It takes years to build a community’s reputation, and less than a day to destroy it. An associate could say the wrong thing to a resident, a criminal could burglarize an apartment or a boiler could fail on the coldest day of winter.
No matter what classification of communities you manage, these things are going to happen at some point. And you’re going to have to repair a community’s reputation. To do it well and efficiently requires some strategic steps that can’t be overlooked:
Diagnose the problem
Making assumptions based on recent community events can derail the entire reputation management process. So, it’s important to do your research.
First, analyze past and current reviews from all online sources. Residents share their concerns candidly on review sites, especially when they’re allowed to be anonymous. Rather than being offended or defensive about that feedback, create categories of concern from every review. It might be helpful to work with a consultant or third-party reputation expert to eliminate personal bias from the process.
But online reviews don’t tell the whole story. Savvy industry marketers are reviewing existing survey data or conducting stand-alone surveys to uncover concerns not expressed on review sites. This provides a more balanced and complete picture of the community’s reputation.
Finally, it’s important to gather qualitative data on how residents feel about the community. Hiring a third-party consultant to interview residents, even the angriest ones, will not only provide you with in-depth information, but also improve your relationship with those residents. They’ll understand that you’re trying to fix the problem.
Develop a strategy
After you’ve diagnosed the problem, you should develop a strategy before you take action. Simply responding to reviews is not enough to repair the reputation of a community. The operations, human resources, marketing and public relations functions at your company should work together.
Operations should make changes at the site level to fix the identified problems and put processes in place to prevent them from reoccurring. For example, changing the inspection process on unit turns can ensure fewer details are missed and more residents are happy with the move-in process.
Human resources can provide guidance on how to manage the associates who aren’t providing adequate levels of customer service. This might even require letting go of some associates or changing the community culture to be more resident friendly.
Public relations can offer perspective on how to better connect with residents and avoid common mishaps, such as offering gift cards for positive reviews. These professionals can also help develop the tone and style of communications with residents based on your brand of customer service.
Implement the strategy
Once the strategy is complete, all departments must implement the strategy in an organized manner. First, operations and human resources need to make the onsite changes that will fix the resident concerns.
Then, marketing can secure ownership of the review site accounts and develop survey programs to encourage residents to post reviews about the community. Public relations can then respond to reviews or offer guidance to onsite team members.
If done in the wrong order, a disaster awaits. By responding to reviews before fixing the problems, upset residents will be tempted to post even worse reviews about the community.
No matter what the problems are that led to a reputation issue, a community’s reputation can be repaired if the right steps are taken to do so.