Responding to Online Apartment Reviews: The Smoke Signals of the Internet Age


One of the oldest forms of long-distance communication, smoke signals, have been used to transmit news, signal danger, and gather people to a common area. These signals were created to indicate “all is well” or “danger” or “beware.”

These days, online apartment ratings and reviews could be considered the Internet version of the smoke signal. Much like their Wild West counterpart, online apartment review sites allow current and former residents to send out communications that essentially say “all is well” or “danger” or “beware.” But instead of using a fire to send messages, these new smoke signals usually start one in the leasing office and can easily burn your brand’s online reputation.

The 3 Most Important Signals for Apartment Review Responses

But what’s great about today’s smoke signals is that property management teams have the opportunity to fire off their own messages to quickly address any issues. To strengthen your online reputation, every response to a negative review should signal these three messages:

  1. The property management team is responsive and dependable
  2. The property management team is committed to service
  3. The main goal of the property management team is a resolution

The Property Management Team is Responsive and Dependable

That’s an easy one – simply respond to EVERY review. Select someone on your team who can periodically check your email inbox for notifications of postings, monitor your review sites, and stay on top of postings made about your community. ApartmentRatings Manager Center and Google Alerts are just a couple of the tools you can use to alert you when reviews are posted. Additionally, creating a culture of responsiveness can help your team be more efficient. For example, establish a deadline for responding to posts (i.e., all posts must be responded to within one business day).

The Property Management Team is Committed to Service

During your team meetings, share with your team the latest reviews posted about your community. Is there a common theme? What are residents complaining about and also praising you for? Oftentimes, only the manager reads the apartment reviews and it is essential that every team member understands what is being said and how everyone plays a part in securing your online reputation.

When talking about reviews, ask the team what they could have done to avoid the situation from happening in the first place and what they can do to make sure it never happens again. Personalize your responses with specifics such as: “Our Lead Service Tech will be at your apartment home before 3 p.m. today to personally repair your dishwasher.”

The Main Goal of the Property Management Team is a Resolution

Image of a paper stamp that says ResolvedWhen it comes to online reviews, do you respond or react? It’s hard to avoid reacting to negative apartment reviews but it’s important to understand that residents post negative reviews AFTER attempts have been made to resolve their issues directly with you.

Positive and negative reviews are the beginning of a dialogue and the goal here is to continue the conversation offline. When leaving a response, try to present a resolution:

“Thank you for bringing to our attention the problems with trash piling up at the dumpster over the weekend. We have added a Monday morning pick up to the schedule and expect this problem to improve. Please contact me directly should you have any suggestions for further improvement.

It never hurts to ask the reviewer to post another update, this time confirming how much better the situation has become.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: The Golden Rule of Reputation Management

Unlike the fading smoke from yesteryear’s signals, online apartment reviews and your responses will be read by others for years to come. So you can’t ignore or simply blow smoke at the reviewer. This is the golden rule of online reputation management: respond strategically to negative reviews. Take advantage of the opportunity to promote your community, the commitment to service by your property management team, and all of the good that occurs on the property every day. This is your chance to not only address the complaint, but to light a fire of interest for potential apartment hunters.



Vice President of Education and Consulting, SatisFacts Research

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Lia Smith career in training, property management and marketing began in the mid 1990′s. Lia began her training career at Nextel Communications, where she was responsible for training over 1,000 Customer Care Representatives. She then embarked on a new career in property management as a Leasing Associate with Lincoln Property Company, and steadily moved up the ranks. Lia was able to merge the worlds of training and property management when in 2006 she became Director of Training and Marketing at SPM Property Management, a 14,000+ unit portfolio; this included creating SPM Academy and a Learning Management System. She also developed and managed SPM’s resident feedback program, and was responsible for providing post-survey action planning support for property teams and management. Lia has proven experience in solving training and resident retention challenges for market, affordable, senior, tax credit and student communities. These experiences have helped Lia relate to both onsite and corporate associates. Lastly, Lia has presented at key industry events such as MultifamilyPro Brainstorming on topics related to developing the operational and service skills of onsite and executive level teams. Lia Joined the SatisFacts team in 2011 as VP of Education and Consulting.

4 responses to “Responding to Online Apartment Reviews: The Smoke Signals of the Internet Age”

  1. Barbara says:

    The only site that my departing tenants leave nasty reviews is apartment ratings and they want you to pay to respond to a bad review. How do you handle that?
    Most of the bad reviews are from tenants who are being asked to leave by 30 day notice or eviction wouldn’t that be a breach of privacy to respond to a nasty post from someone and cause them to post more false statements?

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve read a book on internet reputation management, and several articles. They agreed that one SHOULD NOT RESPOND to a bad review, as that just makes the item more “active” on the review web site, so more likely to bubble UP in online searches. They advise that it is better to recruit a bunch of positive reviews to push the bad one down on the pile. We’ve explored so called “reputation management” web sites, too, but they still have you do most of the work. Not ready for prime time. Anyhow, think twice about replying to a bad review. The anonymity a reviewer has on review sites makes it very easy to abuse. It feels unfair to the Landlord.

  3. Linda says:

    I have to agree, in theory, with Dave’s comment about not responding to a bad review. I worked at a newspaper for a short time, and we were told if a mistake was printed in the newspaper, do not repeat it when you retract it … just print a correction note saying how it should have read, without saying how it read originally. Don’t know if that applies here, but it makes sense in the newspaper business. You don’t want to advertise your errors, and the more you print them, the more advertisement they get.

  4. Jennifer W. says:

    Do you need to respond to all reviews, good or bad, In order to remain fair and consistent and to adhere to Fair Housing Regulations

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