April 17, 2019
An apartment complex can be the most well-run place around, with a boatload of great amenities, reasonable rent and an ideal location near entertainment and employment centers. However, a handful of one-and two-star reviews online can ruin the complex’s reputation. These are trolls, and can consist of current and former community residents, as well as imposters that have no connection with the complex.
Gables Residential’s Kevin Patterson defines a troll as “A person who stirs the pot via the internet to distract or cause angst.” Trolls deliver posts that are either incorrect or outrageous, to generate some kind of a response, he added. An article in the National Apartment Association’s UNITS Magazine noted that trolls typically will write negative reviews about a property for the following reasons:
- Perception they’ve been wronged
- Non-response or communication about an original review or complaint
- Unreasonable demands
Adding to the problem is that trolls are able to say what they want, confident in keyboard anonymity. Avoiding trolls, or ignoring them, is not feasible. Rather, the following strategies can help deal with trolls and false reviews:
- Get the facts. Obtain facts about the complaint, then craft a well-informed response. To do so, management should inquire about the reviewer’s status (prospective tenant, current or former resident, guest, or none of these). The reviewer’s claims should be verified, and the reviewer should be reached out to, in an attempt to offer a resolution.
- Learn who the reviewer is. It could be that said reviewer doesn’t even live at the property. Maintenance records and other information can be used to trace the reviewer’s relationship (or lack of one) to the community. Either way, it’s important to respond to the reviewer’s comments politely, and with contact information, which puts the ball in the reviewer’s court.
- Find a permanent solution. If what a critic says is true, be honest about it, fix the problem, then own up to it. This is especially the case if the reviewer’s concerns are those echoed by other residents. In such a case, the problem should be brought to the attention of higher-level management, with a permanent solution found.
- Ignore reviewers, if necessary. Even when management has done what it can to diffuse a situation, someone might continue to troll a property, with the goal of continuing a public argument. If this is the case, it might be best to ignore the troll. Engaging in such an argument could reflect poorly on the apartment complex.
- Establish a company policy for dealing with trolls. A well-defined policy needs to be in place that will include what, exactly, constitutes a troll; who, within management, should receive the escalated reviews; what contact information to include in the responses and how/when legal counsel should be brought into the situation.
To summarize, trolls are a fact of life when it comes to apartment management. However, what can counteract negative reviews is a continued focus on customer service. Noted Ryan Sundling with Cardinal Group: “If we succeed in crafting a remarkable living experience, real organic reviews will come. This is the most powerful tool in combating any trolls and fake reviews.”
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Amy Sorter