The Digital Comment Card Takes a Stand

Join me as I take a stroll to “back in the day.” I am 21 years old standing in front of my closet looking at my navy blue uniform suit, trying to find something to add to the outfit to disrupt the image of a flight attendant. I try on a few blouses and different shoes and settle for a starched white blouse, a string of pearls and put my hair up so that I would look a little older. This is a funny image to me because now that I am “older” I wear my hair down to look younger! Why did I care so much about how I looked this particular day? Well, it is the day of our quarterly recognition rally called “The IMD Meeting.” This stands for “I made a difference.” The Vice Presidents would hand out awards for excellent shopping report scores, properties beating budget and certain individuals who stood out by doing something above and beyond the call of the job description. Everyone wanted to look their best for this meeting including me as I was hoping for a promotion to a position in the training department.

This meeting is a special one for me, I’ve been mystery shopped twice during the quarter and receive an excellent score on both reports earning me a certificate, some applause and $200 in my pocket. The big surprise came when I won the IMD award because the home office had received an overwhelming number of comment cards talking about various acts of service I’ve offered my important residents. Once again I stand up in my freshly pressed suit and proudly accepted my award. This was an amazing recognition and I tear up when I call my parents to share the exciting news.

I worked for a company that not only cared about the feedback our residents had to share with us, but also created a number of measurable opportunities to solicit this feedback. I’ve been thinking a lot about this while consulting with clients this summer. The hot topic in the marketing world is social media and everyone is trying to figure out what it is all about and if it is worth the effort. Much to my surprise, each client I have worked with this summer has been worried about the negative feedback that a resident may write on our Facebook wall, tweet about on Twitter or direct a scathing video for distribution on You Tube. While I understand the concern, I simply explain that these social media channels are the comment cards of 2009 and beyond. It is the new way for our residents to provide positive and constructive feedback so that we can reward our team members and improve the customers experience. This conversation derived from social media will be mentioned in award and recognition rally’s all over our industry.

This week, apartment pro’s and residents has been observing an interesting lawsuit filed by Horizon Realty versus a resident who posted a tweet to her mere 22 followers concerning mold in her apartment. Horizon felt the statement was unfair and grounds for libel. News of this lawsuit has been filling my twitter screen, discussed in other blogs, mentioned on the walls of Facebook and the topic of conversation in every corner of our country. What I think is interesting is that instead of using the tweet as a form of feedback from the modern day comment card, Horizon would like to argue that a resident cannot tell their friends and followers that they are upset with management. In a world where word of mouse is more powerful than word of mouth, Horizon’s lawsuit has sent the suspicion to thousands of people that they would rather sue a resident than to solve their problems. Now, in all fairness, the inside story may be quite different and Horizon has a good point to make, but the reality is that many will never hear that point as the thought that suing a resident who only has 22 followers and made a comment about mold makes them a landlord who does not care. Let’s remember, perception is everything and in this case Horizon has spread this perception to thousands of people through their law suit.

I am certain my consulting clients will want to use this scenario as a reason to avoid social media. Yet, I still stand firm, use this digital comment card to receive the feedback and show your residents you care. If a customer posts something on the wall, use this as an opportunity to publicly respond that you are glad this has been brought to your attention and want to make the residents home as comfortable as possible. I can promise you that if you abstain from social media, your residents will not. So, be a part of this conversation and see this as a channel to stay in communication with your residents. I admire Mark Juleen from JC Hart who reminded me at the Real Page Users Conference that we can use social media to show we care and when did it no longer become our job to show our residents we care? Good point Mark! See you at the IMD meeting.