Yelp is at the top of the list of many companies’ reasons to hate the Internet. Yelp has given an electronic soap box to everyone that feels they have been slighted or wounded in any way. It does not matter if the complaint is valid or unrealistic. If you type it, Yelp will print it.
The property management industry is one that has a huge problem where Yelp is concerned. The reasons that property managers hate Yelp include the following:
1. Yelp tends to favor small companies over large ones. Think about it. If I manage 100 homes and have about one complaint per year per 100, I will probably have one bad review on Yelp. If I am lucky, I will have none. If I manage 2000 homes, and have the same complaint ratio, I will have 20 negative reviews per year (1% of 2000). Since Yelp does not time out reviews, you might see a large company with a 1% complaint ratio with 80 negative reviews on Yelp and think twice about using them. But that would not be fair as the large company has the same complaint ratio as the small one!
2. Complainers don’t tell the truth. We research the complaints we get and are amazed at the exaggerated claims of poor service. Yelp tends not to remove negative complaints so these can pile up and make a good company look bad. It can be hard to refute claims of “bad customer service” without sounding like you are making excuses.
3. Happy people tend to use a business for what they provide and move on with their lives. They tend not to “Yelp”. Unhappy people, who do not get what they want, tend to look for ways to damage the business that denied them. In our business, we deny a large number of people who have bad credit, bad rental references, or lack of sufficient income to afford a rental. No one likes to be denied, so they blame everyone but themselves. The easiest thing to do is to “Yelp”.
4. In Property Management the messenger gets the bad reviews. Landlords hire property managers because they are good at sniffing out problem applicants, complaining tenants, and because they are business-like. Landlords do not hire pushovers. As stated in 1 and 3 above, the applicant problem tends to mushroom in a large company. Our firm rents to 60 people each and every month. We turn down a bit more than 100 each month. So we automatically have a new 100 people that don’t like us each month. On top of that, we act as the gatekeepers on maintenance issues. If a tenant is calling repeatedly for repairs, we have to investigate and bill them for issues they cause. We also have to deny some requests if the owner does not want to do the requested repair, assuming it is not a habitability or contractual issue. That policy, of figuring out who pays and if we are even going to do the repair, does not make us as likeable with tenants. Therefore, we get Yelped for doing our job. We have also gotten Yelped by Landlords that thought we did too many repairs.
5. Fake reviews abound on the Internet, including in Yelp. It is known that competitors Yelp fake reviews about their competition. It is impossible to know who to trust in this as everyone involved is anonymous.
6. Yelp is very suspect as a business model and is classified as a shakedown artist by many. Our firm has been contacted by Yelp representatives promising, for a monthly fee, to get bad reviews removed and help promote our business. This is basically what criminals do. They promise your building will not burn down if you pay them a fee. Yelp has also been known to remove good reviews. They do this because they claim that those reviewers are not “qualified”. How does one get qualified? A qualified reviewer is one who Yelps a lot. Well adjusted, realistic people, those who tend not to Yelp much, are not much help to you in getting the Yelp reviews balanced in your favor. Yelp sees to that.
In the end, it may be futile to try and win this battle. The best a property manager can do is reply to as many reviews as they can. Yelp does want your money, so you could also try paying them to help you. I have not gone that route as I keep hoping they will go out of business. Here are some websites and blogs on the subject: