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Reviews Aren’t Just For Restaurants: How A Property Manager Boosted Its Online Reputation

"When we've created a happy resident environment, it can be broadcast to different channels to help improve our overall online presence," says Lincoln Property's Sheri Killingsworth.

Lincoln Property Company, a national home and business real estate firm with 500 communities within its network, has seen the traditional apartment search process go from word-of-mouth to mostly being driven by online reviews and social media.

In other words, real estate has a lot in common with restaurants — and pretty much every business — in driving new customers.

The real estate service company was struggling to manage all the customer reviews of its multi-family housing. As a result, its search rankings were slipping.

Lincoln Property first tapped a reputation management company in 2012. While things improved, its strategy nevertheless suffered from a gap when it came to social media listening/responding and online presence management.

Last year, Lincoln Property turned to Chatmeter, an online presence and reviews management platform.

In a matter of weeks, Lincoln Property’s total review quantity rose 71 percent with a 277 percent increase in the number of reviews posted on Google and a 63 percent increase on Yelp.

The company’s response rate to resident and prospect reviews also improved, growing by 212 percent. In 2016 alone, Lincoln responded to 50 percent of its total reviews received across sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook and Apartment Ratings.

To get a sense of how the company boosted Lincoln Property’s online engagement, we checked in with Sheri Killingsworth, the real estate service provider’s VP of Marketing and Communications, and the local marketing company’s CEO and founder Collin Holmes.

Had Lincoln Property ever worked with an online reputation and reviews management provider before?

Sheri Killingsworth: Yes, we initially worked with ReviewPush for reputation management.

How did Lincoln Property first approach the company?

Collin Holmes: Lincoln Property had been using a review monitoring software since 2012 which worked fine for simply monitoring their reviews. However, it did not give them the capability to manage their complete online presence. They needed a more robust tool that would also allow them to manage the constant stream of social media content, analyze the sentiment behind customer reviews and comments and generate actionable data that could help properties make real improvements.

How/why did Lincoln choose to work with them?

SK: We chose them because of the platform’s ability to do more than aggregate reviews. It was a much more robust system and gave us better information with regards to our overall online presence and where we were missing the boat. It was also incredibly advantageous for us to move over to them because of the support and customer service they offered. It was imperative that we partner with a company that could help with new set-ups, training, troubleshooting, reporting and more.

What were Lincoln Property’s initial goals before and after?

SK: Our initial goal was pretty simple: get everyone on the platform and get them using it. After we accomplished that and the teams were acclimated to the platform, it was much easier to outline expectations and put a strategic reputation management and social listening plan in place for our communities.

CH: Lincoln Property’s main goal was to become more responsive towards their residents. They were receiving a massive amount of reviews for each property, both good and bad, and in order to respond properly, they needed to understand what their residents really wanted. Through sentiment analysis and engaging with customers online, they were able to dig deeper to understand what their residents were saying and learn how they could improve the living experience. Along with becoming more responsive, they also strived to increase the overall quantity and quality of their reviews and effectively manage their online presence to increase visibility in the local search results for all of their properties.

Lincoln’s goals evolved by establishing efficient ways to manage the influx of reviews. They wanted to become proactive with their reputation management by staying aware of all reviews and the events occurring at each individual location. In order to do so, they utilized our daily email alerts. These alerts supply the property managers with all reviews that come in, so that they can then talk to any additional people about the incident, collect information and work with a regional manager on a proposed response.

How did Lincoln Property view the challenges in improving its reviews and gaining insights from its online presence?

SK: Improving our ratings and reviews would only come with providing superior customer service, creating relationships, and building a sense of community among our residents. When those key factors are in place, asking residents to tell us about their experience via Yelp, Google, or Facebook becomes much easier.

Taking a step back and looking at the entire resident experience, from move-in to move-out, has been imperative in fine tuning our programs and services we put in place. When we’ve created a happy resident environment, it can be broadcast to different channels to help improve our overall online presence.

What were the first steps you took when taking on Lincoln Property as a client?

CH: The first step we always start with is assigning a Customer Success Manager who is Lincoln’s main point of contact and their consultant for everything they could want to know about Local SEO and reputation management. The Customer Success Manager then uploaded Lincoln’s properties onto our platform for monitoring and set up the property managers with logins.

Our platform has excellent enterprise capabilities which allow a hierarchy of users, for example, the property managers are given permissions to view their properties while the regional managers are set up with their different groups of properties that they manage.

Once the dashboard was set up, our CSM then trained the entire staff on the usage of the platform and provided the managers with materials to continue training all property managers.

We provided roll up and roll down reporting capabilities to help establish awareness and proactivity through the whole company.

Finally, we analyzed data pulled from our platform and set benchmarks for what a great property looks like so that managers can analyze each location and target specific improvements that are needed.

What insights and advice did you provide?

CH: We provided Lincoln Property with an efficient and effective way to manage their reviews, listings, media, and rankings through our dashboard that kept all employees throughout the company accountable. Most importantly, we educated the company on the awareness and importance of multi-family properties’ online reputations and visibility, and demonstrated the impacts of improving their visibility.

In terms of the results (71 percent overall review quality increase, 212 percent improvement in response rate), can you put those numbers in context and explain how you helped drive those numbers?

CH: Lincoln Property had access to reviews posted on major review sites directly from their dashboard, as well as daily alerts on new reviews for each individual location. This allows Lincoln’s property managers to instantly react to changes occurring online and manage interactions with residents to help ensure that they are positive occurrences.

Is there a substantive difference in the way reviews and online reputation are managed when it comes to a real estate client as opposed to a restaurant or retailer or contractor?

CH: Being in the multi-family property management industry, feedback in the form of reviews can be highly sensitive compared to a local restaurant or retailer. The reviews that come in could be talking about mold growing in an apartment, a bug problem, or other important crises, which are drastically bigger issues than a meal arriving to the table cold. After all, they are dealing with people in their homes.

Lincoln is in an extremely competitive industry where people are conducting huge amounts of research before deciding on where they want to live. The reviews, media and online reputation of each property can determine whether or not the company will acquire and retain customers worth upwards of $10,000 a year.”

How has Lincoln Property’s local marketing evolved? 

SK: We continually utilize the platform to its fullest extent and try to find new ways to drive the message that reputation management is imperative, but before that can even be addressed, we have to look at the resident experience.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.