You might not think about it every day, but your tenants are taking note of the experiences they have in your rental properties. And some day, they may just share those experience publicly online.
Because consumers these days turn to online reviews to help them make purchasing decisions, your reviews are more important than ever. But don’t be alarmed – negative feedback offers a few great opportunities for improving your reputation and growing your business.
If you have negative reviews and want to know how to use them to your advantage, read the following guide on approaching your negative tenant feedback.
The Annapolis Landlord’s Guide to Handling Negative Tenant Feedback
Find Negative Feedback Quickly
It’s important to have an action plan for responding to negative reviews.
If you only have a single rental property, you probably won’t be listed anywhere on a major website like Yelp. But if you own a large rental property business in Annapolis, MD, you may already be mentioned there quite a few times.
Figure out where your tenants will most likely go to post their negative feedback, and monitor those sites regularly. Some even allow you to set up notification emails that let you know the moment someone has mentioned your business in a review.
When you do find a negative comment (on social media, a review site, or elsewhere), read it quickly and begin processing it. It may be somewhat unpleasant, but it’s necessary. Whether the commenter’s gripe is legitimate or not, you should still acknowledge their issue and take action to respond.
Respond Directly and Professionally
Most people who see a negative review of your business won’t write you off immediately. And if they see that you responded to such a review in a pleasant and helpful way, they’ll likely gain more respect for you.
Plus, if you respond directly to the comment (instead of elsewhere on the same page), you’ll let the tenant themselves know you actually care about their feedback.
Of course, it’s hard to stay positive when someone online bashes the business you’ve built with your own hands. Your first impulse might be to lash out at them and point out all the reasons why they’re wrong.
Don’t do that. Instead, take your fingers off the keys and reconsider.
Take time to formulate a professional and appropriate response. Acknowledge the comment, explain your side of the story (as calmly as possible), and say you appreciate their input.
The truth is, a negative comment is a perfect time to highlight the many positive aspects of your rental property business. It’s easy to frame your response in such a way that it compliments your business while making the commenter feel heard and respected.
Consider a Private Response
If you’re unsure about the credibility of the forum in question, you can also consider responding to the tenant privately.
The challenge here is figuring out exactly who the tenant is. Most of the time, people who post negative comments online stay anonymous. There are times, though, when you’ll get lucky and be able to identify the tenant.
If they still live in your property, great. Contact them and let them know you wish to address their concerns.
If they don’t still live in your property, you might still have their information lying around – like phone numbers and email addresses. Whatever way you’ve contacted the tenant in the past, try reaching out to them about their comment.
If you take this course of action, you should be absolutely positive in your response. You wouldn’t want the tenant quoting any harsh words from you online as it might serve to further damage the reputation of your business.
Or, if the website allows users to exchange private messages, send one to the tenant’s account. If you’re proactive about trying to resolve the issue, they may even remove the comment altogether.
Take Constructive Criticism
If the tenant issues a complaint that you know to be legitimate, embrace their constructive criticism.
First, you can respond with words – apologies and sympathies. Next, you can respond with actions that show you wish to improve your business whenever possible.
For instance, if a tenant expresses frustration that your communication with them has been sorely lacking, it might be time to upgrade to a more advanced system. You could completely overhaul your computer systems and purchase new software to make it easier – or maybe consider hiring an Annapolis property management company.
Whatever you do, when you recognize a real problem, address it as soon as possible.
Delete the Review if Necessary
In the United States, the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech. In other words, there’s very little you can do about a tenant who has a negative opinion of your rental property business.
However, if a tenant posts a negative review filled with statements that are factually incorrect, you may have other actionable options.
Some websites have a feature that allows you to report comments and request that they be deleted if they don’t comply with their specific guidelines for reviews. And most of the time, one of those guidelines forbids libelous speech.
If a false statement of fact is posted and you can’t remove it, you might want to consider a cease and desist letter from an attorney. The letter might result in the removal of the false statement, but it could also be posted on the Internet to support the upset tenant’s case.
Promote Your Positive Reviews
One of the best ways to respond to negative feedback is to show examples of glowing reviews you’ve received in the past.
For instance, if a negative review complains about your maintenance services, see if any of your positive reviews mention how attentive your property management team is to their needs. Highlight this review and feature it front and center whenever possible so that other potential tenants will see both sides of the story.
On websites like Yelp, this is very important. Because so many prospective renters use Yelp to look at your ratings before they consider renting from you, you might as well manage your presence there.
Technology has made it easy for tenants to share their experiences on various review sites – but it has also made it a lot easier for you as an Annapolis landlord to open channels of communication with them.
Encourage your current tenants to write honest reviews, both positive and negative. If you do so, you’ll demonstrate that you take customer reviews seriously. It’ll also help to increase your number of positive reviews.
The more reviews you have in total, the more accurate the picture will be of your rental property.
Also, you just may be able to convert an unhappy reviewer into a happy resident. Once they’re satisfied that you’ve addressed their complaints, they may even renew their lease or post a follow up statement to tell the world the problem was resolved.
It’s never easy to run a rental property business, but by learning from your negative feedback, you can improve your service in the future.