I’ve heard it said that a happy resident won’t share their experience, but an angry one will, and with at least ten people. I think that’s wrong, but not because I don’t think people complain. Nope, from my experience, these days that angry resident is going to tell everyone and their brother about their bad experience. All they need is an internet connection.
If you’re a park owner, you need to remember two things: One, people love to complain; and two, you need to ask yourself, “Do I need online reputation management to control it?” Otherwise, those less than happy tenant reviews for your mobile home park are going to be the only ones potential residents hear from when they’re looking for info on your park.
The biggest mistake I see MHP owners make is not being aware of that reputation at all. You might not be internet savvy, but you don’t have to be. You do need to accept that social media is going to impact your location, though, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Why You May Need Online Reputation Management for Your Mobile Home Park
A while back, I took over a park in Portland that had a pretty high turnover rate. I decided to check out its online reputation. There were only about eight reviews that I could find, but a couple of bad ones really skewed the overall results, tanking the property rating. Anyone who looked up that park would see an overall two-star rating, and that was a problem.
So what did I do? I looked at the specific complaints in the reviews, and then I fixed those problems that the owner should have fixed when he was selling his park. When you get a bad review online, it’s probably going to be about one of the following issues:
- Non-responsive management: In about 90% of the online complaints I see, your problem isn’t your park; it’s your manager, aka your boots on the ground. If tenants aren’t getting responses from management when they have a problem, they’re going to take that complaint online where they feel like they will be heard.
- Park maintenance issues: Cracked parking lots, amenities in disrepair, and overgrown landscaping won’t just impact your park’s curb appeal, they’ll hurt your online reputation. This can kill your mobile home park’s value if you’re attempting to sell it. This is especially bad if your tenant can post photos as evidence—and they will.
- Issues with other tenants: If you have troublemaker tenants in your park, it’s up to you to resolve those issues. Tenants breaking the rules can have a domino effect if it goes unchecked. If John Doe sees Joe Smith breaking the rules, and no one does anything about it, John’s going to think it’s fine for him to break the rules too.
- Spurned applicants: Sometimes, the reviews you get on your park aren’t going to come from tenants, but instead from someone who was refused tenancy. Take those reviews with a grain of salt. You can’t rent to everyone, and you’re not going to please everyone.
How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews and Comments About Your MHP
You need to worry about solutions, not talking points. Think of it this way. You have a chair in your office, and every time a customer walks in who isn’t paying attention, they hit their shin on it. Now, are you going to spend an hour arguing with the customer about how it’s not your fault and they should watch where they’re going, or are you just going to move the chair? You’re going to move the chair. It’s much easier to fix a problem than fight about it, especially when that problem isn’t a big deal.
Responding to reviews is tricky because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Don’t respond to a bad review and you might look like you don’t care. Respond, and you draw attention to it. Either way, it’s your choice, but keep the following in mind:
- Don’t get into a flame war: Keep your responses professional and moderate. If you respond angrily and act unprofessionally, you’re just going to give credence to the bad review.
- Avoid getting personal: Even if you’re 100% sure of who is behind the bad review, don’t share any personal information to prove your case.
- Trust that people are smart enough to think for themselves: You don’t need to respond to a review that’s completely baseless, as people who read it are going to think it’s baseless too.
- Provide follow-up information if you’ve made changes: If someone’s posted a review complaining about the landscaping or issues with maintenance, respond with information on what you’ve done to fix the problems.
- Be prompt: Do not go through all your old reviews and respond to them two or three years down the line. Respond to the recent reviews and leave the old ones alone.
- Don’t take it personally: This one is hard if you’re emotionally tied to your park. Just remember, it’s also a business. Don’t take the review as a critique of you personally. It’s just a critique of your business, and every business gets them.
Really, I don’t bother to respond to reviews. Instead, I look at the numbers. If my overall rating is fine, I’m not going to stir the pot. Let people say what they want to say. Or, give them a better place to say it.
Dealing with Complainers, aka Online Reputation Management
A lot of people turn to the internet to vent. We all know an internet tough guy who is nice in person, then turns into a grump online. There’s one good way to avoid having your business attacked by one of these individuals: Give them another place to air their complaints.
I don’t mean a phone number, unless you want to field calls constantly from people who blame you for everything from a crack in the parking lot to bad weather. Instead, give them a place to issue complaints privately, that you can check on a regular basis. Consider offering a ‘complaints and suggestions’ box where your tenants can submit ideas or bring up a negative experience without sharing it with the world. You can use those suggestions and complaints to make your park a better place—and keep your tenants from taking to the internet to trash your park. Just make sure you follow through with your residents when they do come to you.
Being a park owner means wearing a lot of hats, and customer service is one of them. You have to be a people person, even when those people have a complaint. You have to accept that some people consider complaining a hobby. If you’ve gotten into the mobile home park business, but find you’re not up to the challenge of handling bad reviews and unhappy tenants, I can help. I buy and operate parks and know how to improve a troubled one’s reputation. For more information, give me a call or shoot me an email.