The Art of Turning Resident Complaints into Branding Gold Mines

Written by Josh Grillo

If it’s true that 97% of customers who are unhappy with a product or service do not voice their complaints directly to the company responsible, then there’s a very likely chance YOU have some unhappy renters silently sulking in your apartment community.

The problem: They’re not really being silent about their grievances.

They’re venting to their friends, family, co-workers, classmates, and maybe even to their neighbors. In today’s digital world, that means they’re also voicing their complaints online to a much larger audience through social media and rating sites like Yelp.

As a manager of an apartment community, dealing with challenging complaints can feel taxing, but it’s better for you to know what’s bothering your renters rather than being left in the dark thinking all is good in the hood. If you don’t hear about their complaints, you can’t do damage control. Instead, imagine the positive impact you can have on their experience if you have an opportunity to directly address what’s plaguing them.

Let’s start by examining the top three reasons renters don’t complain.

Reason #1 – Complaining is a hassle.

If submitting a complaint to your leasing office is more difficult than going through the DMV, you may need to rethink your process for accepting feedback from renters. Renters won’t bother to take the time to offer feedback if there are too many obstacles between them and management. Instead, they’ll head to social media to express their frustration about the problem.

There should be an easy process for your renters to offer feedback or submit a complaint. If they feel like they have to wait long periods of time or jump over hurdles to get a response from you, they’re probably going to keep their complaints to themselves – and their friends.

Reason #2 – Complaining is awkward.

Some renters may feel uncomfortable coming forward to complain about a noisy neighbor, faulty appliance or hardware, or unkept pool because they’re afraid doing so will make future interactions with you or your staff feel awkward.

Take note of how you and your staff come across to others. Do you give others the impression that you are annoyed or upset when they present issues that need to be fixed? Be aware of how you look and sound to ensure you are not making complaints feel unwelcome.

Reason #3 -Management doesn’t care.

If renters think that nothing will be done as a result of their complaint, then they will not take the time to voice concerns or problems to you. But, here’s what happens: The problem persists. Renters don’t complain, so the problem doesn’t get fixed. The problem doesn’t get fixed, so they continue to be angry, tell their friends, and possibly begin searching for another apartment community.

It may be true that you have some renters in your apartment community who are choosing to stay silent about their concerns or issues.

However, here’s an important fact: All renters want their issues addressed and resolved quickly. Once you make a commitment to proactively welcome feedback from your apartment community, you will begin to create opportunities to turn unhappy renters into advocates for your community.


#1 – Make communicating simple

ResidentCommunication1Establish a seamless process for renters to offer their input. There are simple online platforms and mobile applications renters can use to submit maintenance requests and provide feedback, such as online forums, integrated ratings and reviews, net promoter scores, and comment forms.


#2 – Listen, then respond

ResidentRetention3Treat your renters’ feedback as unearthed nuggets of gold. You’ve asked for their feedback, they’ve taken the time to provide input about their experiences, and now it’s time to show your renters that you are listening and being responsive. Use their insights to drive your management. Remember, the more you respond, the more they will give feedback. The more feedback they give, the more business gold you will have in hand!


#3 – Build community

ResidentRetention4Is your staff building relationships with your renters? Establish clear policies and provide frequent training on customer service best practices to help your staff listen and engage with your apartment community. Be sure to schedule frequent community events – events provide great opportunities for staff to connect with your renters and get to know what matters most to them.


#4 – Be empathetic

ResidentRetention5Set the expectation that your staff will always show empathy and understanding to get to the root of what’s really going on with renters. Put yourself in your renter’s shoes and imagine how you would react if your toilet wasn’t working properly. Renters want to feel like they’re being heard and that management will quickly address any issues.


#5 – Say Thank You

ResidentThankYou6If there’s one key lesson I learned in preschool, it is to always remember to say Thank You.

When your renters take the time to leave feedback or come forward with an issue, always follow-up — whether their feedback was good or bad. Taking the time to let them know how much you appreciate their input will show them that you’ve heard them and that you do really welcome feedback.

If they came to you with a complaint, specify what you are doing to resolve the issue and to prevent it from happening again in the future.

What will you do now to engage your silent renters?

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