The internet is a great tool for anyone who wants to advertise a service, property managers included. But as with all silver linings, there’s a dark cloud attached: Online review sites give the most motivated (read: angry) tenants the opportunity to vent their feelings where anyone can see. Unfortunately, people (read: clients) who don’t operate on the internet much can easily misunderstand what that negative review means. Specifically, they can easily interpret the review as meaning you’re a poor manager, when the truth is that quite often being a good manager entails pissing some people off.
6 Tips for Gracefully Responding to Bad Reviews as a Property Manager
The first thing to know is that you’re not suddenly in deep weeds — several studies have shown that the occasional negative review makes a business more trustworthy in the eyes of browsers. No one wants to do business with a PM that sounds too good to be true. But you can (and should) get the best of both worlds by responding to the bad review in an effective, professional, and proactive manner.
Respond directly to the complaint.
Don’t be one of those passive-aggressive people who replies elsewhere on the same page to a complaint leveled at you. That’s not professional. Instead, reply directly to the complaint — and, in fact, reply directly to the “pain point.” In other words, you should search the complaint for the source of the problem and directly acknowledge that it is the source of the problem. Then, either apologize (if it was a mistake) or agree with them that it would suck to be on their end of the situation (if it was deliberate).
If you apologized, own the mistake.
If the incident was a mistake, you should immediately explain that it’s not a normal situation. At no point should you say anything that says or implies that the complaint is wrong or invalid — the only thing that will do is start a feud. Neither should you blame anyone/throw anyone under the bus (i.e. “sorry that our handyman screwed that up”). Simply acknowledge that a mistake happened, make it clear that it’s not normal, and if applicable, stress that you won’t allow it to happen again.
If you empathized, explain the policy.
If the incident was deliberate (i.e. you evicted someone for good cause), express your sincere empathy — and then explain in simple terms why the incident had to go down that way. Be polite and don’t explicitly accuse them of any specific wrong-doing. Simply say something like, “Unfortunately, violations of our lease agreement do lead to eviction.” They’ll know what you’re talking about, and the other readers will understand that your reasons were legitimate while appreciating you not airing your dirty laundry.
Offer an offline way for the complainant to respond.
Either way, if the offended person wants to continue to conversation, they should do so offline — give them an opportunity to do so in your response. If they do respond online, don’t respond with anything other than a repeat of the same offline communication offer.
Alert your relevant client(s).
Don’t just sit back and wait for a client to find the negative review on their own — that’s asking for a very nerve-wracking phone call by an upset property owner. Instead, compose an email about the negative review and your response to it. Include an offer to chat with any client who wants to discuss the incident with you in person. This will show your clients that not only are you alert to negative reviews of your work, but you’re extremely professional in addressing them both publicly (on the site itself) and privately (among your clients).
In the end, at least in the property management industry, the social media machine is consistent about one thing: About 10% of all people who come away from your company with a negative experience will post a negative review — and about 1% of all people who have a great experience will leave a positive review. On the one hand, this means if your review feed looks like it’s about 50/50, you’re doing really well! On the other, it means you should probably spend some time and effort getting very familiar with these rules because you’re going to be putting them into effect more often than you’d like.
Property managers: What’s the worst review you’ve ever received? How do you deal with less-than-stellar feedback?
Let me know with a comment!