by Paul Willis
Overburdened onsite apartment teams are constantly searching for ways to automate processes and save time. But one of the common timesaving methods for managing online reviews might not be such a good idea .
Keeping a list of prepared responses might sound like an efficient way to handle online reviews. But this impersonal approach indicates to residents that you’re not listening to their specific situation. It can even appear that you’re dismissing it in some instances. Yet, a handful of large-scale apartment operators puzzlingly continue to utilize stock responses.
Put yourselves in the consumer’s shoes for a moment. You dined out at one of your favorite spots—let’s call it The TC3 Eatery—and you have a subpar experience. You write an online review noting that the food and service at The TC3 Eatery is usually top notch, but you were a little disappointed this time. Flavorless entrée and disinterested service, you note, while claiming you’ll be back again and hope this time was an anomaly.
A day later, TC3 responds back. The response apologizes for your experience and promises to be better next time. The note invites you to reach out to the onsite manager to talk through any specific concerns. For a moment, you feel great. The staff has acknowledged your concerns in a friendly way and hopes to have you back. But then you decide to peruse other online reviews to see if any other customers shared your experience. Then you notice the note back to the other reviews was verbatim to your response. All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem sincere and the service was once again disinterested.
In a nutshell, that’s the problem with stock review responses.
Extrapolated to the multifamily industry, residents have a variety of praises, complaints, lukewarm feedback and unfiltered rants. While similar themes emerge within the reviews, each reviewer is unique and should be treated as such. The resident in 201-A whose drain has been clogged for two days despite multiple service requests is different than the prospect who had to wait 20 extra minutes for a tour. The responses to each should not be culled from a pre-existing template that glosses over the actual issue and offers a generic pledge to do better.
The repetitive responses publicly illustrate a lack of attention to resident concerns. Keeping in mind review responses are written just as much for prospects researching your community, stock responses certainly do not serve as lease-generators.
If you are forced to use stock responses as part of a company policy, do your best to incorporate the reviewer’s name in the response. If possible, sign the response from an actual team rather than the community as a whole. Those layers of personalization will add some value to the response, although not as much as when layered into a fully customized response.
Stock responses work great in video games or if your account is overdrawn. Simple and to-the-point messaging has its value in certain situations. Review management, however, is not one of them.