• News storyhighlights the risks of obtaining and creating fake reviews
  • We go through online etiquette and look how to manage reviews

The New Year has started where the old one finished off. Property Management companies in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This time the Te Aro branch of Quinovic is back in the news following revelations that many of the reviews online are fake. Stuff.co.nz journalist Dileepa Fonseka released the story on the 20th of January and many individuals working for Quinovic franchises up and down the country must have thought ‘not again!’ when it appeared. This branch seems to be doing their best to commit commercial Hari-kari following their terrible faux-pas with the now infamous ‘Your Tenants may hate us but you will love us’ advertising campaign. Unfortunately, it looks like they have failed to learn their lesson.

Of the nineteen Google reviews it has received, fourteen come with 5 star reviews giving them a total average of 4 stars from nineteen ratings. So far so good. But when you take a closer look, twelve of those 5 star reviews look very, very suspicious.

They have all been made within a very short time frame and each of the twelve individuals has made two reviews of the same two companies. One of them is The Te Aro branch of Quinovic and the other is for Arlington Exchange, a small pawn broker from the city of Poughkeepsie in New York State. Now this may be a pure coincidence, but what are the chances of twelve individuals having properties managed by the same company in Wellington New Zealand, whilst also dealing with the same Pawn Broker in New York state, USA?

Even Donald Trump would have a job selling that story!

One must feel sorry for the many good people who work under the Quinovic banner. Their reputation has taken an absolute pounding over the last few months through the actions of one branch. One wonders how much more the powers that be will tolerate such behaviour from a rogue branch.

The Importance of the Review

Many companies fight hard to get as many reviews as possible. No problems with this, it just has to be done in an ethical way. The consequences of doing it wrong can be dire and the negative headlines could be the least of your worries if found guilty of breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Reviews on Google and Facebook have been hot topic in our industry for some years now as the world has moved from print advertising and Yellow Pages to the digital platform. It makes commercial sense to obtain as many positive reviews as you can as at some stage you will get the inevitable complaint and sometimes this happens when you have done nothing wrong. As an example, a tenant may have not had their lease extended due to a variety of reasons such as noise, antisocial behaviour or rent arrears. The easy way to get back at them is to slam the Property Manager on Google. ‘That’ll teach ‘em!’

Unfortunately it comes with the territory as in an industry that deals with the amount of conflict that we do, getting a 1 star review will happen at some stage as we live in a society of keyboard warriors and trolls.

Getting plenty of positive reviews will also help search engine optimisation or SEO as it is more commonly known. In an increasingly competitive market, everyone seems to be scrambling for a strong Google ranking and companies will spend thousands of marketing dollars using SEO companies to help boost their rankings on Google. Some will use Google AdWords but organic SEO is by far and away the most productive.

There is a saying that I have heard and it is probably very true, if you want to hide something, put it on page two of Google as no one goes there.

This is where the reviews also play their part. In many of the training and consulting sessions that we do up and down the country, we encourage clients to obtain reviews. This is by asking consumers whether they be tenants, landlords or anyone who has had a positive interaction with the company. Some do this really well with amazing success rates and this is just by simply asking people to review and making it easy for them to do so.

There are also companies that help businesses obtain and manage reviews such as Trustpilot by helping businesses collect customer reviews, display them in search, and drive more traffic. So, it does make real commercial sense to obtain as many good reviews as possible. Disappointingly however, some companies will get this wrong whether this is intentionally or unintentionally so. They could be utterly oblivious that someone has done something foolish. As we have recently seen, the consequences that may befall them could be catastrophic, whether you are large or small.

I have no doubt that many companies will now be reviewing what is being said online about them and developing policies around such conduct and behaviour.

Keep them real

When the news about the ‘Fake Reviews’ broke this week, Bindi Norwell, CEO of REINZ made the comment that by doing a fake review, you could be breaching the Fair Trading Act. She is right!

Section 9 of the Fair Trading Act states that ‘no person shall, in trade, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive’. By obtaining a fake review you could be exposing yourself to a fine of up to $200,000 and the company could be exposed to the amount of $600,000. Many individuals who work in Property Management companies will be oblivious to this as will many consultants who advise their clients to do this. They may well be doing a review as a favour yet they could be exposing themselves to a serious breach that could put their careers and the companies future at risk.

So, we have decided to give you our recommendations in dealing with Google reviews and further advice as to how to behave on social media.

The Real iQ guide to dealing with Google Reviews and Feedback on Social Media

  • Develop an online review policy: Whether you are an organisation that is large or small, it is increasingly important to police what is being said about your company online. Once a review has been placed and it either looks suspicious or is negative, ensure that senior members of your management team are made aware and ensure you follow your company policy.
  • Ensure your staff are transparent when they review the business: You would be amazed how many staff members review the companies that they work for with a 5 star review and don’t add any wording to go along with the review – or rave about the company and don’t declare they work there. If your team members want to place a review best practice is to convey that they work for that company in the wording. There is certainly nothing wrong with saying that they love working for a company if that is the case – especially as property management superstars will be googling your business prior to applying for any future positions.
  • Make it easy for them to review you: There is nothing wrong with asking for reviews, particularly if you are doing an excellent job. Many people, particularly the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation which own many of the property that is being managed will be unsure how to leave a review. Make it easy for them to do so. A banner on your email signature, a link in a newsletter or even on your digital statement that you send them are great ways to get more engagement and more reviews. One office I have worked with have an iPad at reception where the consumer can leave a simple review when they come into the office. Simple, cost effective and engaging.
  • Too busy, get professional help: If you are too busy or do not know where to start, it may be worth getting companies to help obtain feedback for you. Trustpilot is one of the those companies that you can use.
  • Be careful in reviewing other companies: This has been done by a number of companies and in principal, I have no problem with this so long as you follow some strict guidelines.
    • Explain who you are and what you do
    • Explain your relationship with that company. If you are a referral partner, say so.
    • Explain openly and honestly why you are recommending them.
    • Do not pretend that you have used their service when you haven’t.
  • Respond to all reviews, good and especially the bad: It is imperative that you respond to feedback, particularly bad comments but there is a way to do so. Too often, we get rapped up in the emotion and feel as though we are being attacked, sometimes unfairly so. The best way to deal with bad reviews is as follows.
    • Review what happened, you should be aware of the issue. Is it a tenant or a landlord and are we at fault?
    • How serious is it? Once you know what happened and who they are, look at the scale of the complaint. It could be someone just venting because they missed out on a property, it could be a landlord with a more serious matter.
    • Decide on a response. It may be easier to contact the individual directly to see what you can do to resolve the situation and put things right. If you can do this, only ask them to remove the review once you have rectified the situation. Remember that you cannot make them take it down and if they refuse, accept it.
    • Write your response carefully. Do not attack them publicly, this is highly unprofessional. If there is a genuine mistake and you acknowledge this publicly, most reasonable people will accept this. We are all human and we have all made mistakes.
    • Thank them. Whether it is good or bad, thank them as they have given you an opportunity to learn. As Bill Gates said ‘your most unhappy customers are your greatest form of learning’.
    • Learn from it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up after a bad review. Yes, it hurts and if it is your business or it is aimed at you , naturally you will take it personally. However, so long as a lesson is learned in the long term it will benefit you. You cannot change the past, but the past can influence how you may act in the future.
    Probably one of my favourite responses to a bad Property Management review. A great response putting humour into a rather embarrassing situation. Any reasonable person will be able to make light of what has happened. However, without the response from the owner, who knows what conclusions the public would have come up with.

    What about Facebook and Social Media?

    Facebook is an other source of reviews and recommendations. I have to admit I am less and less a fan of social media and in particular Facebook, but that is a different discussion for a different time.

    However, at least with Facebook you can have some control over what is being posted and said but once something has been shared, it is out there. The reviews that a business receives on Facebook has now changed and they are now called recommendations. A Facebook page rating is based on a number of factors. These include recommendations, likes, and shares. You again, have to be careful as to what you put onto your Facebook page and your company should have a social media policy. You need to develop engagement yet in Property Management, the trolls are increasingly out in force and any wrong type of comment made on Facebook could be met with a barrage of abuse.

    Also you have to be aware if any of your team do something unethical on Facebook. It is very common to see these posts shared and screenshots of the posting taken and then recycled. Once it is out there, its out there!

    Facebook makes changes

    You will see this new update when you visit a company Facebook page. It is well worth having a look at how things have changed.

    Facebook has recently made changes to how your clients can review you. They now have a tab asking if you would recommend this business. You click yes and then type in the comments that you want to make. If there are any poor reviews, you can respond and also ask that they be taken down.

    My view is that Facebook and Instagram should still be a platform to promote company values and culture. Share what your team are up to, what community work you do and educate your potential consumers about all types of things that may help them.

    I see too many Facebook pages that are truly boring with nothing about what the team are up to and little online engagement. They use it as a tool to promote properties but you will get little traction from this if consumers are not engaging with your page. Use it to promote properties but do not overkill this and certainly not every post. Also, look to engage with any feedback you receive through your Facebook and Instagram pages.

    Also, use LinkedIn. This is my favourite social media platform and I find many interesting articles on there. It is an under-utilised place to seek endorsements from fellow professionals and you don’t get the same negative trolls that are on Facebook.

    Who gets the most reviews?

    Some companies do a fantastic job of getting reviews and I certainly would not discourage them from stopping what they are doing so long as they are doing this in a professional and ethical way. We have done some research to see which companies across New Zealand get the most reviews. Here is our table of the top twenty Property Management companies who get the most reviews. A1 Property Managers in Christchurch get a staggering 283 reviews while we found 8 Property Management companies that got more than 100 reviews on Google.

    We have researched the top twenty companies who have obtained the most reviews. If you think you should be on this list let us know!

    Its just not cricket

    Like the Australian Cricket team, the temptation to tamper is too great for some. Fake reviews like ball tampering are simply not cricket!

    The recent stories will certainly make some people within our industry stop and think before they give a review to a fellow Property Management professional. I have likened this to the scandal that arose around the Australian Cricket Team after they tampered with the ball using sandpaper against South Africa. If you are not a cricket lover, this is a big no no! We all looked shocked and disgusted at what they did, but the reality is, they are probably not the first cricket team to tamper with the ball and cheat.

    The same can be said for the Te Aro branch of Quinovic who have gone too far. It was such a blatant breach that they were inevitability going to get caught especially after the recent bad publicity they have had. It was a case of desperation and whomever is responsible for these fake reviews should be marched out of the building and hopefully, out of our industry. Yet some of us would have at some stage, probably unknowingly and innocently reviewed someone as a favour to help them with their ratings.

    Now, I suspect that many individuals and companies will be looking at their reviews to ensure that they are all legitimate and honest. So my advice to you is this. If you have given a fake reviews or solicited them do what you can to remove them, because fake reviews are simply not cricket!

    David Faulkner