Student Housing Business

SEP-OCT 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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SMARTER OPERATIONS September/October 2018 StudentHousingBusiness.com 82 Reputation Management Is… With so many ways to end that sentence, what is reputation management really all about? Compiled by Lynn Peisner What people are saying about your property in reviews is becoming more directly related to how well student assets perform. Reputation manage- ment is a multifaceted topic, so we asked three pros to boil it down to its most important base element. Here's what they had to say. Reputation management is the forgotten marketing tactic Many student housing companies overlook reputation management as a marketing tactic, but it's one of the most powerful marketing tools you have. Prospects are looking at what people are saying, so reviews are a natural way to market a property. We all know it's critical to respond to reviews, be they positive, neutral or negative, because that's just good customer service. But consistent responsiveness is also marketing your company and its properties by demonstrating to pros- pects that your staff is proactive. We have worked with clients on creating marketing campaigns specifically built around reputation management. We develop a fun theme, and bring reviews to life in marketing materials. These are not only written reviews, but you can take it a step further by videoing residents who are happy with the prop- erty, the staff and the amenities. Ask them why they chose the property and why they continue to live at the property. This creates connection. What's really important is that you make it real. The generation currently in student housing, and multifamily for that matter, value authenticity above all else. For example, highlight students who are in varying degree programs to talk about their program and why they chose the property as the perfect fit for their needs. If a prospect who's planning to major in that same field of interest finds that video, he or she will listen because that testimony is from a real person they can relate to. It paints a true picture of what their life at the property would look like. One of the biggest challenges that we see is that many properties strug- gle with consistently responding to reviews. If your budget allows, talk to someone who can help you with this effort. Responding to reviews really is a 24-7 activity to be responsive across all platforms. We help by also report- ing categories of those reviews monthly so that operations can see where customer service improvements need to be made. It's difficult to expect leasing agents to handle this. There is so much on their plates already, and it takes a lot of effort to close a lease. Your property staff needs to focus on welcoming guests and handling resident issues. Good reputation management helps them do their jobs even better. The easiest way to sign new leases and to increase resident retention is to focus on serving your students' needs. Then you can showcase how well you do that to the wider market. Lastly, if you have a bad rating, you need to solve it. And that doesn't always mean being responsive and proactive until you get five stars. You might have to rebrand to shift sentiment. Pay attention to why residents are unhappy, gather the intel, outline a new customer support plan, and direct operations and leasing teams on how and where to improve. This will ultimately make their jobs much easier. And be ready to promote when residents are happy with the changes. Have a mobile device ready, pull it out and ask for two lines about what they liked about an event or service. Never overlook reputation as one of your key marketing tools. JAMIE MATUSEK President, Catalyst Reputation management is a revenue driver Monitoring, engaging, and learn- ing from online review platforms is crucial to a community's success. A substantial piece of a renter's leasing journey includes detailed research of the community's online reputation across a multitude of platforms, such as Google, Yelp, Apartments.com and more. If a community has put their online reputation on the backburner and neglected resolving outstanding comments, the negative impact to rev- enue is highly correlated. In fact, Harvard Business School recently published a study that found that a one-star decrease in your ratings can result in up to a 9 percent decrease in your overall revenue. Ignoring this essential piece of a renter's online journey can have substantial consequences. Think about when you are looking for a new restaurant on Open Table or Yelp. One of the first things you do is look at the number of stars the restaurant has, directly followed by a deep dive into the individual reviews on the restaurant. If a restaurant has been rated poorly and the team has not engaged with any of the reviewers to make things right, you move onto the next option. Potential residents are doing the same exact thing, but with your product. Unfortunately, people will always be more willing to spend time writing a negative review rather than sharing a positive one. This is why owner responses are so vital to successfully managing your online reputation. Responding to negative reviews not only allows the community to make things right and offer a solution, but it also gives them the chance to tell their side of the story when a review may be riddled with bias. Responding to reviews is not only important for your online reputation, it is also a tool to help improve your SEO performance. Responding to positive reviews gives the property an opportunity to insert its community's name and tailored keywords in order to help build ranking and authority. Additionally, Google ranks loca- tions higher in their local map pack when they have more reviews. While just responding is an important factor, how you respond makes a significant impact as well. In the residential housing industry, the responses are often left to the already overwhelmed onsite staff who may or may not have been trained on how to effectively communicate in their responses, which can make the issue worse. This is why many communities are now enlisting help from their trusted marketing partners to advise them on the best way to improve their online reputation and assist them in managing the process and allow onsite to staff to focus on many of the other items they have on their plate. BILLY WILKINSON CEO, Threshold/Carve

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