Having a healthy wait-list is the goal of every property manager. Unfortunately, unhappy residents spread their discontent like wildfire – tarnishing property reputations within the community and beyond the borders.

Especially in an age with online apartment review sites and 24/7 social media engagement, property managers walk a tightrope, trying to keep all the residents happy while meeting owner expectations and goals. But, what do you do if a disgruntled tenant starts a negative campaign? Whether the complaint is justifiable or not, you can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.

Overcome Negativity with Positive Engagement

According to Steve Kraus, the Director of Product Marketing at Pega, one of the top three tools for creating a good impression is following through with promises to proactively engage your customers. As Kraus points out in his piece about creating fantastic first impressions, when you provide solutions to problems, customers reward you with their business and spread the news of your great customer service to others – opening the door to future earnings down the road.

So, the first step in overcoming negative PR is to proactively address whatever stimuli upset your current or former tenant.

Put Feet on Your Words

There is a definite correlation between positive experiences, perception and community reputation. One property management consultant recommends that once you identify the source of the problem your next step is to overcome negative comments with positive actions. The best way to convince people those negative reviews don’t accurately reflect your property is to announce positive changes you made to correct problems. Put the word out on social media sites, talk to your tenants and make a concerted effort to inform and educate the community.

Learn From Each Encounter

Make every encounter a learning experience. After each resident transaction – lease payment, maintenance request, property tour – ask for feedback. Embrace constructive criticism. You can use online surveys, email requests, text messages or property management software tools to connect with current tenants, former residents and prospects. Watch for patterns. If you see the same complaint over and over, it is a pretty good indication something needs to be changed to improve satisfaction rates.

The important thing to remember is that discovering your property strengths and weaknesses is critical to successfully overcoming a poor reputation in the community.

Asking for Outside Help

In extreme situations, property managers may consider hiring a professional reputation management team to “reboot and rebrand”. Most of the time this isn’t necessary. Hiring a property management consultant or reputation advisor to help you plan a strategic campaign is less expensive than enlisting the help of a full-service PR firm.

One reputation management strategy that many of the most successful apartment home properties use to manage their brand is engaging the services of a professional mystery shopping team. Firms such as Dallas based Ellis Partners Management Solutions offer resident surveys and mystery shopping services designed specifically for the rental market.

Combining mystery shopping services with a broad spectrum of tools like resident surveys and ongoing feedback programs is a proactive approach to reputation management.

You won’t find a quick fix for a bad reputation and nothing you do today will instantly erase a litany of negative online reviews. If you want to build an enviable reputation that leads to a healthy wait-list, take the first step. Make a commitment to create a fantastic first impression; then work on eliminating negative stimuli.