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Improve your Reputation Management Strategy

Make no mistake about it: Online ratings and reviews are more important than ever to renters. According to the 2017 NMHC/Kingsley Renter Preferences Study, nearly 80% of renters said that online reviews influenced their leasing decision. Additionally, a 2017 renter’s journey survey conducted by RentPath found that 57% of online apartment shoppers prefer listings that have “a lot of honest reviews from people like me.”


Despite these numbers, many owner/operators don’t have formal reputation management programs in place. This could be because when the apartment market is experiencing high traffic volumes and high conversion rates, operators may not think they need to worry about reputation management. It’s also possible that many owner/operators think they don’t have the budget to hire a third party to manage their online reputation. Or they simply may not know where to start when it comes to handling reviews.


Given the importance that prospects place on online reviews, it is now critical for apartment operators to have a sound reputation management program in place. Here are three steps that a community can take to get started laying the groundwork for reputation management.


1. Ask for honest feedback.

Use surveys or social media campaigns to ask residents to leave a review of your community on your ILS listing or on a site such as Google to generate recent and fresh feedback. By consistently prompting residents to leave reviews, online prospects get a better and more real-time understanding of resident experiences. If reviews are outdated, data suggests that prospects will feel as if the apartment operator is hiding something. According to Search Engine Journal, “Forty-four percent of consumers will not consider a review to be relevant if it was written more than one month ago.”


2. Address negative reviews.

According to the 2018 BrightLocal survey, released in December, “89% of consumers read local businesses’ responses to reviews.” Furthermore, a 2018 J Turner study found that prospects “place high importance on a manager’s response to a review, with the respondents rating it at 6.55 on a scale of 0-10.” The way an operator responds to negative reviews provides a glimpse into the customer service the community delivers to its residents. If a prospect views the response to a negative review in a positive light, the impact of that review can be significantly mitigated.


3. Respond to positive reviews.

Many apartment owner/operators choose not to respond to positive reviews because they don’t feel like it’s necessary to do so. But responding to these types of reviews gives you a chance to show the kind of rapport your community has with residents. By showing a genuine appreciation for a positive reviewer (and occasionally using humor, when appropriate), an operator can further demonstrate the living experience at the community.


That said, while some of your team members and managers are equipped to handle the task of responding to reviews, the vast majority wouldn’t consider this their strength. It can be hard for associates to leave their emotion out of a response if they feel they are being unfairly or inaccurately criticized. Additionally, replying to a review might not be the most efficient use of a team member’s time when they could instead be focused on such tasks as assisting residents and responding to incoming leads. It may be better to engage a third-party provider to focus on responding impartially to all reviews, positive and negative, in a timely, professional manner.


Your community - and the way it treats residents - is often judged by online reviews and the public responses to those reviews. How you handle these reviews is a strong indicator of the customer service you provide to both prospects and residents. Engaging with online reviews also helps to positively impact the perception people have of your community. This will ultimately benefit your leasing and resident retention efforts.

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