice facelift in public perception.
If that wasn’t big enough, it is possible that this could ultimately impact operations within industry players, as well. If we start seeing ratings sites as true indicators of resident satisfaction, then we can much more easily compare operations against our comps. Previously, if a competitor had a higher rating, most communities simply brushed it off due to the inaccurate aspect of apartment reviews overall. But if reviews more accurately reflect resident opinions, then a community with a 70% rating will have to come to terms with its own operations relative to its peers with 90% ratings. This potentially could lead to great self evaluation and improvements in operations across the industry.
There are still several issues with ApartmentRatings and other review sites, but this could be a big step in the right direction for the multifamily industry. What do you think?