Diffusing Online Angst
Knowing when to stop responding is only lesson to remember when responding to reviews. Here are five others.
Here we take a deeper dive into review response management with Susan Goff, Director of Brand Management, Milestone Management.
1. When to Stop Responding
Our marketing team closely monitors reviews and reviewers and handles each on a case-by-case basis. With each response to a negative review, our intention is to ensure the reviewer that we are listening and that our goal is to resolve their concerns and make them feel better about our relationship moving forward. This is best accomplished offline.
So that we can engage in direct communication, we offer a communication channel based on the specific content and/or the associates with whom the reviewer may have had the unsatisfactory experience. When a reviewer has “opted out” of direct communication, either directly or it is implied, but continues to update their reviews, we choose to opt out of the conversation online as well. This typically happens after three back-and-forth exchanges with the reviewer.
Whether the reviewer is simply trying to keep their negative review at the top of the feed or are updating the thread by adding our previous responses as further so-called “evidence” of what they perceive to be our fault, we weigh the risks and benefits of ending the cycle. If the reviewer’s primary intent is to publish grievances online as a cathartic means of what they may consider to be vindication, we might have to accept that this is their process and acknowledge that we are only fueling this fire by continuing to respond.
2. When the Best Staff Is ‘Beat Up’
While it may seem like “delivering superior customer service” is not the key point of the message that ends our participation in the reviewer’s rhetoric, it is crucial to understand how persistent negative reviewers can affect morale and deplete time and energy from our teams—particularly when our incredibly valued onsite associates are involved.
These associates are the face of our company. It is very difficult for them to convey excellence during their jobs if they are continuously beaten down or are having to answer for a dead-end scenario.
So, for the sake of delivering superior internal customer service, we end our participation and stand behind our associates. And, for the most part, a persistently negative reviewer will stop after their final word. In these cases, we continue to monitor the situation for any further reviews and determine our course as it comes.
3. Prospective Residents are Perceptive
Fortunately, our customers are knowledgeable and perceptive enough to determine what is a legitimate conversation.
They understand when an online review situation is an ongoing battle and they know that nothing a company does in some cases will fully satisfy the reviewer.
As a consumer myself, I take time to inspect positive and negative reviews, and owner/company responses and my decision is based on my perception of the average of those circumstances. I absolutely trust that our educated, prospective residents take a similar approach when doing their due diligence and can appreciate our method when we need to be firm and end the cycle.
4. Handle Reviewers Intuitively
We intuitively handle persistent negative reviewers.
We closely monitor an exasperated reviewer and based on experience, we have developed a sixth sense when it comes to knowing who is likely to relentlessly review and/or debate responses. Our team proactively approaches reviewers such as these and attempts to take the conversation offline.
To do so, we offer them an open-door policy: They can talk when they are ready to talk, and we let them know that we are here to listen to them when the time comes.
5. Be Forthright and Factual
After a negative review is posted, we immediately use our property management software to determine the relationship between the reviewer and our community. If the software doesn’t indicate that the reviewer lives at the property, we double-check by asking our onsite team.
If the reviewer still cannot be positively identified, we may conclude that the review is false. Depending on who the reviewer is—anonymous or not—we typically write to them, “We are trying to determine your situation because the experience you’ve described does not sound familiar.
We’d like an opportunity to talk to you, so please give us a call and let us know how we can help you.”
6. Hold Teams Accountable
Sometimes a customer simply wants to speak to a supervisor.
I’ve been that person before! From my experience, nothing is more frustrating than trying to leave feedback or resolve an issue – designed to provide an opportunity for a company to improve itself – only to feel like the remarks were unwanted or that I (the customer) am not worthy. If I can’t speak to a supervisor when I truly need to, this is exactly how it makes me feel and I am then likely to “take it out” on the customer service rep who is unfortunate enough to have taken my call.
In my opinion, all companies should include the email address of a corporate or regional representative when responding to highly negative reviews. In addition to delivering superior exterior customer service, it is just as important, if not more so, to take the burden off the onsite teams and hold the regionals accountable in the interest of morale and quality internal customer service.