May 09, 2012

Handling Negative Reviews: What Every Property Manager Needs to Know

Review sites have become popular in the last few years as people shopping for their next purchase, meal or place to live turn to the Internet to research their prospects. Sites like Yelp, Google Places and even your own Facebook page will receive comments about the properties you manage or the treatment individuals have received. Of course, we all want positive comments, but what do you do when someone leaves a negative review?

An Opportunity to Win Fans

In August 2011, Yelp released statistics about the ratio of positive-to-negative reviews on the site. 81% of reviews range from neutral to overwhelmingly positive. Only 11% of reviews are very negative with one star.

However, to many people, receiving a negative review online – however rare – can elicit a knee-jerk reaction of outrage as they search for the fastest way to have it removed, declare it as unjust or seek retribution. Before you reach for your lawyer’s number or seek a confrontation with the individual, take a moment to pause and think before you react.

A negative online review can often lead to a positive outcome. This happens for several reasons:

1. One bad review amongst previous glowing reviews actually adds legitimacy, humanity and honesty to your review profile by being trustworthy. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

2. Often a community of people who’ve had good experiences with you will rise up and leave positive comments in your defense. These are more validating and valuable than any negative review could be, and is a compelling reason why you should develop a community through social media.

3. Your online reaction to the review will speak volumes about your professionalism and willingness to resolve conflicts or misunderstandings. This will paint you in a positive light that others will see and respect.

Responding to Negative Reviews
First, ask yourself if the complaint could be valid. It’s true that unscrupulous people may sometimes leave false, negative complaints on profiles. Look at who made the complaint. Do you know their name? Does their user name appear suspicious? Is their profile on the site complete? Have they commented on other reviews in your category? Do a little investigation to understand if the complaint is coming from a legitimate source. If you are convinced that it is a false review, check the FAQ section of the site to see what recourse you may have.

If it appears to be authentic, ask yourself what may have happened. Is the negative comment the result of a misunderstanding? Is it sour grapes over tenant being evicted or sent to collections?

Once you’ve got a handle on what the situation may be, you must decide whether you will respond publicly or not. If it is a ridiculous and unwarranted claim, and your online community has come to your defense, you may choose to let their support speak for you. Sometimes silence is golden.

However, if the negative review is like the elephant in the room, and no one is rushing to your defense, it may be best to respond. Avoid getting into too much detail online. Instead, apologize that the person had a negative experience. If the concern is valid, express that you are looking into the problem and thank them for bringing it to your attention. Offer to discuss it with them offline to better understand their concerns. When you fix the problem, post the resolution so that future readers will see that you dealt with it promptly and openly.

If the matter is personal, i.e. non-payment of rent, do not discuss the specifics publicly, but instead explain that you are happy to discuss the matter on the phone, in person or by email. Include your contact information to make it easy for them to reach you.

Whatever response you make, stay calm, polite and professional at all times. Do not threaten reviewers with legal action, and always offer to try to resolve the problem offline if things heat up. Never let the conversation go back and forth. In other words: one statement and one resolution.

Tips to Manage Your Reviews

1. Unlock your business on Yelp. Be sure to edit your business information, complete your profile, add links, and photos. Doing this allows you to see Yelp statistics on page views and receive alerts when reviews are left. You’ll also be able to comment directly on reviews and be messaged back privately by the reviewer.

2. Claim your page on Google Places. Google Places is linked with Google Maps so that anyone searching for your building address or searching for you online can see reviews and profile information. Claiming this page allows you to add your own content with contact information, building information, photos and video. You can update this information at any time.

3. Establish a comment policy. Decide how you will handle common types of complaints across the Internet. This applies to review sites as well as the social properties that you control, like Twitter, Facebook and your blog. Ensure that this policy is distributed throughout your company and that people are clear on who is to respond on your behalf, and how.

4. Be proactive. If you are aware of an upcoming maintenance issue, or have recurring problems with tenants not understanding their obligations with regard to security deposits, proactive communication is key. Be sure to let current residents know of upcoming work or send reminders of your policies before an issue is likely to occur.

5. Get Google Alerts to send an email. Use Google Alerts to receive notifications when your property or company is mentioned on the web. Enter in all relevant keywords and Google will send you an email when something pops up. Be sure to set the frequency to your needs.

6. Use Google Reader to aggregate mentions. Google Reader allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds and read automatically updated information from the web as it happens. You can send your Google Alerts to Reader, as well as subscribing to search results from Twitter, following your favourite blogs and keeping an eye on the competition. Your Google Reader results can be shared, making it easy for others in your company to be as well informed as you.

People are talking about you and your properties online already. Your best course of action is to be present online, be aware of what they’re saying, and speak directly to people to address their concerns. And, don’t let the naysayers get all the attention. Thanking your supporters and fans online goes a long way to building good will!

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Russell Sultan

Property Administrator, DMS Property Management

Describe your experience in a few words

Property Management made easy. Koodos to the creators, keep up the good work.

What do you like the most about the software?

Everything is simplified. very easy to understand and work with. I never had to go for a training. tenants love using the portal for day to day communication with management.