By Nick Nichols
Like it or not, your potential self-storage tenants are using online reviews to decide whether or not to rent from you. Reviews at sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local, Insider Pages and Merchant Circle can steer potential tenants toward or away from your facility. Google+ Local reviews weigh heavily in determining if your facility will be in the Google 7-Pack listings, which are the “balloon” listings that appear prominently when someone searches for self-storage in your area.
If you have no reviews, few reviews or too many negative reviews, people are likely to skip your facility in favor of a well-reviewed one. Even if you don’t look at these reviews, you can bet the success of your business that your potential tenants will.
Monitoring Your Online Reputation
The first step in monitoring your online reputation is to go to Google, Yahoo and Bing and search for your facility name. See what comes up on the first three pages, then click on the resulting links to see what’s being said about you. Make a list of all the websites that reference your facility. Set up accounts at all the review sites that refer to you.
Next, do the same for “<your facility name> reviews.” This should render more actual review listings. Note the default search settings for Google, Yahoo and Bing use predictive search technology to suggest more specific search queries, such as adding “reviews” after the name of certain businesses. The more people who use “reviews” after a business name, the more likely the search engines are to suggest “reviews” as a search modifier. This means it’s inevitable that the word “reviews” will be a suggestion after your facility name at some point.
A handy way to monitor your online reputation is to use Google Alerts. Go to Google.com/alerts and create an alert for your facility name in quotation marks. (You’ll need a free Google account.) Start with “all results,” “once a day.” See if anything is being said about your business. You might also set up alerts for your management company (if you use one), key employees and major competitors. These may come in handy as well.
What to Do About Negative Reviews
First, take a deep breath and try not to take it too personally. No business can please all people all the time.
Second, most negative reviews are just an opinion. Hopefully, they don't represent a fundamental flaw in your customer-service policies. But if you see a recurring pattern in negative reviews, take action immediately to correct the cause of the problem.
Some review sites offer rebuttal opportunities and others don’t. Yelp is one site that lets business owners comment on reviews. The key is to make a rebuttal empathetic and professional. For example:“We appreciate <name> taking the time to write a review about us. We are sorry that he/she had a negative experience. We have taken steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again and would like to invite <name> back in for a free month’s rent.” Other sites don’t allow owner responses, so the only action you can take is to get more positive reviews.