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Whether they note noisy neighbors or faulty building equipment, online reviews can shed negative light on communities and should be addressed in a timely manner. Holli Beckman of WC Smith provides tips on how to take charge of issues surrounding your properties and better manage your online reputation.
No matter the business, there’s no escaping the impact of online reviews. Feedback from residents can include anything from maintenance issues to personal disputes with neighbors, making it difficult to determine which situations can be addressed immediately and which may take more time. We asked Holli Beckman, Vice President of Marketing at WC Smith, a Washington, D.C.-based property management and development company, what best practices her company uses to ensure that residents are satisfied and community ratings remain strong.
1. Act, don’t react. “Closing the loop” is one of the most successful tactics Beckman employs in online reviews. If there is an issue that can be legitimately identified, such as trash in the hallways or potholes in the parking lot, the company fixes that issue, then returns to the online review to let the resident know the issue has been resolved.
“The typical response is, and I know you’ve seen it a million times, just ‘Hey, here’s my email. Call me,’ ” she notes. “And that’s all well and good, but it’s not very personalized.”
“What we’re trying to do is, once we’ve actually fixed that issue — whatever it is — [is letting the residents know], ‘Hey, thanks for your feedback. We never got in touch with you, but wanted to let you know we actually took care of the issue,’” she adds.
Not every situation will lend itself to a solution-oriented response, especially when complaints are posted anonymously, Beckman says. But these personal responses let residents know that the management staff understands their concerns, and they project a positive image for those who may be considering moving to the property, she notes.
The biggest mistake property managers often make when responding to online reviews is attempting to justify themselves, Beckman observes. This is especially true when the review focuses on a policy issue.
“Just keep it simple,” she says. “You don’t have to justify or explain yourself if you just take the time to say, ‘Hey, we might be wrong. Thanks so much for the feedback. We’re going to look at this and see if there’s a way we can adjust it.’”
2. Solicit feedback. Another facet of Beckman’s proactive approach is information gained through the resident surveys the company distributes to get ahead of issues before they become online reviews. These can also be used as a next step in the resolution process, especially where something preferential, such as a policy change, is involved.
Beckman notes that after her company introduced resident surveys, its online reputation jumped from 68 percent to 88 percent across its portfolio, increasing Web traffic 97 percent and lead conversions 270 percent.
“That to us was enough to know where to spend our time, and our money, and our focus,” she says.
This, in conjunction with solution-oriented online review responses, has made residents feel heard and appreciated.
3. Remember that you’re dealing with people. “‘Home’ is, like, the most emotionally charged word or thing, so people are going to be super unpredictable/irrational at times about that,” Beckman says. “So you just have to understand that and appreciate it, and not make it feel like you’re condescending when you’re responding.”
This can apply to serious safety issues, like bike theft, or simply personal differences, such as noise level. Of course, anything regarding crime or safety, such as a malfunctioning door lock, should be addressed immediately, but time and experience will also help to identify which reviews may have been triggered because the resident had a rough day.
“They can’t unload on their husband, let’s say, but they can unload on their property manager,” she notes.
That being said, there may still be information or an idea to glean from a response “regardless of how it comes out and the tone that it may come out [in] on the review,” she adds. So do your best to read between the lines.
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