It’s time to start thinking of customer care as a critical component of your marketing strategy. Your property’s reputation is a key factor for potential residents when they’re trying to decide where to live, with 94 percent of renters reading reviews during their apartment search. If your community’s star-rating is too low, the potential renters might not even bother reading the reviews before eliminating your community from consideration. In fact, according to a research report created by SOCi and the Local Search Association, 68 percent of consumers won’t consider a business unless it has at least 3.5 stars.
When residents come across your communities, they should see reviews and ratings that reflect well on your properties. There are a few different ways to create a positive sentiment around your communities, even if you’re already dealing with negative reviews. Below, we’ll explain how a proactive approach to customer care can help you control the narrative around your properties, and get ahead of negative sentiment before it goes public.
Make sure your strategy is all-encompassing
No customer care strategy is complete if it doesn’t account for search engines, social media platforms, and review sites. In the property management world, all three of those online spaces are now destinations for ratings and reviews. Google has Google My Business and Google Q&A. Facebook has Facebook Recommendations — formerly Reviews — and general comments that residents post on your property’s pages. Ratings and review sites such as Apartments.com, Apartment Ratings and Yelp are always going to be hotbeds for both positive and negative sentiment surrounding your communities.
The only way to monitor and respond to reviews on all these sites is by equipping your team with powerful reputation management tools. A technology platform like SOCi will allow you to see and respond to every review from one birds-eye point of view.
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Grow your base of reviews
Before you can respond to reviews or analyze the sentiment around a property’s reputation, you’ll have to garner a bank of reviews for your community. According to the same research report, consumers need to see at least 10 reviews before they see your star-rating as credible.
Having a high-volume of reviews is important for getting potential renters to consider your community, but reviews are also relevant for the all-important SEO rankings. Google scans reviews for keywords just as it would any other content on the web. These reviews give Google information about your community, so the more reviews packed with key phrases, the better. The reviews don’t have to just be on Google My Business, either. If your residents are more comfortable writing reviews on Yelp or Apartments.com, that also helps with SEO. Google pulls reviews from across the web, and features them on the Google Knowledge Panel. So, when someone searches for your property, the populated reviews expand far beyond Google itself.
There are many ways to build your review base — such as sending a personal email after a resident comes into your office or having links to your review sites on your website — but you want to avoid doing anything that might cause a lot of reviews to be submitted all at once. This kind of mass review solicitation can be flagged as suspicious by Google.
Finally, you don’t need to worry about only receiving negative reviews. While it’s commonly assumed that residents only leave reviews when they’re upset, SOCi research has shown that consumers are more often motivated to leave a review based on a positive rather than a negative experience, by a factor of more than two to one.
Respond quickly and sincerely
Not only should you be responding to every review, but you should be doing it quickly and with tailored responses. This is best practice for responding to both positive and negative reviews, but is especially important for the latter. Going the extra mile with tailored responses shows the reviewer that you took the time to read their review, understand their complaint and are taking steps to remedy the situation. Even something as simple as using the reviewer’s first name can make a big difference; SOCi’s proprietary research shows that 89 percent of consumers are willing to change a negative review based on how the business responds.
Of course, the ideal reputation management strategy allows you to get in front of potential negative reviews before they appear next to your properties’ names on review sites or social platforms. A technology like SOCi — with reputation insights, sentiment, and competition — can help you identify issues at your various properties so you can adjust accordingly.