by Doug Pike
Negative online reviews are a thorn in the bicycle tire of every property manager. Everything may be rolling along smoothly until they strike, and they can be completely deflating.
The frustration that accompanies negative online feedback, especially when it’s unwarranted or unfounded, can trigger property managers to react defensively. However, countering a damaging review with a hostile response only compounds the problem.
But what are the repercussions of a defensive online response, and how can teams avoid a reputation management speed bump when the next negative review crosses their path?
Don’t Go with Your Gut Reaction
We’ve all heard the recommendation, “Go with your gut.” This isn’t one of those times.
When faced with a negative review, responding in a reactionary manner will only serve to erode the situation further. More importantly, the damage will spread far beyond the relationship with the person who posted the review.
No matter how derogatory or insulting a review might be, a response that comes out swinging with forceful denials, rebuttals or accusations will appear even worse. In the public arena, a disgruntled reviewer has the inherent advantage of being perceived as the victim. To the casual reader, the reviewer is the little guy who was wronged, and the apartment community is the big bad oppressor. In the community’s response, any slight to the reviewer’s character or credibility will only paint the community management team as domineering and unsympathetic.
That’s hardly the perception you want to create for prospects.
In the case of a review that really slings mud with false claims, personal attacks and exaggerations, avoid the temptation to wallow in the muck and trade barbs with the reviewer. By responding calmly and with empathy, it quickly becomes clear which party decided to play dirty. Prospects, or anyone else reading your public response, will take notice and might disregard the review as an irrational rant.
The low road should be the road never traveled when it comes to reputation management.
You’re Not Responding to the Reviewer, Anyway
While it’s difficult to allow negative feedback to go unrefuted, it’s easier to exercise restraint in your response if you keep in mind that you’re not responding directly to the reviewer. If a direct response to a reviewer is required, that can be done in person or through other channels.
The audience for a public response is always the prospect who is still formulating an opinion about the community and reading reviews to help make their housing decision. They’re not going to be impressed with an online argument between the community and someone who had a negative experience.
Instead, prospects want to see a receptive and productive response to negative feedback. They want to know that if they ever have an issue or a concern as a resident, their community management team will listen and work to address it.
Negative Reviews are an Opportunity
Anyone can provide an appropriate response to a positive online review, but those replies unfortunately don’t move the needle much in terms of prospect perspective or community reputation. While a knee-jerk, defensive reply to a negative review can do irreparable damage from a reputation management standpoint, an empathetic and responsive approach can do just as much good.
While every property manager cringes when a negative review pops up, the community’s response should be viewed as an opportunity. It’s a rare chance to demonstrate the team’s dedication to improving the living experiences of residents. By expressing a willingness to resolve problems, answer questions, maintain open dialogue and learn more about resident concerns, an online response can provide evidence to prospects that the management team is listening and truly there to assist.