Most management companies have a few things in common: a dedication to the industry, a passion for cultivating healthy, harmonious communities…and no small amount of negative online reviews.
It’s a brutal reality of the industry. No one goes to school and learns about what an HOA or condo association is, let alone how they are governed, or where responsibilities lie. Without a moderate understanding of the tiny little township they’ve found themselves in, many homeowners make the same mistake over and over again: they think their management company is making decisions for the community, and when they take issue with the decisions being made, they get rared up for a fight.
As much as we’d like to tell you how to make those reviews stop, that’s not going to happen as long as the system remains the way it is. But you can’t just throw your hands in the air and decide to ignore bad reviews, either.
If you want people to find your management company online, reviews (even negative ones!) play an important role in showing up higher in the search results. According to Google, “Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”
The good news is, setting processes to appropriately respond to those reviews is not only possible, it will help you grow your business long-term. Here are six things to take into account when confronting online reviews:
1. Create (and stick to!) a Communications Plan
One of the most common complaints from disgruntled homeowners and board members is that managers don’t return calls or emails in a timely manner, and when they do, they’re abrasive or dismissive. It’s the nature of the job–community association managers are overworked and spread thin.
So how do you make sure every homeowner both feels and is heard? You plan for it. It’s not enough to tell your residents, “We respond to all voicemails ASAP” or “We’ll respond to your email as soon as we can.” Homeowners hear, “They’ll get back to me in 15min,” and your managers hear, “I can handle the whole rest of my day before I have to sit down and respond to this message.”
Setting specific expectations for both your management team and your communities is a strong start to bridging the gaps in communication.
2. Educate Your Homeowners
A vast majority of angry reviews come from homeowners in your communities who simply don’t know who to blame for their problems. While we don’t encourage playing the blame game, it is important to educate homeowners when you can.
For example, if John Doe leaves a 1-star review because his $1000 monthly association fees seem only to cover lawn care and a fresh coat of paint every three years, his beef isn’t with his management company. Many homeowners don’t realize that management companies advise, but cannot implement assessment prices or decide how that money is spent. All they see is a company being paid to “handle the community affairs” and assume you are making major decisions.
Having an educational piece of content to reference when this misconception is touched on is crucial in staving off future angry reviews for the same reason.
3. Respond to the Right Audience
This is easily the most frustrating part of maintaining your management company’s reputation. There will be plenty of nasty reviews that come through that are patently false, and it’s fair to want to fight back against those reviews with all of your might.
Resist the urge.
Your job is not to fend off an angry person’s outrageous accusations (unless they cross into serious legal issues, in which case we’ll always recommend that you consult an attorney).
Your job is to win over the potential future customer reading those awful reviews. Someone out there is Googling, “best community association management company near me” right now. And they’re finding dozens of management companies near and far that have either too few reviews or a truckload of bad ones.
What will set you apart, time after time, are your responses. Responding to reviews and keeping up an engaged, accountable presence online, even in the face of aggression, goes a long way in showing prospects that you mean business, and that you’re able to take criticism.
4. What Not To Do
When you’re flooded with negative reviews, wading through them all can be hard to stomach, but it’s important that you keep your head high and not resort to drastic measures. To that end, it’s important that no matter how frustrating the negativity gets, you never, ever fake it.
Buying fake reviews (or crafting them yourself) is a hard and fast no in any industry. Plenty of companies that offer the service will swear it’s foolproof and safe, but the reality is that the FTC has proposed new regulations that would levy $50,000 fines to a business per fake review.
5. Let Someone Else Handle It
There’s no getting around it – reputation management is tough. It’s grueling work responding to every single review that comes in and only made worse when half or more of those reviews are unnecessarily hostile. Ease the burden from you and your staff and hire a team of HOA marketing professionals who know which reviews are genuine, which ones are misguided, and how to reply to all of them with grace and dignity. Contact us today to speak with a Reputation Management Specialist about how the process works and why it will change your management company’s opinion on Google and Yelp reviews.