Florida Apartment Complex’s Effort To Stop Negative Comments Backfires Terribly

Here are three tips for handling negative reviews.

An Orlando, FL apartment complex, Windermere Cay Apartments, is feeling the heat online after its Social Media Addendum prohibiting negative Yelp reviews went public. According to the Addendum, tenants who “post unjustified and defamatory reviews” (read: negative comments) about the complex will be fined $10,000 for the first “breach” and $5,000 for each one after. The contract also tries to get people to turn over their rights to any photos they take related to the owner or the property.

The goal of the Addendum was to keep complaints restricted to non-public venues, like an attorney’s office. But of course, because this is both the internet and the year 2015, people are going to do whatever they can to spit directly in the eye of Windermere Cay.

So what started as an effort to keep the bad mouthing to a minimum turned into a barrage of comments on its Yelp page and media coverage, like this in Ars Tecnica. And best of all, the comments didn’t come from residents, but non-residents who just don’t like the idea of anyone being silenced.

“Ha! I don’t live here and can do whatever I want. Nice try on blocking people from expressing their views,” said one commenter from Miami.

Of course, the company has since changed its tune and now the mandate has been “voided for all residents.”

“A successful company that provides excellent service doesn’t try to stifle word of mouth buzz, unless of course they know it will be horrible,” wrote one very correct commenter, Peter L. from Chicago.

Negative comments should be a wake up call that something isn’t going well with your business. Here are three tips for handling a bad review.

Read it carefully. Does the person have a point? Are they saying something you hadn’t noticed? Are they complaining about something that has a quick fix? Before you get all sensitive and defensive, give some thought to what the review is highlighting and determine if it’s something worth addressing.

Contact the person who submitted the review. Here’s your chance to turn a naysayer into a fan. If you can, contact the person who left the contact directly and let them know you heard them loud and clear and explain why you can or can’t do anything about it. If it’s a review site with anonymous submissions, find a way to publicly acknowledge the comment and respond.

Invite more comments. Sounds like you’re asking for a beating right? Wrong. When people see that you’re trying to hear them out, it makes them appreciate you more. Sure, you might get dinged a little more. But you’re also building a reputation for being open with customers, which will go a long way.