Social media has changed the face of all business and property management is not immune to these changes. In the past, property managers were able to focus on building strong relationships with their tenants and from that were able to frame a solid reputation within their community. However, all that changed with the advent of social media. Now, tenants can instantly review your property and anyone with a smartphone can read it. A 2016 survey by BrightLocal reveals that 91% of customers read online reviews of local businesses. What does this mean for you? It means that online reviews are inevitable, specifically negative ones. But don’t let negative reviews ruin your reputation. Instead, follow these tips for how to deal with negative reviews online.  

The first thing to keep in mind is don’t be accusatory. If you take a negative review personally, it will be almost impossible for you to respond in a positive manner. This becomes especially hard if you are familiar with the tenant and the situation they are referring to. Before you respond, take a few minutes to distance yourself from the situation. Remember what your goal is – to effectively manage your online reputation and to resolve the tenant’s concerns. Write a draft of your response offline so that you can go back to it and make edits before you post it. Finally, get a second opinion. A second set of eyes will help minimize any potential problems in your response.

Second, don’t be rude. The crucial difference between online and in person communication is tone. Unfortunately, tone is very difficult to effectively communicate through text in an online forum. Rather than view a complaint as a problem, look at it as a change to publicly resolve conflict with a current tenant. This will also show potential tenants that you are willing to correct any problems and maintain a positive working relationship.

Third, don’t invalidate a complaint. Your response to a negative review should never be approached as a win-lose situation. It is not your job to prove that the tenant was in the wrong or that their complaint has no value. It is your job to address their concerns. Be specific when your respond. Even if you can’t completely resolve their problem at the moment, let them know that their issues are important to you and that you are willing to talk to try and make their experience at your property more enjoyable.

Fourth, be empathetic. The tenant’s initial frustration likely stems from the fact they don’t feel heard or understood. Offer to discuss the problem in person or over the phone. Not only does this show people reading the review that you’re willing to solve the tenant’s problem, but it also removes any ongoing discussion from the review site. A timely response also shows prospective tenants that you are an engaged and responsive property manager who addresses the concerns of their tenants.

Finally, be helpful. People just want to be heard. So be specific in your response and lay out a plan that actually addresses the needs of the tenant. The majority of people are reasonable. Even if they wrote the negative review just to blow off some steam they will appreciate you addressing their specific needs. You can explain why a certain policy or procedure is in place and apologize that this might have impacted them negatively.

Your goal when responding to negative reviews is to change a critical interaction into a constructive one. Responding effectively will help you win back the unhappy tenant while simultaneously rebuilding your positive reputation to all potential tenants reading the review.