When it comes to online reviews from customers, there are a few strategies your self-storage business should be using. First, keep in mind you’re looking for the user’s point of view: why he picked your facility, what he liked and maybe even what he didn't. Reviews tell you a lot about your operation, good or bad. The items and issues customers mention are what’s important to them. Your opinion doesn't matter—theirs does! Whether positive or negative, customer feedback can provide insight to and direction for your business.
Another factor that makes reviews so critical is they improve your search ranking. Google has switched its algorithm to weight qualified reviews for better placement on its map pack. This should also provide better search results.
With these points in mind, here are several key tactics to follow when trying to leverage online reviews:
Respond. Whether a review is good or bad, always strive to respond within 24 hours. This shows a level of engagement customers want to see, especially if they’re “blasting” you on Google or other platforms.
Use keywords in your responses. When marketing specific aspects of your business (24-hour access, climate-controlled units, rental trucks, etc.), incorporate them. This not only aids future Web searches, it can help prospects learn about amenities they might not otherwise notice.
Showcase your strengths. If customer reviews frequently and positively mention a particular facility manager, showcase that person at open houses, in company videos, etc. If people mention how clean your facility is, highlight that bright spot through photos and maybe even a 360-degree video tour.
Quality and quantity are key. Think about your tendencies. A 4.7 average rating with only three reviews isn’t nearly as credible as an average 4.4 rating with 85 reviews.
Be careful about incentives. Never offer to compensate a reviewer to change or submit a review. If Google catches on, you’ll hate life.
Harvest reviews. Collect the feedback you receive online and never underestimate its value, even if it’s negative.
Address negative reviews head-on. While positive reviews are easy to address, how you deal with negative comments is key. Interestingly, studies have shown that 30 percent of the negative reviews are submitted by competitors. Be ready for this. I trust that those reading this blog wouldn't stoop to this level. I believe in karma … So should you!
If a review is categorically untrue and you can’t confirm the reviewer was or is a tenant, say it (tactfully) in your response. For example: “Mr. Doe, we’re sorry about your negative experience. We don’t show a record of you ever being a tenant at our location. As you can see, we receive many great reviews about our property and services. Please give me a call at [number], so we can find out where you rented and perhaps convince you to do business with us.” Either the person won't respond or he’ll call, in which case you can soothe him over and perhaps get him to amend his review. Either way, it’s a win-win!
Remember, whether positive or negative, your online customer reviews can be leveraged to strategically boost visibility, promote messaging and engage your audience.
Brian Byrd is chief operating officer for Landvest Management, which has managed self-storage assets for owners since 1985. He has more than two decades of multi-property management experience. In the self-storage community, he’s also a national speaker, author, trainer and sales coach. To reach him, call 800.635.3130; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.