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Reputation Management at 39,000 Feet

Today I'm sitting in a first class pod on a Boeing 777 and I never want it to end. EVER. This time my flight has me thinking about reputation management and customer satisfaction. I have just cleaned my hands with the warm hand towel, feet up (in my complimentary first class socks), seat back, waiting for my wine and wagu beef to be served.

This has been a ridiculous day. Heading to Miami for the weekend, we get to the airport for our 10:30 am flight. Only to find out (after my carryon bag has been thoroughly searched and my offending new tube of toothpaste has been confiscated) it's been canceled due to mechanical issues. The airline has rescheduled us for the 2:00 pm flight. Needless to say, we are extremely unhappy with this airline.

Fast forward and now we're on the plane (yay!) and a very angry woman next to me is yelling a lot of four and five letter words at the flight crew (boo!).

Pro tip: when a crazy lady is yelling at a flight crew, or really anyone, do NOT make eye contact.

I don't know why she's angry at them, but now she’s yelling at me as well. I’m not going to repeat what she said—you’re welcome. But she was on a roll and she wasn't going to stop. Our captain makes a U-turn on the runway and goes back to the gate, where the woman was politely, but firmly, escorted off by the police. Cheers and applause from all the passengers accompany her exit.

Finally, at 3:00 pm…3:00 pm people, not 2:00 pm thanks to angry woman and certainly not 10:30 am thanks to airline, we take off. Once in the air, the head flight attendant comes up to us to apologize for the woman's behavior and brings us up to first class to make amends. (OMG so VIP! Did I mention the seat becomes a bed?)

So other than the sad fact I will never be able to enjoy another flight in economy class, I want to bring this back to our customer satisfaction and reputation management efforts. What are we doing to make amends when something goes wrong for one of our residents? Are we acknowledging it? Are we apologizing for it? Even when it's not our fault (using my flight metaphor, like a crazy lady yelling on a flight)?

When things go wrong, it can be a huge opportunity to turn your unhappy resident into your biggest cheerleader. You can't win everyone over, but you sure can try.

So, what are some of the things you can do to turn this situation around:

Communicate. I can't stress enough how important communication is. You can't always control how quickly things are fixed, but you can control your communication with your residents. Let them know what's going on. Check in with them as often as possible. I know you're really busy, but trust me, the one minute it's going to take you to check in with them may just save you the hours and hours of leasing their apartment when they leave.

Apologize. My dad taught me a very important lesson very early on. When you're having a disagreement, always apologize. By doing so, you're not admitting guilt, you can be sorry the situation happened in the first place. So apologize. You can do it!

Roll out the red carpet. When mistakes happen, make sure your resident feels like they're a VIP. Give them first class service. Do something so they know they're important.

In our case, not only are we now not upset about the delay, or the fact I was cursed at. But the airline used the above-referenced three tactics and with the first-class treatment, I'm pretty sure we have a new favorite airline.

So go out there and roll out the red carpet people, one resident at a time.

(Postscript: I am proofing this on the flight home, squished in between two guys in the back of the plane and realize I was right—I miss my first class pod.)

Ms. Sylla has over 17 years of marketing experience in multifamily, commercial and residential real estate.
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  • Thanks for sharing, Shellie! I think one of the important parts of your story is that when the lady was escorted off, people cheered. I think when it comes to reviews, people have a decent "BS meter" to determine when someone is being rightfully upset or just upset for no reason. So just because a negative review hits, it doesn't necessarily mean people will take stock in it.