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Death By Template: 5 Tips To Create Custom Responses

Death By Template: 5 Tips To Create Custom Responses

You know what, I totally get it.  With all that goes on during the workday, responding to reviews is somewhere on the priority list with eating lunch.  And in this industry, we all know an hour-long lunch break is a luxury.  Responding to reviews takes time; and for property management professionals, time, just like lunch, is a luxury.

In my last article, I wrote “Many think it’s easier to have a bank of ready-to-go responses, but as renters tend to read an average of 6-10 reviews per community, repeat and formulaic responses are complete turn-offs.”  And it’s true!  We’ve been conducting conversations with renters for the past 3 months and here a few direct quotes from some of the over 100 interviews we’ve had so far.

REVIEW RESPONSE: Thank you for taking time to leave a review to help us improve our community. Your feedback is important to us as we want our residents to be comfortable and satisfied with their living experience. If you wish to add any more details, please email us at XXX to discuss.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this response?

“It's nice that the manager took the time to post however I wonder if the answer is a pre-made one. Seems like a copy/paste kind of thing.”

“This response feels kind of canned, very robotic.  The intentions are good but this response could apply to any review, positive or negative.”

“Where are the specifics? None of the resident’s issues are addressed. A response like this would make me mad if I was the person who wrote the review.”

Templates work for things like budget spreadsheets – unfortunately, they don’t work for review responses.  A couple of years ago, we came up with the idea to create 100 ready to go responses.  My, how times have changed!  What was a good strategy just 2 years ago could potentially sabotage your online efforts and inadvertently, weaken your company and community’s brand.

Outsourcing to a service who will respond on the community's behalf can be equally problematic if they are unable to deliver tailored responses; and can be just as harmful.  The response above was written by a third-party and is an example of just that.  The reasons for responding are as varied as reviews themselves: diffuse the situation, encourage the reader to visit, take the conversation offline, motivate a renter to lease, control the narrative, etc.; templates can't cover it all.  And let's face it, cookie cutter responses just don't move the needle.   

Here are 5 tips to escape death by template.

1. Say it like you mean it – for the writer of the review.  Every review deserves a response.  I say this because if a resident is willing to take time out of their day to write about their experience, the least that can be done in return is to respond thoughtfully.  A copy and paste job tells the world the management team has better things to do and readers could infer residents at the community are treated as an afterthought.  I can’t imagine that any community wants to be perceived that way.

2. Say it again – for the people in the back.  Customizing a response is as easy as avoiding certain phrases and working in some of the reviewer’s own words into the response.  Let’s say the reviewer mentioned “great location”.   The response could mention an upcoming local event.  “It’s awesome you pointed out our great location.  Food Truck Friday at the town square is a can’t miss event.”

3. Say it with solutions – for the skeptics out there.  One thing I found interesting is renters are completely turned off by ambiguous verbiage.  They appreciate succinct responses that speak directly to the reviewer’s complaint.  Readers want to see responses to negative reviews that demonstrate action, not talking points.  They also believe the community has something to hide when specifics are not being addressed.  Nowhere is a template more damaging than for a negative review. 

4. Say it don’t spray it – for the readers who hate emojis. Overtly gratuitous language in a response is a non-starter for readers. While they appreciate the gratitude shown by the management, multiple exclamation points, words in all caps and the like, can be eye-roll inducing, and unprofessional.  One renter made the comment that a particular response could have been written by “a teenager hopped up on Red Bull”.  Woah.

5. Say it in a new way – for the brand you’ve worked hard to build. Those who are reading reviews of your community are doing so because they are interested in touring or possibly one step closer to making a decision.  Responses have become the litmus test in a renter’s journey. They want a consistent message across your online presence.  Your responses should reinforce what your community’s brand is all about. “Thank you for your feedback…blah, blah, blah” can apply to any community.  Responding like everyone else makes the reader feel your community has nothing special to offer.

Now that online reviews have surpassed word of mouth as the #1 most trusted source, responses are even more critical.  Property management companies work diligently to give their communities a unique voice.  All of that hard work can be undermined by the use of templates.   A custom response is an opportunity to show personality, an exceptional level of service and a commitment to the resident experience.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great ideas, Lia! Thanks. And what you are sharing will also produce the transparency that indicates a real, honest response by the onsite team indicating their desire to do something about the resident or prospect's concern.

  Rick Ellis
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great point, Rick. We've found renters to be most vocal and opinionated regarding responses to negative reviews. They want to see action steps in the response which makes them feel confident the reviewer's experience has been taken seriously.

  Lia Nichole Smith

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