Apartmentratings.com is the National Enquirer of the apartment industry. It has given an anonymous voice to the general public to speak out against their apartment management and expose their dirty little secrets. Actually, come to think of it, I would be doing the National Enquirer a huge disservice by comparing them to an organization that doesn’t make any effort whatsoever to check it’s facts. Unless you are paying close attention to the information posted about your apartment communities, a great deal of misleading and inaccurate information may be posted about your community and, unfortunately, in some cases about your staff.
One of the worst things that a celebrity can do is respond to attacks in the media. As a celebrity, you know going into it that your character and personal life will be under scrutiny. One of the most talked about celebrities of course is Brad Pitt. There is almost always a headline about gossip from his personal life in the news. What you rarely see from Brad Pitt and a lot of big name celebrities, is a reaction, written or verbal. It’s very rare. In the cases where you do see a reaction, it tends to blow up in their face. They are misquoted or it is found out later that they were lying to cover something up.
I have found this to be true when reacting to negative reviews on Apartmentratings.com. When you respond to a review, the person who posted that review is immediately notified by email that a comment has been made. They will typically respond to your response and call you out as being associated with ownership in some way. This immediately discredits your response.
Another issue with Apartmentratings.com is that thier scoring and rating system is totally flawed. I question if there is a system to it at all other than dividing the number of bad reviews by the number of total reviews and creating a score. They do not account for the number of residents NOT complaining. They do not account for time. They do not account for the fact that an angry customer will tell more people about their experience than a happy customer will tell about theirs. I dealt with a prospect who had read a review of a 1,500 unit property on Apartmentratings and that community had received 8 negative reviews in the last year. That is just about one half of one percent of all residents. This community had a score of 34% on Apartmentratings. So, a community with upwards of 3,000 residents gets 8 complaints in one year and have a score of 34%. Take it one step further and factor in an annual turnover ratio of 50% and an average of 1.5 occupants per unit, you have an additional 1125 new residents eacy year. Over a 5 year span, you actually have approximately 6,000 customers. Hmmmm. Seems a bit unfair considering less than .00016% of residents complained over the course of 5 years. I’m not a mathmetician, so I don’t even know what you call this, but I do know it’s not a statistically significant number. I’m not saying the community deserves a 99.5 percent rating, but a 34% is obviously inaccurate. On the opposite side of that example, there is another community that has an overall rating of 98%, yet it hasn’t had a review since September of 2008 and only has 26 total reviews.
Do we really want to spend time as an industry giving credibility to a website that doesn’t seem to give us any? I’m all for customer service and feedback and like the full disclosure approach, however I feel that this scoring system may be doing just as much harm to prospective renters as good.
Here’s an example of how it could be harmful. Let’s say a prospect has limited transportation and limited income. They go to a property that is close to their work and public transportation and is the only one in the area they can afford. After they tour, they go to Apartmentratings and see a 34% score and they begin to read through complaints (some of which were probably posted by the competition). Now that prospect is second guessing living in the one community that truly best meets their needs because of a flawed scoring system.
Apartmentratings.com needs to service the prospects better and needs to show up and take part in our industry. By eliminating the scoring factor from their site and sticking with a message board and opinion/review approach, everyone would be better served. In the mean time, my recommendation is to take the Brad Pitt approach and not react. Instead, spend the time and resources you would battling with Apartmentratings.com on training your staff to follow up on service requests in a timely manner and properly handling customer service issues. Even then, your scores on Apartmentratings.com may not increase, but your resident retention will. 😉
Now, the inevitable counterpoint to my opinion is to embrace Apartmentratings.com. I’m sure some communities or management companies have tremendous success stories about their experiences and strategies on Apartmentratings.com. I hope they will share them within the comments section of the blog. If you do respond to negative or positive reviews you should never hide the fact that you represent the property. Make it crystal clear who is responding and make sure you have an intellectual response. Do not make excuses. Do not blame the resident. Do not undermine the resident’s complaint. That could result in further retaliation. You also have to commit to a high level of consistency. Encourage your happy residents to write reviews. Again, please feel free to share your success stories.