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Property Management and Online Reviews. It is true that the media has always played a part in our lives. For those of us who are old enough to remember the nineties, “doing a Ratner” will always be synonymous with making what can only be described as a massive gaffe.
For those of who don’t know the story or are not old enough to remember it – Gerald Ratner owned an eponymous chain of stores that sold reasonably priced jewellery. When asked about his product he referred to it as “c**p” and compounded this by stating a prawn sandwich from M&S was a better buy than a pair of their earrings and would last longer. This faux pas resulted in the value of the chain plummeting by almost 500 million overnight and its almost near collapse.
It is hard to believe the effect of this throwaway comment had, simply via the television news and print media. Nevertheless, one has to consider how much worse this would be if the comment was made now in an era where social media is no longer on the periphery but a way of life. At MIH we remember life without mobile phones, (our founder was recently asked by her niece what she did with her mobile phone at school, only for her niece to be gob-smacked when hearing that this wasn’t an issue at school, as there were no mobile phones then) and we also remember being asked to provide formal referees when pitching for business.
This has surely changed with the introduction of Feefo, Trust Pilot and Google reviews. For managing agents, like any other business, we are particularly aware of the impression that we make and how this can be construed on social media.
Indeed, at every management interview we attend we are asked about our Google reviews. However, on the basis that we have 5-star reviews (at the time of writing), we are now being asked if these are genuine (we confirm they are) and are sometimes penalised because of this.
Recently we received our first adverse review, and aside from being very upset at our inability to have a “right to reply”, (not only because the customer is always right but also because of GDPR,)we were almost grateful for it. It felt that at last, we could prove that our other reviews were genuine as a bad one had been written to counterbalance the positive ones.
Unfortunately, this proof of legitimacy did not last long, as the review was subsequently taken down by the writer for what we can only assume, their own personal reasons rather than at our request. This retraction has made us think about the importance of business reviews and the impact that they have.
With this in mind, how does a potential client in any field of business (but as this is about managing agents) sort the wheat from the chafe?
When considering reviews to our collective minds and having discussed this in our offices, we feel that it is not the number of reviews or even the star rating – it is true we have one 4 star review – but the content of these reviews that need to be considered. Obviously, the emphasis should be on responsiveness, diligence, and value for money.
However, even with a bad review, thought should be given to what the person giving the review is complaining about. All too often a poor review is given on the basis that the reviewe has been disappointed by a response or they have received a late payment fee.
In terms of a disappointing response, it should be remembered that managing agents are exactly what they say they are- agents and are therefore relaying the response of the Freeholder/Board of Directors.
These in themselves are generally based on either the covenants in the Lease or what the Freeholder or Board of Directors genuinely believe is the best action for the community. In terms of a late payment fee, it should be remembered that managing agents collect service charges on behalf of the company and those who fail to pay, are actually impacting the service charge and not the agents, as other owners have to subsidise them.
In both cases, we don’t believe that it is fair to penalise the agent for acting in the best interests of the Company or on their instructions.
In one of our other blogs we referred to the need for the property manager to be resilient and in much the same way, MIH has to be too! We know that we have to accept that our decisions will often be unpopular with some owners and may lead to bad reviews but our focus will always remain on performing the right service for our clients and acting in the best interest of the management.
We believe that all MIH clients are discerning enough to recognise this and if you aren’t currently with MIH but are discerning enough to want a managing agent that can Make It Happen please do get in touch.