Online Review Response

The Trouble With In-House Review Responses

by Doug Pike

Multifamily property managers are typically eager to respond to positive feedback in online forums, but conveying an appropriate message becomes complicated when faced with a negative review. 

Because management teams are directly invested in the community and the living experiences of their residents, it’s understandably difficult to receive negative feedback from a renter without taking offense. 

It’s a Problem if it’s Personal

Objectively speaking, most negative reviews are tainted by at least some element of exaggeration. The situation is rarely as bad as described and management teams aren’t the heartless monsters they’re made out to be. And there are definitely cases where a disgruntled resident will post a completely fabricated story, simply out of spite. 

For on-site teams, that spite stings. And often that sting still lingers when a manager sits down to draft a response. 

Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to put together a productive response when unsettling emotions are heightened. For someone directly associated with the situation, it’s easy to get defensive or dismissive. And a public response that denies the problem or merely refutes the reviewer’s account of events can actually do far more damage than the review itself. 

Prospective residents reading reviews as part of their apartment search will cross a community off their list if they perceive the management team to be uncaring or unwilling to work with residents to resolve problems.

A third-party response service can get management’s side of the story and craft a reply on their behalf that avoids a defensive or reactionary tone. A third-party can also provide a voice of reason when a manager wants to go on the offensive in their response. It’s much easier to adopt a receptive and apologetic stance and focus on a resolution to the problem when unsettling emotions aren’t part of the equation.

The good news is prospects will also take note if a response from the community conveys a commitment to fully understanding resident concerns and addressing issues that detract from the living experience. The right approach to a response may even lead a prospect to dismiss an overly negative review. By handing off the burden of review responses to an outside public relations agency that specializes in the multifamily industry, management companies can ensure that their teams are only posting professional and productive replies.

Make Review Responses a Priority

The only response worse than a defensive response is no response at all. Unfortunately, aside from getting defensive, the other most common instinctual reaction to a negative review is to ignore it. 

When reviews are pushed aside or responses are significantly delayed, residents feel like their voice isn’t being heard. They may even feel compelled to post again regarding the lack of response. Also, prospects who read a negative review will want to know the property’s reaction to the situation. If no response is available from management, a prospect may assume that the management team doesn’t care. Or worse, they’ll correctly assume that management is simply avoiding the situation. 

On-site teams have a tremendous amount of responsibilities on their plates, and not all failures to respond are deliberate. Review response can take a significant amount of time, depending on the volume of the reviews and also how delicately a response needs to be handled. It doesn’t take much distraction during the workday to pull team members away from their review response duties and forget to complete a reply. 

By outsourcing review responses, management teams deploy a dedicated service to help get the ball rolling as soon as a review is posted and prioritize prompt responses. Property managers can approve a response or send off quick edits or notes on the situation rather than trying to find time to sit down and thoughtfully draft a reply to each review. Third-party services also typically post responses once they’re approved, so management teams don’t have to log in and out of review platforms throughout the day. 

Ultimately, contracting with a firm to handle online review responses not only saves time, but by taking emotions out of the response process it might also save your company’s reputation.

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