While the Internet offers several opportunities for multifamily and apartment marketing, it also creates some unique challenges. As we discussed, the Internet is quickly becoming the new store front as multifamily properties are increasingly interacting with current and prospective residents through social media. These changes amplify word of mouth, which can be both powerfully effective and dangerous depending on how multifamily properties approach it.
The Power of Word of Mouth
Word of mouth has always been a dynamic force in marketing, even before the advent of the Internet. When you generate positive, organic word of mouth, you’re no longer advocating for yourself, but your residents are advocating for you.
The Internet allows word-of-mouth communication to spread easier than ever, yet the same is true for “the positive” as it is “the negative.” Throughout the multifamily industry, negative commentary from residents is commonly found across social media, including review sites like Yelp or Google business pages. Residents (particularly millennials) become frustrated with maintenance issues or a poor customer service experience, and they express those feelings through social media. The way a multifamily property responds will ultimately determine how a negative comment affects your business.
Need proof of the power of word of mouth? There’s a textbook example in the marketing world, which was at the expense of United Airlines…
A Case Study: The Dangers
When a United Airlines customer (Dave) arrived at his destination, he found that his guitar was broken by careless baggage handlers. Not only did United Airlines refuse compensation, they also refused an apology and started ignoring Dave’s communications all together. One angry customer — what was the worst that could happen?
Dave was a musician, and he decided to write a song about how “United Breaks Guitars.” He filmed himself singing and posted it on YouTube. The video garnered millions of views and is now a classic example of how a negative experience turned into costly negative word of mouth. United Airlines spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in crisis communications trying to fix their customer service faux pas (to little avail). This example serves as a warning to all industries, who are beginning to see their customer interactions move online. Social media is a powerful tool, not to be ignored.
Lucky for multifamily properties, the rules for interacting online with residents are simple: always respond.
If we haven’t sold you on a customer-centric approach to digital marketing, then here’s our final pitch. The business world is changing, and those multifamily properties that refuse to change with it will find themselves falling by the wayside. As the Internet becomes the main platform for resident interaction, the two most important rules are:
- Always respond.
- Put the resident first.
Bonnie Spinks (Pegasus Residential) tells her property managers to approach every negative comment as an opportunity for a positive interaction.
“If a resident expresses a complaint, then that’s an opportunity for us to demonstrate a rapid response and good customer service,” Bonnie said. “I tell my property managers not to be afraid of feedback. We welcome it. We ask our residents to post reviews. Our goal is to keep all channels of communication open.”
Negative feedback, left unanswered, has the power to turn into negative word of mouth. When a property responds, not only does it demonstrate a commitment to that resident relationship, but it demonstrates a standard of customer service for any prospective resident who might be flipping through your property reviews.
While it’s easy to see the potential danger of negative reviews, Bonnie emphasizes the importance of responding to all comments and reviews — even the positive ones.
“When it comes to positive feedback, I tell our property managers that it’s like receiving a compliment,” Bonnie says. “When someone pays you a compliment, you don’t just stand there. You say thank you! You respond. The same is true for social media.”
The bottom line: Business communication is changing and multifamily is not exempt. The best way to harness word of mouth is to listen, respond, and improve. Don’t be the United Airlines of multifamily properties.