Why You Should Respond to Online Reviews

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

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Imagine the following scenario: You conduct a search for your apartment community online. The first thing that jumps off the search results page is a negative review from an unhappy resident. Do you:

(A) Respond immediately!

(B) Take some time to investigate the complaint and eventually respond.

(C) Ignore the negative review completely.

Trying to navigate online reviews can be intimidating – it’s a minefield of potential hazards that could explode if not handled properly. But as much as you may be tempted to do “C” and just hope it goes away quietly, it is a good idea to respond to most negative (and positive!) reviews as quickly as possible.

According to a recent survey conducted by Apartment Finder, 96 percent said online reviews influence their apartment search. And while one negative review might seem inconsequential (especially if you have several positive reviews as well), if you typically do “B” or “C,” the risk of that negative review gaining momentum is huge – with no response or even a delayed response from you, it is very likely that the negative comments will grow and before you know it that one negative review has become several.

Consider these facts: A Bazaarvoice survey found those using mobile devices to view customer reviews show a 133% higher conversion rate. Another survey found that 71 percent of consumers change their perception of a brand based on seeing the brand’s response to reviews. And, according to a Harris poll, 33 percent of customers who posted a negative review and received a positive response from the company followed up their negative post with a positive review – and 34 percent deleted the original negative review.

But wait – before you jump into the online review minefield, you’ll need some tools to help you navigate. Arm yourself with these 12 tips:

1. Make sure you have a clear place on your website where residents can contact you directly. If they can quickly send an email to air their complaints, they are less likely to resort to review sites.

2. Respond to positive reviews too! Don’t ignore your happy residents – thank them for their review.

3. Act quickly – don’t let the negative review sit there too long or it may invite additional negative comments.

4. But stay professional! If the negative post upsets you, take a moment to calm down before responding. If your response is defensive or angry, the situation could get much worse.

5. Don’t take a negative online review personally. Also – don’t get pulled in to a back-and-forth argument. Post your response and then take it offline, if possible.

6. Correct inaccuracies! While you don’t want to sound defensive, you do want to correct inaccurate information. Just be sure to do so in an upbeat, positive manner.

7. But remember: the customer is always right! Even if you think they are completely wrong, thank them for their feedback, be respectful, and try to understand their position – even if you don’t agree with it.

8. Ignore ugly, mean-spirited posts. Especially if the post is personal in nature, this is the one time when responding could just make things worse.

9. But don’t assume everyone is a “troll.” It is easy to shrug off bad reviews as written by someone just out to cause trouble – but don’t write these off too quickly, especially if there are many complaints about the same thing.

10. View a negative review as an opportunity – not a problem! This is your chance to shine – to respond in a professional, friendly manner, to make amends, and to turn that unhappy resident into a happy, loyal one.

11. Don’t respond with a “form letter.” Yes, you’re busy. And yes, it takes time to formulate a response to online reviews. But a canned response will be seen as just that – and you will be perceived as not caring enough to address residents personally.

12. Remember – others are watching. Residents considering your apartment community are paying close attention to how you respond to online reviews. If you are positive, offer real solutions or make amends, and invite reviewers to stay in touch with you and provide additional feedback, those potential residents are more likely to reach out to you.