Let’s face it. We exist in the era where everyone is online, every day, all day long. They shop online, socialize online, and do research online. And, people regularly look at customer reviews online for all sorts of products and services before making a decision to buy – even if they plan to make the purchase at a brick and mortar store! The self storage industry is no different. Customer reviews have become more and more important over time. If you aren’t setting goals to receive them, tracking them weekly and replying to every single one of them, you need to start.
This may sound overwhelming. But it really can be very simple if you have a plan in place first. It also doesn’t take as much time as you would think. We’ll first review the three most important platforms for customer reviews and how to claim or create your listings, then go over what your plan and schedule should look like and tips for responding to positive and negative reviews.
Google My Business
First of all, Google is king. We have all heard that multiple times, and it is still quite true. That means you need to start getting customer reviews through Google. In fact, you may be already and don’t even know it!
- Step one is to claim your listing on Google Maps. Type in your property’s address and hit enter. On the left, you should see your property/business name listed and on the right side it shows where you are located on the map. If you are not listed at all, then you need to claim your Google My Business listing.
- Step two, once you claim your listing, you can ensure the business name is correct and edit everything from the address, hours and website, and even add photos and your logo. The more information you use the better. You can also correct the map plot if that is wrong.
- Step three, bookmark the login page for Google My Business so you can easily access new reviews going forward.
Yes, that’s correct. You need a Facebook page for your business. Not only is this a great place to share things like blogs, tips, company news and even holiday hours; but this is essential for collecting customer reviews! Just about everyone you know has a Facebook page, and they spend an average of 50 minutes each day using their account. And people take the path of least resistance…if you have a business page, it is very easy for them to leave a review there.
- Step one is to set up your personal account if you don’t already have one. (I am guessing just about everyone reading this has their own page and they use it daily.) If you do have one, simply log in to Facebook from a desktop computer. In order to have a business page, you must first have a personal account set up.
- Step two is to create a business page. At the top right simply click on “Create” in the blue menu bar, then select “Page”. Under “Business or Brand” click “Get Started”. It will walk you through the process step by step. It is pretty easy and won’t take you more than 15-20 minutes. You should do this from a desktop computer. You can set one up on mobile, but it is a bit cumbersome compared to the desktop version.
- Step three, you can access your new Facebook Business Page by logging in to your personal account, clicking on the black down carat at the top right, and selecting your page. Bookmark Facebook so you can follow up on customer reviews.
Although Yelp really hasn’t become popular in secondary and tertiary markets, it is very popular and heavily used on the West Coast and in metro and urban markets. Regardless of where your property is located, you need to have a free Yelp Listing. The main reason is because they are exclusively partnered with Apple, and any searches from the Maps app on any Apple device will pull results directly from Yelp.
- Step one is to visit Yelp and type in your business name or the words “self storage” in the “Find” box and your full property address in the “Near” box and click enter. There is a good chance your business will show up in the results list. Yelp, like many online listing platforms, pulls information from aggregators and auto creates listings for a lot of businesses from that data.
- Step two, if your property is listed, click on the name to open the listing. Directly to the right of the name will be the text “Unclaimed” in blue, click on that. Simply follow the steps to claim your listing. You need to verify some information to prove you are the business owner or working on behalf of the business owner.
Now, if your business is not listed at all, you can create a new listing in Yelp for Business Owners. Simply click on “Get Started” and follow the steps. Again, you will need to verify some information.
- Step three, once your listing is claimed and verified, you can accept customer reviews. Be sure to bookmark Yelp for Business Owners so you can access future reviews quickly.
Now that we have gone over the three important platforms for customer reviews, and you have all your pages and listings set up and claimed, let’s review creating your plan.
Create Your Plan and Schedule
The first part of your plan is to schedule a day each week when you will login to all three platforms and check for new reviews. I suggest Monday or Tuesday so that you catch weekend traffic to your store in a timely manner. I also recommend doing this first thing in the morning so that you don’t forget. If you use Outlook, schedule a recurring task or appointment so that you get a reminder.
The next step is to create an Excel document to track your customer reviews. Have one tab for Google, one tab for Facebook and another for Yelp to keep them separated. This will make it easier for you to track them and to post responses. All three tabs in your spreadsheet should have the following columns: Date Posted, Stars/Rating, Platform, Customer Name, Customer Review, and My Response/Reply. Save this document somewhere you can access easily, like your desktop.
Now, when you login to each account on Monday or Tuesday, simply type in the date posted and stars/rating information, then copy and paste the customer name and their review into your new Excel doc. Next you can generate your response in that specific column. Be sure to proof it for spelling and grammar. Once you are happy with your reply, copy and paste it as a response to the correct review.
It’s really that easy.
Tips for Responding to Customer Reviews
Now that you are all set and have started receiving reviews, you need to follow a few guidelines when responding. This will help keep you very professional, even in awkward or negative situations, and make sure your reviews start benefiting your SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Marketing) efforts. Google gives preference to reviews that have a reply from the business.
- Reply to every single review, even the bad ones.
- Respond within 7 days of the review being posted. This is why you need to check once per week.
- Always thank the customer for the review.
- Make sure to relate something personal to that customer if you can. Say they were in your rental office and told you about some of the issues they had while moving. For example:
“Thank you for the great review! I’m so glad you were able to get your moving truck situation resolved with the vendor. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.”
- Never mention how many stars they gave you. Simply acknowledge the review. For example:
“Thank you for the great review!” or “Thank you for taking time to leave a review.”
- If they mention a specific employee by name, have that person generate the response.
- For negative reviews, never apologize or accept blame, and never be combative. You need to acknowledge the issue and their feelings (even if they are wrong), and offer a means of communication. You also need to thank them for providing feedback, even if you don’t like what they said. For example:
“Thank you for your feedback. It is unfortunate that you experienced issues while using your storage unit. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please email email@example.com and provide your contact information so that our team can reach out to you.”
- If the customer leaving the negative review reaches out to discuss it further, make sure you get back to them within one business day. Sometimes just listening to them will get the issue resolved or at least make them feel like you actually care. Oftentimes this can lead to them removing the bad review, or changing it to a positive one. If you don’t reach out, they can leave additional negative reviews stating that you never respond when they call.
Something you can do to help get more customer reviews is to set a goal. I suggest one Google review and one Facebook or Yelp review every quarter. That is just two reviews every three months and eight for a whole year. Hopefully you will get more, but you need to start somewhere and be realistic. It can be difficult to get your customers to follow through. So, you need to ask every single happy customer, and any business partners you work with or who have a storage unit. It will pay off eventually, you just need to be persistent.
It’s good for you to know that a lot of people will promise you they will give a review when they get home, and they never do. You can follow up with them by phone or email and kindly remind them. You can let them know that customer feedback is very important to your business as well as your current and even future tenants. You can also ask them in person next time they stop in the office as well. And, when they do leave a review online, make sure you thank them in person next time you see them, if possible.
Lastly, if you are able, add a reviews page to your website. See our Client Reviews page for example. You can link directly to each platform, and even add a link for them to email you feedback if you want. Simply tell your customers where to go on your website and click on the preferred platform. You can also add a link to this page in your email signature that you use at your storage property. Good luck!