Today, we're diving into the world of reputation management -- i.e. the art of improving your online reviews, and shaping your online image for apartments and multifamily complexes. 95% of customers read online reviews before buying a product (Global Newswire). When there are that many people reading reviews before making a simple purchase on Amazon, you can be confident there are at least that many people reading reviews on your apartment before deciding whether or not to move in.
While a good review score on Google or Yelp can be a powerful force in helping rent out your apartments, a poor base of reviews can discourage masses of people from even considering your apartment as a place to call home.
What You'll Learn in this Blog
By the end of this blog, you'll be armed with a comprehensive toolkit to help improve your reputation online. From understanding what implicitly drives your online reputation to deploying effective strategies to improve your online reputation, this information will help you get equipped to lead your reputation-building and review strategy for long-term success.
Let’s get started.
Review Management & Reputation Building for Apartments
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let's clarify some key concepts. Review management involves actively overseeing and responding to online reviews, while reputation building centers on crafting a positive image for your property online, across multiple platforms. It’s the art of showing up in a positive light online. However... our online reviews are a major part of our online reputation, and so the bulk of this post will be focused on that.
Importance of Reputation in the Multifamily Space
Your property's reputation is going to determine how much friction your leasing team faces in convincing potential residents to decide to move in. While your review scores on Google and Yelp are key indicators of resident satisfaction, they also play a major role in the decision process of potential tenants.
Transparency is the New Norm — Everything Gets Reviewed
Today, transparency reigns supreme. This means that your tenants have a voice – and a loud one at that. This can be both good and bad… Today, more than ever, negative tenant experiences will be shared online -- and your review score will often be the first thing prospective tenants see when they search for your apartment. A poor score might halt searchers in their tracks, while a good one might encourage them to apply.
Hate & Great: The Two Most Common Types of Apartment Reviews
In the multifamily space, you'll find that most reviewers fall into two distinct camps: those who sing your praises and those who are voicing their (negative) opinions. Rarely will you encounter individuals with lukewarm opinions. Understanding these extremes is crucial. It allows you to amplify the positive and address concerns proactively.
If you look at your reviews, you'll probably find that most of your reviews are 1-2 stars, or 4-5 stars. Rarely will anyone leave a review for an average experience.
Why Engaging and Commenting on Reviews Matters
Engaging with reviewers isn't just a courteous gesture; it's a strategic move. It provides you with a platform to present your side of the story and demonstrates your commitment to resident satisfaction. We encourage replies to all reviews both positive and negative as it also helps people who are having a good time to see that there are people who care and appreciate their feedback on the other end of the line. Replying to positive reviews can actually encourage more positive reviews.
Reputation Building Strategies
A positive reputation isn't merely a badge of honor; it's the cornerstone of success in the multifamily industry. It breeds tenant loyalty, attracts prospective residents, and appreciates your property's overall value. It's an investment that pays dividends.
Review Reminders After Positive Experiences
One of the best times to ask for a review is after somebody has a positive experience with your management, maintenance, or community engagement teams. Capitalizing on positive experiences by prompting residents for reviews is like harnessing a gentle breeze to set your reputation's sails. It amplifies the good and invites others to share their positivity, further enhancing your property's image.
Studies show that people who’ve had a complaint that was handled well are more likely to leave a positive review than people who didn’t have a complaint to begin with.
Tips for Inviting Reviews (Yelp / Google QR codes)
Practical steps like having QR code flyers directing people to platforms like Yelp and Google can streamline the review process for residents. Now, both Google and Yelp have an anti-solicitation policy, and so don’t go overboard here or you may risk having reviews get flagged, but a subtle flyer at your front desk can go a long way.
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Apartment marketing that's judged on leases, not likes.
Provide Open Channels for Residents to Provide Critical Feedback Privately
Every property is going to have residents with issues – but when residents don’t have a place to ask management for help, they go to places like Yelp or Zillow to voice their concerns.
Creating a safe space for residents to voice concerns privately is like a safety net for your reputation. It allows for resolution before issues escalate to public forums, preserving your property's image.
Resolve Issues Promptly
Timely issue resolution is akin to putting out a small spark before it turns into a wildfire. It demonstrates your commitment to resident satisfaction and prevents negative experiences from morphing into negative reviews.
Turn Negatives into Positives
Converting a negative experience into a positive one is a masterstroke in reputation management. It not only rectifies the immediate issue but also has the potential to yield some of the most glowing reviews, showcasing your dedication to resident well-being.
Report reviews that violate Google or Yelp Policy
Many reviews, including those that directly identify employees by their full name, those written by employees, or those that include lude or course language can be reported and will often be removed by Google or Yelp. Reporting negative reviews can be a great tool to thin out any reviews that might seem unfair.
Build and Maintaining Strong Relationships
Strong relationships aren't just pleasant; they're powerful. Creating a culture where your team treats residents with respect can be a strong force for building good relationships, and creating a sense of trust between your team and your residents. It forms the foundation upon which a positive reputation can thrive.
One example that stands out in particular: we had a client with a 430-unit garden-style apartment with a pesky reputation for poor pest control. The facility was under new management, and steps had been taken to eliminate the creepy crawlers, but of course, if you looked on Google or Yelp reviews the first thing to come up were reviews about bugs!
This put the whole leasing team at a disadvantage – lead volume had slowed tremendously, and people who did show up had to be convinced that the bug problem was fixed.
To address the situation, the team at Lease Engine: Responded to all negative reviews mentioning bugs, sharing our apologies for the poor experience, but then also sharing how we had put new management in place who had taken steps to eliminate all the bugs on the property, with details on how we had brought in experts, and had an ongoing contract for a thorough solution. We also encouraged residents to help us identify any other bug issues on the property by directing them toward a reporting system where we could field and address any complaints.
We had another client who received a handful of negative reviews from ex-employees – whether they were just bitter about not working there anymore, or if they were upset about something else, reviews left by employees or ex-employees are seen as a conflict of interest by Google, and we were able to get them flagged and taken down.
Another client of ours had a collection of “trashy” reviews to address. The client had been conducting many renovations around the property, and admittedly, there was a bit of a mess left about from that, to top it off, some residents added to the problem by leaving their own trash around the property. Tenants were clearly annoyed by the increase in clutter around the property. While in an ideal world, it would have been handled better by the renovation team and groundskeeper, this time it wasn’t. The cluttered facility resulted in another mess – their online reviews took a dive.
Tenants were not happy with the newfound messes around the property. A handful of their online reviews included close-up photos showing a collage of trash they found around the buildings and amenities – and others complained about the trash. This wasn’t a good example of a good tenant experience.
Of course – these negative reviews were preventable, but here we were to do the clean-up.
We spoke with management, who had already taken steps to address the direct trash issue – they took groundskeeping in-house (instead of outsourcing it), thereby saving money and allowing for full-time servicing of the area. They also worked with their contractors to implement better policies about trash management.
We addressed the negative comments by apologizing, acknowledging that a messy grounds are out of character for us, and communicating the steps we took to address the trash issue. We also included an email address in our reply for residents to message about any future trash issues they saw, thereby helping us stay on top of any future buildup before it arose.
We also updated their website, property listings, and Google business listing photos with fresh photography showcasing a clean location (and newly remodeled apartments) to further change the narrative of this location being “trashy”.
In the end, we were able to get a handful of poor reviews removed and were able to share our side of the story and the steps we took to fix the issue for anyone reading the negative reviews that were left.
Your Reputation is a Reflection of Your Operations and Culture
How Your Resident Experience Drives Online Reputation
As you’ve likely already figured out, a lot of our reputation stems from our actions. Consider the resident experience as the engine that propels your online reputation forward. Providing exceptional service and amenities creates a ripple effect, resulting in positive reviews that amplify your property's image. In the same way, poor resident experiences can topple your positive reputation.
Below are a few tips for fostering an environment where positive experiences thrive.
Surprising and Delighting Tenants (Lagniappe)
There is a Creole word that’s popular in Lousianna: “Lagniappe”. Lagniappe is “A small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly: something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.”
Think of Lagniappe as the idea of a baker's dozen, or chips and salsa served for free before your meal.
Most apartment residents don’t have unreasonable expectations, so going above and beyond what they’re expecting isn’t always all that difficult.
For example, offering free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to residents for free in the winter months can be an example of giving more than tenants are expecting.
Going above and beyond to delight tenants is like sprinkling a touch of magic in their lives. These unexpected moments of generosity create lasting impressions and can lead to positive reviews that showcase your property's commitment to great resident experiences.
There's no "Marketing Hack" to Fix Poor Experiences at Your Property
No amount of marketing wizardry can mask subpar resident experiences. Prioritizing operational excellence is the bedrock of a sterling reputation. It's about investing in the core of your property's offerings for long-term success.
Resident Engagement and Satisfaction
Engaged and satisfied residents are the lifeblood of a thriving community. By fostering a sense of belonging and contentment, you lay the groundwork for a flourishing reputation. Happy residents are more likely to leave positive reviews, building a strong foundation of trust and goodwill.
Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert
Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap for better reviews.
Nobody enjoys receiving critical feedback. It’s not fun to hear about negative experiences from your residence… However hard it is to read critical feedback, listening to tenants is the key to addressing their concerns. Oddly, reviews, both positive and negative can provide invaluable insights into the needs and perceptions of your residents, helping you fine-tune your strategies for success.
You never know when you’re going to learn something new about your property from a tenant, so when they speak, be sure to listen.
We’ve even seen many positive reviews that highlight positive experiences at a property that can easily be used in future marketing campaigns and property tours.
Tracking and Analyzing Online Reviews:
When it comes to online reviews, Google is your primary destination. Its prominence in search results makes it a vital platform for reputation management. However, understanding how Yelp reviews function is equally crucial.
The Review Graveyard: "Not Recommended Reviews"
Be aware that Yelp enforces a no-soliciting policy, emphasizing the importance of organic, authentic feedback. You may not have realized, but Yelp's "Not Recommended Reviews" section houses any reviews that they deem to be fake, or solicited. This area houses reviews that Yelp's algorithm deems less trustworthy or reliable. It's essential to understand this feature and address any issues that may lead to reviews being placed here.
Using Data from Reviews to Improve Operations
Reviews are a goldmine of actionable data. By analyzing trends and patterns, you can glean valuable insights to enhance your property's operations. This data-driven approach allows you to make informed decisions that positively impact your reputation.
Problem Resolution and Recovery –
Addressing Poor Reviews Effectively
Effectively addressing negative reviews requires strategy. It's not just about resolving the immediate issue but also about demonstrating your dedication to rectifying situations and ensuring resident satisfaction.
In some situations, you’ll need to balance whether or not it’s more important to fix a bad experience for a tenant (at a potentially high cost for your business) or to deal with the consequences of a negative review.
For example, if a tenant is disappointed that they didn’t get their deposit back, and left a negative review, you’ll need to determine the best course of action.
If you look into the situation and find that they didn’t get their deposit back because they left the apartment in a state of disrepair, you can reply to the comment and reference your policy. It might also be worth asking the previous tenant to reach out to your team so you can talk about the situation privately.
If you’re able to come to a solution without costing your business the deposit, that tenant might even be willing to change or update their review.
Rebuilding Trust with Stakeholders
When your reputation faces a setback, rebuilding trust is paramount. It requires open communication, transparency, and a genuine commitment to improvement. By showcasing your dedication to rectifying past issues, you lay the groundwork for a stronger, more resilient reputation.
Long-term Reputation Recovery
Sustainable reputation recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires ongoing efforts, dedication, and a commitment to operational excellence. By consistently prioritizing resident satisfaction, you pave the way for long-term success.
Recap of Key Takeaways
Let's reflect on the key lessons we've uncovered. From the importance of a positive reputation to the strategies for addressing challenges, hopefully, you're now equipped with a comprehensive toolkit for success.
Emphasizing the Ongoing Nature of Crisis Management and Reputation Building
Remember, reputation management and building are not one-time endeavors. They're ongoing processes that require dedication, adaptability, and a commitment to excellence. By prioritizing these efforts, you lay the foundation for sustained success.
Encouragement for Apartment Owners and Managers
To all the dedicated owners and managers of apartment and multi-family complexes, thank you for putting in the hard work. By prioritizing these strategies, you're not only enhancing your property's reputation but also creating a vibrant, thriving community for your residents.
Remember, the journey of reputation management and building is not without its challenges, but with the right strategies and dedication to resident satisfaction, you're well on your way to long-term success. Good luck out there!
Or... just use Lease Engine
All this said -- Lease Engine has an all in one review management package designed specifically for apartments. Get in touch to see if a review management support package would be the right choice for your business.
Fully lease your property
Apartment marketing that's judged on leases, not likes.