Imagine you are planning to make a major purchase, let’s say a car for example. You decide to check out a local dealership’s website and find nothing but 5-star ratings, hundreds of glowing reviews describing excellent service, and testimonials of loyalty from customers who are over-the-moon happy with their experiences. At this point you’re feeling pretty confident that buying from this dealership would be a smart decision. Or are you? Human nature tells us a little skepticism is bound to seep in when something seems too good to be true.
We’ve all been burned before; it would not be far-fetched to say in hindsight the situation at the beginning was in fact, too good to be true. “I should have known better”…sound familiar? Renters have also been burned before; some have spent an entire year or longer dealing with bad neighbors, inconsistent service, unresponsive management and more - none of which was depicted in the community’s marketing message.
In a previous post, I wrote people now value the written word over the actual score. Scores, while still a prominent factor for management companies and communities, have become secondary to those seeking information. Star ratings are following this trend as well. According to Brightlocal’s Consumer Review Survey, 68% of respondents said they’d be willing to do business with a company that had at least a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. Communities intent on projecting an all-positive image could be in peril. Renters are not looking for perfection – they’re looking for authenticity.
If you believe a negative review will sabotage your ability to secure a lease or renewal, think again. When asked in our Today’s Online Renter Study would you trust a review site with all or mostly positive reviews, 47% said no. Renters want the whole story and that means both the good and the bad. Truth leads to trust and trust leads to confidence. Renters need to feel confident they are making the right decision. Here are 5 steps to develop your authentic online story.
1. Embrace honesty – nothing but the truth. Multifamily professionals are caring, diligent and dedicated to providing a quality living experience for all residents. It’s a hard pill to swallow when a resident says they are unhappy or that the management team is not doing a good job. We all know mistakes and missteps can happen and it’s mortifying when those negative experiences are laid bare for the world to see. The objective is to remain humble, admit fault and work towards a suitable solution. Shying away from the negative by solely focusing on the positive is a disservice to all.
2. Avoid impropriety – nothing to fear. Incentivizing for reviews can destroy your online reputation. You may think giving a resident a gift card as a thank you for posting a review (either positive or negative) is no big deal however this quid pro quo approach can result in other residents calling you out (“these positive reviews are fake”) and a consumer alert banner splashed across your review page, which is sure to tarnish the credibility of all posted reviews.
3. Solicit unilaterally – nothing to filter. Review gating is the practice of prohibiting or discouraging negative reviews or selectively soliciting positive reviews. It is frowned upon because the mere practice is discriminatory and bad for business. Cherry picking 5-star reviews instead of encouraging authentic feedback, prevents teams from understanding and addressing opportunities for improvement. The overall resident experience will not get better if only those who are satisfied are providing the feedback.
4. Recover successfully – nothing but solutions. Tales of recovery can be just as powerful as a positive review. Asking a resident who originally posted a less than stellar review to return with an update not only provides the reader with a complete series of events, it can also work wonders in demonstrating the community is able to bounce back and make things right for its residents. Miracle workers, rock stars, life savers; teams deserve to get credit for transforming a negative experience into an ultimately positive one.
5. Respond humanely – nothing but compassion. Imagine receiving a compliment or complaint face to face. The response would probably sound more conversational than robotic. When it comes to online reviews, validating a resident’s experience with a genuine voice proves the feedback was not only appreciated, it was taken seriously. Readers who come across repeat phrases such as "we strive to provide" may infer the team employs a similar copy/paste approach during offline encounters. Everyone wants to feel special and authenticity when responding reinforces just that. A thoughtful, tailored response is the personal touch to complement solid customer service skills.
Deciding where to live is a major purchasing decision. Renters today are well-informed and far more discerning than ever before. They know the odds of a community being able to provide a five-star experience, 100% of the time is highly unlikely and may even be turned off should the community try to suggest otherwise. It’s okay to be less than perfect. An authentic online story educates, informs and inspires renters towards choosing the community that’s right for them.