Online Reviews: The New Smoke Signals

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One of the oldest forms of long-distance communication, smoke signals have been used to transmit news, signal danger and gather people to a common area.   These signals were created to indicate "all is well" or "danger: beware".

Sounds a lot like online ratings and reviews!  To ensure your message comes across loud and clear, every response should contain these 3 elements:


  • Management is responsive and dependable.
  • The team is committed to service.
  • The main goal is resolution.


Management is responsive and dependable:


That's an easy one – simply respond to EVERY review.  Select someone on your team who can periodically check your email inbox for notifications of postings, monitor your review sites, and stay on top of postings made about your community.  ApartmentRatings Manager Center and Google Alerts are tools you can use to help alert you when reviews are posted.  Establishing an "expectation of response"; a deadline for responding to posts (i.e., all posts must be responded to within 1 business day) can help you be more efficient.


The team is committed to service:


During your team meetings, share with your team the latest reviews posted about your community.  Is there a common theme?  What are residents complaining about and also praising you for?  Oftentimes, only the Manager reads the reviews and it is essential that every team member understands what is being said and how everyone plays a part in securing your online reputation.  In talking about reviews, ask the team what could we have done to avoid the situation from happening in the first place and what can we do to make sure it never happens again?  Personalize your responses with specifics (i.e., "our Lead Service Tech will be at your apartment home before 3pm today to personally repair your dishwasher.")


The main goal is resolution:


When it comes to online reviews, do you respond or react?  It's hard to avoid reacting to negative reviews but important to understand that residents post negative reviews AFTER attempts have been made to resolve their issues directly with you.  Positive and negative reviews are the beginning of a dialogue and the goal here is to continue the conversation offline.  When leaving a response, try to present a resolution (i.e., "Thank you for bringing to our attention the problems with trash piling up at the dumpster over the weekend.  We have added a Monday morning pick up to the schedule and expect this problem to improve.  Please contact me directly should you have any suggestions for further improvement.") It never hurts to ask the reviewer to post another update, this time confirming how much better the situation has become.

Unlike the fading smoke, online reviews and your responses will be read by others for years to come.  Don't fire back at the reviewer; take advantage of this opportunity to promote your community, the commitment to service by your team, and all of the good that occurs onsite every day.  This is your chance to not only address the complaint, but plant seeds of interest for potential apartment hunters. 

More about the author:

Click here to learn more about Lia Nichole Smith 

Click here to view her WEBCON 2014 presentation slides