People love to complain, especially when it comes to where they spend their money. Since the beginning of the modern economy people have complained about bad experiences and beamed about good ones. Until recently, these conversations were had in person, by word-of-mouth as marketers like to say. Now, as more of our communication and commerce moves online, that same conversation is broadcast across the internet, with at least the off chance of reaching thousands or even millions of listeners. These digital conversations come in the form of website FAQ pages, digital forums, review sites, and of course, everyone’s favorite: Yelp. Yelp has collected over 100 million reviews of local businesses and services since its foundation in 2004. Of these 100 million, it’s a safe bet they aren’t all positive.
The real estate industry, and the properties that it represents and manages, is not immune to these changes. On the merit of SEO alone, the frequency, diversity and strength of customer ratings can affect 15.4% or more of a property’s search ranking score. Even the most optimized websites will see a decrease in site traffic due to low-star company reviews, impacting search visibility and discouraging potential customers from visiting the site.
But rather than fear the power of these online reviews, the commercial real estate professionals need to leverage technology to manage its digital communications. Reviews both good and bad are a fresh, innovative advertising tool. What better way to understand and boost your reputation than to monitor conversations, engage prospects, promote and encourage positive reviews, and build upon associated metrics? A bad reviewer that gets turned into a happy customer is a great display of customer service acumen. Using smart technologies and online dashboards to do this can lead to a 5 to 9% increase in business revenue.
Imagine a channel where people not only want to engage with you but are active participants, promoting your unique value to the masses. They can’t do that though, unless you are active on the proper channels. Start by making sure your brand has profiles across social media, an up-to-date Google My Business listing and scalable website design. The younger generations, who grew up in an online world, almost unanimously go first to the internet when they are doing their research, if your business isn’t there, neither are they. 95%of people aged 18-34 read reviews of local businesses before making purchase decisions. Not only are people choosing whether to lease from you based on your reviews, they’re also more likely to find your website if you have strong reviews online. For example, if a property has even half a star higher rating than another on a five-star scale, 95% of users take note of that. With my time at G5, a marketing and online reputation management firm, we have thought a lot about ways to collect brand-relevant engagement and competitor conversations across channels and deliver AI-driven insight into the sentiment behind it.
You can’t resolve a reputation issue if you don’t know about it. Monitoring and engaging in the conversation surrounding your company can help identify problem areas and prevent damage to your brand reputation. Steps such as simply registering a google alert to email you when your company is mentioned online will safe-guard your ability to track and respond to reviews. Responding quickly to customer reviews builds rapport and trust, and may help save a relationship or prevent a small issue from becoming a much bigger one. We often see renters that are unhappy with the slow response time to maintenance requests that go unnoticed for days. It is vital that the problems like this be addressed both onsite and online. A timely and empathetic response can turn a critic into a fan, and a fan into an evangelist. Ignore these reviews and your business will suffer.
According to BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey, 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to online reviews. To combat worry of responding to critical reviews, we created a Reputation & Social Management solution that uses smart technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to judge sentiment behind reviews and help develop optimized approaches. It is important to be able to listen to all the conversations across your portfolio at once with a live feed. We like to think of it like air traffic control for media marketers. Only then can you see problems arise fast enough to have time to put a strategy in place for responding to negative reviews, which directly impacting whether someone chooses to sign a lease.
Online reviews directly impact how a property is viewed and the general sentiment behind it. Customers spend 31% more, on average, if a company has positive online reviews. Not only does technology allow for real-time collection and monitoring of review data, it also gives properties a chance to benchmark against competition (view the star ratings and activity for your top competitors and keep an ongoing watch of how you compare), engage in proactive problem solving and take proactive steps toward improving brand reputation.
From building maintenance to customer service, reviews say it all. Make sure your company is online, has efficient materials and profiles to support it, and make the investment into software designed specifically for monitoring and responding to conversation. In the digital age, your property is going to be reviewed regardless; the objective is to make sure it’s positive.