Property Managers: Customer Experience Holds the Secret to Attracting Tenants

Lori Maupas
Lori Maupas, Senior Editor

Looking to fill vacancies or keep your units occupied? The secret to success lies in your online reviews.

Entrata found 94% of residents looking for an apartment read online reviews during their search.

Reviews contain information prospective tenants can’t find in your brochure — and what they read online is far more powerful than the craftiest of sales pitches. Front office staff is rude? Maintenance is slow? Roaches in the cupboards? It’s all in the reviews.

For renters, this is good news. But if you’re a property manager or owner, you’d better make sure less-than-alluring “amenities” such as pest problems or rude receptionists are promptly addressed — or suffer the consequences.

Reputation Report Shows What Matters to Tenants

Reputation.com recently compiled an analysis of online reviews and uncovered aspects of the rental experience tenants value most — and least. Our 2018 Property Management Reputation Report provides property managers systematic guidance on how they can improve the tenant experience to earn better ratings, increase occupancy and retention rates and maximize net operating income (NOI).

Our data scientists applied artificial intelligence, machine learning and sentiment analysis to the unstructured text in more than 400,000 tenant reviews from popular U.S. review sites, including ApartmentGuide.com, ApartmentRatings.com, Apartments.com, Facebook, Google and Rent.com. Our technology parsed tenant sentiment into 25 distinct categories of experience, ranging from Customer Service to Surcharges.

The good news is 86% of all reviews were 4 or 5 stars. Also, ratings on Google are up, with the average rating of all properties analyzed at 3.8. And positive comments about customer service outranked negative comments 2:1.

But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. The categories where negative perception was notably more prominent include Rent, Surcharges, Pest Control and Move In/Move Out.

What’s the lesson in all this? Make it a practice to look beyond the star rating to the unstructured review text, for deeper insights about what improves or degrades a tenant’s experience, and take action to quickly fix it.

When No Response Could be Deadly

Some phrases in reviews require instant attention — but you have to be monitoring reviews to know when you have an issue. Imagine not being aware of complaints such as these:

  • “I will not live with scorpions!” Few of us would. Make sure you have proper pest control processes in place to avoid asking tenants to cohabitate with poisonous creatures.
  • “I’ve had electrical outlets explode!” Um, that’s not safe. And you’re ultimately liable. If you see these words appear in a review, take immediate action — please!

A Cause for Concern

Although less urgent, complaints such as the following ones warrant prompt attention:

  • “MOLD! MOLD! MOLD!” That’s a phrase you don’t want to see pop up in a review. Not only will word of mold deter new tenants, it can make current ones worry, and lead to significant costs for mold removal services. Make sure your maintenance staff is on task.
  • “The ladies in the office are mean!” Front desk staff is your liaison with the public — and prospective tenants. Hire nice people for better results, and rehabilitate (or let go) those who are quick to bristle during tenant interactions.

A Pat on the Back

It’s not all bad — keeping a pulse on customer sentiment can help you identify what’s going right, what to replicate across properties and where to focus your time. Consider these common comments in reviews of the top 10% rated properties in our study:

  • “Nino was really helpful and accommodating.” Right on, Nino! Give that man a bonus, or at least acknowledge his great customer service. Rewarding employees for upholding customer experience standards keeps the good mojo going.
  • “Maintenance is exceptionally courteous and quick.” Cool, and good to know. Find out just how quick, and see where productivity can be improved even further. Make sure all of your properties strive to adhere to the benchmark.

Community Matters Most

Here’s a warm fuzzy: Our analysis of the top-rated locations revealed tenants’ desire for a close community is stronger than their affection for amenities. So if your gym has dated equipment, or your clubhouse has no pool table, don’t worry. A community BBQ or game night might be more important — and easier on your budget.

Our report uncovered lots of these and other important insights about how property managers can analyze review text to determine what’s important to tenants, and to identify problem areas in need of attention. You can read the full report here.