ParkCrest Landings, in Bradenton, Fla., managed by Fogelman Management Group. The company displays the property's resident ratings prominently on the community's website.
© Greg Wilson 2015 ParkCrest Landings, in Bradenton, Fla., managed by Fogelman Management Group. The company displays the property's resident ratings prominently on the community's website.

As the reputation manager for Fogelman Management Group, I read hundreds of our residents’ online reviews each month. With over 80 assets currently under the company’s management, that adds up to a lot of reviews! But the task is truly one of the best parts of my job.

I’m thrilled with the positive reviews and try to learn from the not-so-positive ones, responding to unhappy tenants promptly and respectfully. Such online reputation management (ORM) not only gets more leads in the door but directly impacts many other areas of the business, as well.

ORM Matters to Owners and Investors
At one of our company’s recent leadership conferences, a panel of our owners began talking about how they selected new assets. One owner said his firm looked up a prospective property online to read its customer reviews. The remaining members of the panel quickly acknowledged doing the same at their firms and said it gave them true insight into how a community was currently being managed and maintained.

If an investor or renter were to look at one of your company’s properties online, what would he or she see? Does your reputation online accurately represent your communities and the hard work that goes into maintaining, improving, and managing them?

Fogelman Management not only highlights property reviews on its communites' websites with an overall rating, it breaks them down by various helpful categories too, such as parking, noise level, and staff.
Courtesy Fogelman Management Group Fogelman Management not only highlights property reviews on its communites' websites with an overall rating, it breaks them down by various helpful categories too, such as parking, noise level, and staff.

Ratings—Even the Negative Ones—Present a Marketing Opportunity
Any review, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity to market your community—if you respond, regularly and promptly. A reply not only exhibits your firm’s professionalism in welcoming constructive criticism and expressing thanks but also serves as a place to highlight specific property amenities and services based on the feedback the reviewer provided. In reading such responses, your customers will perceive not just the content you write but the value you offer as well.

We all want to be heard as consumers, and your response shows that your team listens. Besides, when someone’s talking about your company, don’t you want to be part of the conversation?

The Problem Isn’t the Reviewer
Sure, we can write off an occasional bad review as outside the norm. But if suddenly the negative reviews of your properties outweigh (or even come close in number to) the positive assessments, the problem isn’t with the residents.

ORM is just that, the management of your reputation. People rent an apartment for various reasons. It’s the leasing agent’s responsibility to take that apartment-hunting process a step further and capture a positive review.

Listening Brings Retention
With budget season upon us, we have the opportunity to truly listen to what our residents are saying about our communities. Listening to renters’ wants and needs doesn’t just get prospects to lease, it helps us retain existing tenants,too.

You don’t need an expensive platform from which to listen: Just grab a notepad and read way. Make a checklist of positive and negative keywords as you digest the feedback about your properties. You might read a few opinions about outdated fitness equipment, for example, or overflowing trash compactors. Then, think: What can you do, now or over time, to fix the problem or improve your community?

Often I’m asked, “Which site is the most important?” My response: They all are. Reviews are everywhere, and so are your prospects. If you don’t have the ability to use a review aggregator, start with a Google search and see which of your properties comes up first.

And don’t be afraid to ask for online reviews from your happy residents!

With the ability today to post negative reviews easily and anonymously, raters will continue apace, and owners and investors will only get more involved and ask more questions about their communities. As property managers, it’s our responsibility to be proactive and manage their assets from all angles, including ORM.

If you haven’t already met with your team to craft an ORM plan, schedule a time to do so. Your company—and your customers and owners—will reap the rewards many times over.