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Pandora, Nosferatu and Social Media

Wednesday January 16, 2019

Like most small business owners, I am proud of what we have built since 2005. A dedicated team of professionals, winning the Sunday Times Letting Agent of the Year Award, thousands of happy tenants and hundreds of happy landlords. Then I look at our online reviews and wonder if actually, I am Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Reviews tend to be either five stars or one. Nothing much in between. While it is lovely to get a positive review from a happy tenant it is the one stars that get my full attention. Is there anything I can learn from a negative review that will help improve our service in the future?

Well yes, it seems there is a lesson. People do not like paying for cleaning or damage at the end of a tenancy. This is far and away the primary reason why someone will sit at a laptop and pour out a five hundred word online complaint. This, after spending an equal amount of time trying to persuade our property managers that that the oven was caked in baked-on food when they moved in or their mattress was stained from the off. Provide them photographic proof that this is not the case and suddenly we are Photoshop Wizards.

We have a duty to our landlord and new tenants to ensure the property is immaculate at the beginning of a tenancy, that all safety systems are working and that gas or electrical systems have been tested. Beyond that point it is the responsibility of the tenant to ensure a degree of care for the property they live in.

Recently I was the 24 hour call-out duty manager when a tenant called at 11.45pm to report a failed light bulb. I informed them we would be out between 08.00 – 09.00 am to fix the problem and was immediately hit with a social media barrage. “Nosferatu the Vampyre is making us sit in the dark and we are very afraid”. The bulb was replaced in the morning but the negative comments will stay online forever.

Pandora has definitely opened the social media box and it will not close any time soon. From the beginning of time until the early 1990’s people have had mixed experiences of even the best of businesses. The difference today is, a tiny percentage of the disgruntled can have a disproportionate effect upon the perception of a business.

The real lesson to be learned from the small proportion of vocal complainants is simple. Act. Act upon the root cause of complaints. In this case a lack of understanding that generally looking after and cleaning a rented property during a tenancy is the responsibility of the tenant. We already make this abundantly clear before, during and near the end of a tenancy, but in 2019 we will redouble our communications efforts. In time I may become known as Nosferatu the Spammer. And on that note, I shall leave the last word to Alexis Ohanian, founder of news site Reddit who said “It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time”.

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