In March 2020, Catalyst was contracted by Maximus Real Estate Partners, a large multifamily owner/operator based in San Francisco, to oversee reputation management for three of their communities: Parkmerced, South Shore Apartments, and The Cove at Tiburon. While previous reputation efforts primarily revolved around events/activations on site and work order completions, there was not an established process for staff to follow when it came to asking for a review. This challenge was also met with fluctuating staffing nationwide during the initial two years as well as the pandemic’s effect on multifamily housing, and the ever-changing reputation in the San Francisco area was also monitored.
In addition to internal and external variables, all three properties had varying product types, reputations, and challenges:
- Parkmerced, a collection of townhomes, apartments, and high-rise towers directly next to San Francisco State University, struggled with being often mistaken for a small town due to its vast size. Reviews of crime in the area or the towing of vehicles parked at the university next door set the stage for many comments to be both negative and unrelated to life at Parkmerced. This community had a long history of mixed ratings on Yelp, already yielding more than 200 reviews when onboarded with Catalyst.
- South Shore Apartments, the most conventional of the three communities, is located in the Alameda area across from the downtown San Francisco area. The community underwent a full renovation from November 2021 to June 2022. This gave way for many reviews that spoke of the interference with lifestyle (construction, loud noises early/late, inaccessible amenities, etc.).
- The Cove at Tiburon is a sleepy harbor community located across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. While definitely showcasing a great reputation, the number of reviews across all platforms were very low. The biggest challenges for this community included identifying a way for review requests to integrate with the event calendar and getting the staff involved to ensure the great interactions they were already having began to yield reviews.
Instead of breaking out separate strategies for each community, the Catalyst team decided it was best to combine efforts and leverage the strength of the Maximus portfolio. In August 2022, Catalyst traveled to San Francisco to meet with the Maximus team. Shortly thereafter, an incentive-based campaign was rolled out across all contracted communities.
With the support and clearance of their Human Resources department, Maximus and Catalyst provided tools and resources to every community team member — from maintenance supervisors to leasing agents — to identify resident touchpoints for requesting feedback. The campaign involved a payout based on the amount of time the employee’s name was mentioned in five-star reviews for the span of a month. For example, if a sales agent named Lina was mentioned four times in Google reviews throughout the month of September, she would be rewarded for four mentions that month.
The ultimate goal of the payout program was to serve as a gateway for workflows on site. Catalyst recognized it wasn’t sustainable to offer financial return for every review moving forward, so the campaign ran through the remainder of 2022 before ending. At the beginning of 2023, Catalyst utilized the data collected throughout the five months of the incentive campaign to showcase pain points, positive trends, and necessary pivots to the Maximus team before working alongside them to ensure review quotas became a regular part of their sales and operations.
As of June 2023, Maximus has fully integrated a review process across all major workflows within the communities that accounts for review generation weekly with team leaders. By adopting this structure, the results have been incredible for both the brand and staff reputation — and continue to grow in light of the sales initiative.
Here are a few of the result highlights:
- The Google rating for Parkmerced increased from a 2.6 with 92 reviews to a 3.5 with 163 reviews.
- South Shore’s outreach spread to both Google and Yelp platforms, which yielded more than 40 reviews.
- The Cove at Tiburon saw an incredible leap in reviews on Google, increasing from a 4.6 with 37 reviews to a 4.9 and 71 reviews.
While these numbers have been incredible, the true Gold Standard result is giving the Maximus employees brand recognition. Any potential resident looking for information online will not only find insight on life at these communities, but also recognize the team who oversees leasing and living there. Our goal beyond elevating review counts and averages is to make certain that hard work and effort is recognized, and we have established a fantastic path forward in this respect.