Fake reviews are becoming a growing problem within the rental housing industry. Online, it’s terribly easy to leave a fake positive or negative review, and extremely difficult to get any reviews erased. Whether the rental review is from a lying, former tenant or a professional fake reviewer, here’s why you should be responding to all of them.
REVIEWS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Let’s face it – it takes a lot for all of us to write an online review, and the primary motivator is usually negative. Your residents are no exception. From a former employee with a vendetta against your company, to an evicted tenant spreading misinformation, fake rental reviews often aim to ruin your reputation. While choosing to ignore online reviews altogether can seem like the easier choice, rental reviews are crucial to obtaining new residents.
In 2018, a study by J Turner Research, a premier multifamily housing industry research firm providing resident survey and reputation management services to the apartment industry, showed that:
- 70% of the people studied decided to visit a property with a higher reputation score.
- 73% said reviews affected their decision to rent.
- 89% said they used review sites to narrow down their search and make a final selection.
This makes responding to reviews, even the bad and downright ugly, essential to your business.
Although it’s good to set goals for yourself and your team, it’s not always about achieving that 5-star rating. People shopping for a rental don’t believe that all 5-star reviews are authentic.
YOU GAIN MORE BY RESPONDING TO FAKE RENTAL REVIEWS
While some rental websites allow you to flag and eventually remove fake reviews, the standards for removing a review are not universal. While you might get a little more leeway with Facebook reviews, Google makes it a lot more difficult to get reviews revoked. At present, Google allows business accounts to flag inappropriate reviews, but it will only be removed if it violates their review policies. In their words, “Google doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about facts, since there’s no reliable way to discern who’s right about a particular customer experience.”
So, even if your bad review is spreading some wild, easily false claims – you’re probably going to have to live with it. Things can get especially tricky if a reviewer goes by a fake name. Rather than fighting every fake review you get; you actually gain more by responding. A case study by Location3, a digital marketing agency based in Colorado, showed that businesses with the highest response rate (8.13%) saw an average conversion rate of 13.86%.
For many rental hunters, it’s more about if and how the property responds than the review itself. Depending on how you respond, you can easily invalidate a review through your response alone. Keep in mind, the fake reviewer has to convince the reader that their story is also true. If they use an obvious fake name or use bad grammar in their rental review, the believability of their review declines. Although it’s good to set goals for yourself and your team, it’s not always about achieving that 5-star rating. Potential applicants understand that no community is perfect – and might actually want to see some diverse reviews.
According to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital & Database Research Center, the ideal average star rating is actually between 4.2 and 4.5. People shopping for a rental don’t believe that all 5-star reviews are authentic. While you should always be encouraging your tenants to write an online rental review (pro tip: ask a month or two after they’re happily moved-in), expect to get some negative and fake reviews in the mix.
Rather than attempting to delete all the fake reviews your company receives, or just ignoring them, flag the ones that are the most harmful and respond professionally and openly to the rest. Remember that your responses might be one of the first things a potential applicant sees before they contact you. Cater your response more to the reader than to the reviewer.
Becky Bower is a marketer and writer that specializes in legislative trends. As Contemporary Information Corporation (CIC)’s Content Specialist, she authors in-depth guides on how to manage, grow, and scale within the rental housing industry on the CIC Blog.
NARPM Residential Resource | October/November 2019 Issue | Volume 30 | Number 10