Think online reviews don’t affect your self-storage operation? Think again. A whopping 94% of consumers report that a negative online review has caused them to avoid a business. And 80% of consumers require a 4- or 5-star rating to fully trust a business.
With reviews on Google and Facebook (the No. 1 and No. 2 sites for online reviews) growing in leaps and bounds, it’s a mistake to underestimate the impact online reviews have on your company’s future. But while a negative review can damage your reputation and incur a real-dollar cost in lost revenue opportunities, a positive review can attract new tenants and increase the lifetime value of your existing tenants.
As a self-storage owner or operator, the key to managing online reviews involves leveraging opportunities for positive reviews, while simultaneously dampening the effect of negative reviews posted on social media and third-party review sites.
Online Reviews Affect Your Business in Several Ways
Online reviews are the digital version of word of mouth. The internet simply streamlines the word-of-mouth process. Web-based outlets essentially offer customers real-time communication vehicles that reach hundreds (or even thousands) of other consumers and create a semi-permanent record that resides online.
Whether they’re positive or negative, online reviews affect self-storage operations in several important ways:
• Trust – Consumers place more value on the experiences of other consumers than the claims you make about your operation. Online reviews may be the single most critical factor in building or losing the trust of potential self-storage customers.
• Revenue – Online reviews directly impact revenue. In fact, it’s estimated that a negative review can drive away up to 40% of potential customers or tenants.
• Retention – Customers spend much more (an additional 31%) on services from businesses that have excellent reviews. In self-storage, positive reviews incentivize tenants to remain at your facility long term and can even inspire them to purchase additional services — boosting their lifetime value.
Increase the Number of Positive Online Reviews About your Operation
To improve trust, revenue, and tenant retention, it’s important to actively promote positive online reviews about your self-storage business. Although you can’t create good reviews, you can motivate satisfied tenants to share their experiences on social media and review sites.
• Solicit reviews from your tenants. One of the best ways to increase positive reviews is to ask for them. Encourage tenants to review your operation by including explicit invitations in your marketing materials, on your website, and via social media.
• Publish positive content that encourages comments. Company blogs and social media accounts are fertile ground for publishing positive content. By enabling comments on published blogs and social media, you can generate positive reviews on channels over which you exert at least some control.
• Engage with customers on social media. Consumers appreciate brands that are willing to engage on social media. Instead of only using social media to communicate promotions and special offers, launch and participate in meaningful conversations on topics that matter to tenants.
Finally, when you receive positive online reviews, amplify them. For example, if a customer leaves a positive review on Google, you can extend its reach by responding to it and sharing it on social media.
Manage the Impact of Negative Online Reviews
In most cases, negative reviews are posted on third-party sites controlled by other people and organizations. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the impact of negative online reviews on your operation.
• Conduct an online search for negative reviews. Negative customer feedback can be difficult to hear, but it’s important to monitor your operation’s online presence by conducting periodic searches for negative reviews. Understanding what dissatisfied tenants are saying about your business is the first step toward managing negative reviews.
• Respond to every negative review. As a rule, it’s helpful to respond to every negative review — even if you believe the reviewer’s feedback is unfair or unjustified. By responding to complaints and concerns in a positive way, you earn the trust of other customers. And the right response might even win back a disgruntled tenant.
• Take tenant feedback seriously. Resist the temptation to ignore negative online reviews. Disregarding the occasional random negative review, reviewers generally offer honest insights about your operation. Take those insights seriously and use them as catalysts for improvement.
Online reviews should serve as an asset to your self-storage operation, not a liability. Many owners and operators resist online reviews because they require you to cede control to your customers. But in aggregate, reviews provide an honest assessment of your operation’s customer experience. By listening to your reviewers and acting on areas of weakness, you can implement changes that make your operation more competitive — and more profitable.