2018: Year of the User Review

By: Jeremy Lawson, Reputation Manager for Fogelman Properties

Since the dawn of digital, the user review has become increasingly important as the new word of mouth marketing and an essential driver of local search traffic. According to a recent J Turner Research study, of those of those surveyed:

70% decide to visit a property with a higher reputation score

73% said reviews affected their decision to rent

89% used review sites to narrow down their search and make a final selection

Bottom line? Reviews matter, and as a result, reputation management is a continued mainstay for the multifamily industry and the integral connection between the marketing and operations of a community. Here are five trends we can expect to see with the continued rise of the user review and need for reputation management in 2018:

1. User Reviews Will Further Impact Operational Results – In a 2017 study, Fogelman Properties compared the performance data of its top performing properties based on average user review rating and found those communities with a higher approval rating also enjoyed higher net closing ratio, lower turnover rates, fewer canceled applications, higher renewal increases and higher average rental income increases.

The impact of the user review on operational results will be an interesting metric to consider for the coming year as experts agree: reputation management should not exist in its own silo. Instead, both operational and marketing teams are now required to consider how their day-to-day online & onsite interactions with residents can pay off down the road with positive online feedback. For marketers, reviews are akin to keeping an ear to the ground as an essential educational piece of the communication cycle. On the operational end, online feedback provides an opportunity to enhance the community experience for long term retention and acquisition, provided the feedback is properly distilled, digested and added to the internal workflow.

2. Social Media Will Play a Bigger Part – Just as we build community offline through programming and amenities, property managers are doubling down online with social media as both a one-way paid marketing channel and a two-way reputation management platform. Today’s consumer craves an emotional connection to their home and a community at large. It’s the job of operators and managers to facilitate that sense of community and sow the seeds of loyalty among resident bases.

While building a social following is integral in a successful lease up, playing the long game by consistently engaging with residents and potential new residents is well worth the investment in reputation management. The properties that continue communicating long after stabilization create an opportunity to humanize the online experience, build credibility among residents and most importantly, foster loyalty among fans, followers and reviewers. Loyalty produces higher renewal rates, less turnover and eventually higher revenue.

3. Hotels Continue to Lead the Way – With more than 96% of users turning to reviews when booking hotels, no other industry is more impacted by reputation management than hospitality. For this reason, hotels lead the way in creating unique onsite to online experiences, are experts in gauging guest satisfaction and set the bar for reputation management.

For example, Hilton & Marriott are now implementing messaging strategies that make it easier for their guests to get in touch with them via SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The premise is to meet guests right where they are, on their terms and speak to them in their own dialect.

Why? Because they understand the importance of messaging to build loyalty, increase user engagement and enhance the overall experience. And what better way to continue making inroads with users than asking for a review upon arrival? With a simple text, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this hotel?” — reputation managers can identify which guests are happy and satisfied with their experience (and therefore likely to share reviews and testimonials that strengthen reputation) versus which ones aren’t.

Messaging converting to reviews is just one part of the evolving hotel landscape, but one can quickly imagine this is a direction the multifamily industry is headed with rise of concierge services coupled with the importance of user feedback.

4. In Product Development, Property Managers Define Perfection – In the last six months, the market has become increasingly more competitive and we’re now seeing seismic shifts with reputation management processes with the roll out of both new and enhanced products. Today, property managers work hand in hand with third-party providers to create one-stop-shop dashboards and customizable reporting for clients. While we’re still some ways off from achieving platform perfection, many see additional full-service integrations, such as surveys & assessments, as the next step in product design. Touch point surveys for both consumers and associates are widely popular in other industries with the benefits of; ease of use in technology, proactive approach to consumer engagement and collection of game changing data (see: Delta airline’s innovation in customer feedback).

5. The Reputation Management Process Requires…Reputation Management –When incorporating new technology for reputation management, it’s important to consider how the daily end-user will be impacted. As mentioned previously, platforms & dashboards are far from a perfect. However, they should serve as a solution rather than contribute to growing work loads of onsite teams. Surveying associates on internal platform user experiences provides an understanding of: How much time is spent learning the platform? Is it easy to use? Will it add to the daily workload or diminish it?

Furthermore, digesting the data, outlining action items and assigning responsibility in the workflow helps to ensure teams remain highly responsive and process stays seamless and solution-oriented for all.