originally posted to LinkedIn by Jamie Wohlschlegel

Recently, I spoke to a Community Manager who said a new resident backed out just before move-in because of poor reviews on a popular apartment ratings site. This story is far too common. Bad reviews for multi-family operators on popular social sites impact the bottom line.

There is a simple,  four-step process to improve your online community reviews.  By leveraging current technology, along with impeccable handling of resident service requests, you cost-effectively tip the ratings back in your favor.  But first, let’s talk about why bad reviews happen.

Why Residents Post Bad Reviews

This is basic human psychology - people expect good service. When it doesn’t happen, they tell 5-7 people how terrible their experience was. The more troubling statistic is that 50% of these unhappy people will share in an online social location (Yelp, Google, etc).        

“50% of unhappy customers will post online”
Property falls below city average

Property falls below city average

When negative experiences are expressed socially, the negative ripple-effect is exponential. One study found that online reviews have an 86% impact on buying decisions of prospective buyers. This can have major consequences to traffic to your property and eventually your occupancy rates.

Property is above city average

Property is above city average

But could the opposite also be true? - that positive ratings have an 86% positiveinfluence on traffic? The chances are good that they will. 

Many companies try to spoof (fake) good posts to dilute the bad, which is really just masking the problem. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get residents to do it on their own?

So how do you make that happen?  Your handling of resident service request could be the answer. Here’s how (and why), as promised in four easy steps:

Step 1: Keep Your Residents Happy

I know, I know - easier said than done. But, on a monthly basis, resident service requests give you many at-bats to make, and keep residents happy.

The typical apartment community generates 5 resident service requests a day for every 100 units under management. This is your greatest source of resident-interaction outside of collecting rent and handling packages.

This step is more holistic than the others as it really comes down to creating a culture of customer excellence. The community maintenance staff is the front line in this effort and their job is to make the resident’s service experience fast and enjoyable.

“create a culture of customer excellence”

There are some terrific tips in this article on how your maintenance staff can improve the resident experience.

Step 2: Shorten your service request life-cycle

This is less about the time it takes to perform the repair and more about the other steps in the process.

I’m speaking in reference to the time it takes to log the request, notify your maintenance staff, prioritize the repair, communicating that the repair is complete, closing out the request in your software, and finding the time to follow up with the resident. You get the point.

“automate service request handling using mobile devices”

Seek to automate this process to cut out the latency. Utilize the mobile devices your maintenance team already has to notify them of new requests. Conversely, have your maintenance team notify the office immediately when complete via their devices.

Imagine the time and paper saved by eliminating your paper work order system, especially if your maintenance team can easily communicate and log job progress without returning to the office.

In general, take a critical look at your processes and see where you can cut wasted time. I’ve seen as long as a 3-4 day service request life-cycles. When this happens, you are just asking for an unhappy residents.

Step 3: Keep Residents Informed

Everyone has a story about a terrible experience waiting for the cable company to show up. Or waiting hours for your car to get fixed and not know what’s wrong, how long it’s going to take or how much it will cost.

“Lack of communication is the frustrating part”

Simply keeping your resident notified throughout the work order life-cycle goes along way. Take the extra effort to call or send emails to update residents when your staff is notified and again when the request has been completed. If possible, look to technology to automate this process

Step 4: Ask for a Positive Review

Ok - you’re almost there! Your staff delivered amazing service, the process happened at light-speed, and the resident received friendly communication the minute the service was completed.  

It’s at this moment your residents for whom you’ve successfully completed service for, will be most willing to post a positive social review when presented with an easy opportunity to do so. But, how do you make that happen?

Just ask! Here’s how:

I suggest calling the resident as soon as the request is completed and have a cordial conversation with them. Certainly follow up on the completed request, but also ask about their day, the weather, let them know about upcoming community events, etc.

The goal is to not only assess their level of satisfaction, but also to show personal interest in them. Your residents will be more willing to help when you take this extra effort.

If you feel they are extremely pleased, ask them if they’d be willing to share their experience with others by leaving a positive review. If yes, let them know you’ll be sending a link via email of exactly where they can do this for you. Then send the email immediately.  

It will take discipline and a consistent effort to tip the online review scale in your favor, but if you get good at this, you can generate several positive reviews per month.

Automate to Increase Positive Online Reviews

If you are looking to automate your service request life-cycle, customer notification and review process, please check out SERVUS. The SERVUS mobile and web platform automates the entire service request process and enables your residents to post positive reviews on your social media channels at the moment they feel most pleased.

If you want to learn more about SERVUS, email me directly at jamiew@servusconnect.com or check out our site.