The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused a necessary shift in business for most onsite and corporate teams, with nearly all employees working from home unless absolutely essential. Because of this, there has been increased attention given to reviews across all industries.
Recently, Google and Yelp both explained how they will be treating reviews throughout the duration of the pandemic and we have received many questions pertaining to our stance on reviews as well. That being said, we thought it would be helpful to conduct an analysis of the recent review trends on ApartmentRatings, share the results, and explain how we plan to handle new incoming community reviews.
What Are We Seeing?
Having analyzed 10’s of thousands of reviews posted to ApartmentRatings over the past few weeks, results indicate that review volume is as steady as ever and, despite what some may have feared, we are not experiencing a huge influx of negative reviews as a result of the coronavirus. Overall, there has been very little change to average review star ratings over the past few weeks. Even more, when we looked specifically at reviews that do pertain to the virus and its impact on changes to life at renters’ communities, the majority were very positive and full of praise for management and their dedication to preparedness and communication with residents.
That being said, we understand that there is a potential for some reviews to cause damage to a community through false or unreasonable claims as a result of the coronavirus. To date, none of the reviews referring to the pandemic have accused a community of any action that would compromise their health or further transmit the virus.
What Does This Mean?
People are social distancing, onsite staff may be working from home, maintenance requests may be delayed…these are all realities with which you, and your residents, must now face each day. So how we are handling new reviews and those reviews that refer (directly or contextually) to COVID-19? Since in-person communication is limited (for good reasons) and your residents are likely staying home more than ever before, we feel it would be a disservice to discontinue reviews altogether.
It is important to remember that reviews are a safe and reliable way for residents to communicate with their community & your teams and vice versa. We encourage you to participate in these online conversations with your residents. Additionally, with so many recent positive reviews posting to ApartmentRatings from residents who are thrilled with how the current situation is being handled by their onsite teams, we feel it would be irresponsible to deny those reviews from being posted to the website as well.
What Are We Doing?
We are amplifying our review flagging and vetting process to ensure that only those appropriate, relevant, and authentic reviews remain on a community’s page.
- A new flagging option is being created specifically for reviews that refer to COVID-19. This new option will be added to our “Report a Review” parameters available very soon to all site visitors, including community & management company employees.
- Since offering onsite tours for prospects is not only unlikely, but also ill-advised right now, we are also creating a process by which all communities will be able to add a link on their community page that directs to a virtual tour of their choice. This new measure will also be made available shortly and more details will be communicated as the process is nearer to implementation.
What Can You Do?
Once the new flagging parameter is available, you should flag any new review that you feel makes inappropriate or false claims about a community or staff as a result of the pandemic. In the meantime, you should report COVID-19 related reviews using ApartmentRatings’ currently available flagging parameter label: “It contains false information”. Our Review Quality Assurance Team will be doubling down on their attentiveness to these reports and will quickly determine if the review is reasonable & appropriate and can remain on the community page, or inappropriate and should be removed.
To further help your residents – We have heard from some clients and directly from renters, that honest and frequent communication from onsite staff is highly valued and appreciated at this time. People (not just renters, but all of us) are stressed and scared and confused right now. Communication and acknowledgement is more important than ever. If you continue to communicate with your residents and with us, we will all come through this together and be better and stronger for having endured this trying time.
Please take care of yourselves, and know that we are here to help you and your residents. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Stay safe and healthy,
The ApartmentRatings & SatisFacts Team