Monday, 17 January 2022

By far the best way for service and professional businesses to get the maximum benefit from reviews


Reviews have been around for nearly two decades now, but businesses remain confused, and understandably so. This article is designed to end that confusion, once and for all.

But first, let's look at why businesses engage with reviews in the first place:

  • Consumers - just about all consumers - check reviews before even considering a particular product or service purchase nowadays; businesses with negative reviews or low scores suffer, businesses with great reviews and high scores prosper
  • Businesses know that, so they want their reviews and scores to look their very best in search, irrespective of how the consumer may have come across them in the first place; it may be they've been recommended by a friend or colleague or seen some of the business's other marketing efforts, but they'll still reference the business's reviews
  • Businesses are aware that their competitors understand the above two points and will be doing their very best to win the reviews race
It's just like advertising used to be: you advertised where your potential consumers were looking, be that in print, on TV/radio or on billboards and you wanted your advertisement to have the most impact, to impress your potential customers and to impress them more than your rivals, who were almost certainly advertising in the same media.

Google reviews

Then along came Google. And in many ways life became simpler: you just wanted your business - your product or service - to look great in search. But then you realised that, unlike the 'old media', you couldn't be sure that your potential customer would see you at all. At least with a newspaper or magazine you could be sure they would turn the page and there your ad would be, or the same for TV in a commercial break. But with Google we all soon realised that appearing on page 2 of search was akin to promoting one's business in Timbuktu.

Google, luckily for all of us, was pretty quick to understand that this benefitted neither business nor consumer (although it sure sold a lot of Google ads!). So they introduced reviews. 

Google reviews, after a sluggish start, partly because they were initially parked alongside Maps in Google Places, became the world-recognised benchmark for businesses as soon as they began being displayed in every search. If your business scored as close to the perfect 5.0 as possible and was shown on page 1 of search the enquiries and business would flow. If you scored less well and/or didn't appear on page 1 you needed to take action.

Let's deal with the page 1 part first: any SEO agency would quite happily take £thousands of your hard-earned and promise you the earth. Stories of SEO horror used to be legion. Then Google introduced the Google My Business panel and let businesses and their web designers know that if they 'played the game' there - by providing the information Google knew searchers wanted - they would rank higher; no guarantees, but better than paying out thousands for paltry results. 

Then came reviews - and the Google reviews filter. So businesses went after reviews - positive reviews - to get both their scores and their absolute numbers of reviews up. The Google filter, when enabled by a searcher, simply displayed only businesses that scored 4.5 and up - after all, who would be looking for a business that scored less, right?

Hot on the heels of this quest came hitch No 1: regulatory abuse. In the UK and the EU the law quickly caught up and stated - and still states today - that it would be illegal to only invite happy customers to write reviews (known as cherry-picking) and it would be even less desirable for businesses to come up with mechanisms to get only - or even mainly - positive reviews (known as gating). 

So now the Google reviews solution is looking less straightforward: how to demonstrate compliance with the law and, at the same time, maintain that flow of high-quality positive reviews? We all know that customers - for we are they when not wearing our 'work' hats - can be unreasonable, ill-informed, unfair, inaccurate in our recall of events and sometimes just plain wrong. How to play the reviews game without our business's reputation being harmed unfairly?

Review sites

Well, the salesforces of the review sites, which had been around since way before Google reviews (which, in themselves, have never been actively 'sold' by Google), had their pitches honed: ignore Google reviews and focus on theirs. Not only would they display your reviews on their sites, Google would list links to them in search - well, somewhere in search - and they would give you wonderful dashboards to share with your marketing teams. Crucially, they would also be as 'helpful' as possible when it came to 'managing' negative reviews.

The problems here - apart from the prominence of their brands in online retail marketing, where they were and are ubiquitous - were straightforward: 
 
1.  They just did not show up sufficiently in search, certainly by comparison with Google reviews. Go on: google any business and see whose reviews show. Google's reviews are right there every time.

 


reviews of Trustpilot on Reviews.io


reviews of Reviews.io on Trustpilot


2.  They have attracted increasingly negative reviews of their own - just search for Trustpilot on Reviews.io or vice versa and you will see what we mean.

 



3.  Negative mainstream media coverage has followed; the last thing any business needs is the credibility of their reviews platform being called into question.

 

4.  Legal and compliance issues are enough to keep any corporate compliance officer continually at odds with their sales and marketing colleagues, as well as awake at night: 'We can't use/abuse customer reviews in that way!' - 'If we don't we'll look worse than our competitors.' 'But that's illegal.' 'How can we compete if we don't?'


There is a better - much better - way

Combine all of the advantages of Google reviews:
  • visibility
  • credibility
  • SEO credit
  • longevity
With the following:
  • owning your own reviews - not possible with either Google or the review sites
  • moderation - having your customers' reviews checked for factual accuracy and potentially misleading statements before publication
And it's called review management, but as far as service and professional businesses are concerned it's called 'having your cake and eating it.' All the wonderful benefits of Google reviews combined with a compliant and moderated platform that will enable everyone involved to relax in the sure knowledge that they are not flouting the law*.

We invented it and we have proven it, year in year out, for more than a decade now: legally compliant, owning your own reviews, displaying them on your website, getting them across to Google, contributing to your SEO.

And all for the cost of a mobile phone contract - except that we are so confident of the results we generate for our clients that we don't have contracts!


*the Law

This is a biggie; just because your main competitor has hundreds of great Google reviews and scores 4.8 doesn't mean you should emulate their review strategy. Just asking nailed-on happy customers to write reviews and/or running customer surveys to find out who loves you and then inviting them to write reviews is illegal. It also hands a big win to any competitor who understands just how the business gets to look so great.

One of the first rules of review management is that the business must be able to answer any potential criticism as to the veracity of their reviews - all our clients can point to the invitation on their websites (see 'Write a review' at top right)...




...and our 'promise to publish'. To see just how effective can be just take a minute to read this story...



How about that? Now read some more detailed numbers here. And remember, you doctors and lawyers out there, these apply equally to you too!


In summary...

It often helps if the business asks itself the following simple questions:

1.  Does looking great on Google matter to us (you might be surprised how many answer 'No' to that question - online retailers, large 'monopolies' - think mobile phone/utilities)? If the answer is 'yes' - as it should be for all service and professional businesses - then please read on. For businesses that already have Google reviews please pay especial attention to point 2.

2.  Does compliance with the law matter? We apologise for even asking this question but still, in 2022, at last half the businesses we speak to are horrified to find that the are unwittingly breaking the law - usually by cherry-picking or gating. The detail is here, but if your business is at all vulnerable to a well-written malicious review - and all service or professional businesses are - we suggest that a moderated review management system (see 3. below) is absolutely essential. 

Just speak to any business that has been a victim of such a review or read this article about a law firm that ended up having to sue one of its own clients because the review they had written was costing them tens of thousands in lost fees (as the judge in the case agreed).

3.  If looking great on Google matters - score and volume - do negative reviews that are inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair matter? Of course they do - everyone reads them, and they're the single main reason some businesses are afraid of engaging with Google reviews (as well as being the single main reason that a searcher won't click through to a business's website). You need an independently moderated review management system that checks every single review before it's published. Moderation is explained here.

4.  Does ranking on Google matter? Do we need to rank high in search and look good there as well? This question is probably best answered graphically; here is a local search that features one of our clients:





Their specific search?




That's not putting anyone off clicking or calling, is it?


All legal, simple and most important of all: effective. Reviews from their own site showing with their listing and leading local search. Not looking bad on their own website either (where Google is pulling the information you can see in the search above)...





Price? Almost certainly less than the firm's daily petrol bill - per month! And no contract - ever.

Monday, 10 January 2022

HelpHound - Blog Index for 2022

There are now nearly 1,000 articles on this blog now, so we thought it might be helpful if we provide an index of 'essential reading'. 

If you cannot find the answer to your own query here you have three options...

    1. Call us - a quick call to 020 7100-2233 will resolve any questions you may have
    2. Email us - info@helphound.com
    3. Interrogate the blog - on the right you will see 'Search this blog'. Just type in a keyword or words and you may well find what you are looking for. If you still haven't found the answer we really need to hear from you, so please let us know!
So you can find the article that's most relevant we have broken the index down into sections:
  • Depending on the extent of your business's engagement with the most important, visible and influential reviews host of all: Google. 
  • Depending on your experience with other review solutions: review sites, aggregators and so on.
  • Sector-specific articles: legal, medical, financial etc.
  • Results. Saving the best for last: what will happen when your review management programme is correctly implemented and kicks into gear.

For a business that has yet to acquire any reviews:

Very few businesses in 2022 have no Google reviews. If one has none or very few this is invariably as a result of the justifiable fear of attracting inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair reviews.

  • If this is the case this is the article for you. It maps the route your business will need to take to eliminate that 'fear factor' without, as is the case with so many businesses these days, flying in the face of the law.

In some ways this business is in an enviable position: once it adopts a review management strategy it will be in a position to measure its success very accurately indeed. After all, any uplift in clicks and calls post-implementation will be startlingly obvious and will almost certainly be attributable to one factor: their new review management strategy.


For a business with some, but less than 100 Google reviews:

It is very common for a business to invite its most loyal customers and connexions to write reviews, and then run out of steam. This is completely understandable but - wait for it - illegal (at least in the UK). So how to comply with the law and the regulations and get more reviews at the same time? 
Compliance won't hold you back - quite the opposite - or expose you to risk but it will mean you and your staff will be able to sleep at night.


For a business with many - more than 100 - Google reviews:

Again, the first step must be compliance. 'Cherry-picking' (selecting happy customers and then inviting them to write a Google review) and 'Gating' (sending a customer survey or using a little known reviews site to establish who your happy customers are and then inviting them - and only them - to write a review to Google) are both against the law; the latter is also against Google terms of service and, if detected, will result in all the business's reviews being removed.
  • Read this. It will reassure you that your business can reap all the rewards that come with having an impressive Google score alongside many great reviews and be bullet-proof when it comes to complying with the law.
  • Here's an article that specifically deals with gating. Imagine having dozens - or even hundreds - of great Google reviews and then losing them all overnight? That's what Google does to businesses it identifies as gating. No redress. No appeal. It's simply not worth the effort, especially when there's a legitimate alternative.

Both these articles will help explain why there's no need to cherry-pick or gate; adopting professional review management will protect and enhance your business's reputation, legally. 


For a business currently using a review site - Trustpilot - Feefo - Yelp etc.

See if yours is the kind of business - multi-line online retail, for instance - that can benefit from membership of a review site. And see why service businesses and the professions need a Google-focussed review management programme instead. 

It's no fault of the review sites, but it's rather like the Japanese car industry in the 60s and 70s: Google has just taken what's best of the service provided by the review sites and combined that with their domination of the search market and come up with a far more attractive alternative.

Google reviews are more visible and more credible - so businesses need to focus on getting them. They're the only reviews 90% of consumers will ever see. Your business needs Google reviews. 

But do remember to employ a moderator - see 'HelpHound's USP' below - because the influence works both ways: loads of great Google reviews drive business, a single inaccurate or misleading Google review can stop a business in its tracks.


For a business currently using a review aggregator - Reputation.com etc.

Whilst they look great, in theory, aggregators - sites that scour the web for reviews of your business and then display them on your website - have considerable downsides once you look under the bonnet.

 

Now for some sector-specific articles containing examples and advice:

The following professions are amongst those that most resisted review management back in the early days. Their logic - understandable, given that it takes years to build a reputation and one well-written negative review can undo all that work - was that...

  1. Their sphere of operations was complex and difficult for a lay person - their client or patient in these cases - to understand.
  2. Client - or patient - confidentiality was one of the cornerstones of their modus operandi; asking someone to effectively break that to write a review would be a bridge too far for many.
  3. Clients - and patients - would be extremely reluctant to reveal details of their personal experiences.
Interestingly, experience - long experience - has shown us that...
  1. Complexity: providing their reviews are moderated clients and patients are capable of writing extremely helpful and reassuring reviews that are hugely welcomed by prospective clients and patients.
  2. Confidentiality: the key here is to stress that writing the review is entirely at the client or patient's discretion. Those that are happy to write a review will do so, those that are not won't. There is no sign whatsoever of any hard feelings either way (although we do see the odd case of 'A - usually a friend or work colleague - was asked to write a review and I was not, please may I?').
  3. Reluctance: again, it's optional. Anyone who does not feel happy commenting won't do so and that's OK. But it's often surprising just how much detail someone who has been helped by a business will be prepared to go into.



How much more personal and confidential can such a relationship be? This review, and the many others on this Harley Street clinic's site and Google listing show just how willing a grateful patient can be when it comes to responding to a well-worded request to post a review. And for the person searching for this kind of service? We'll leave that conclusion to you!

Here are articles that address issues specific to the professions...


HelpHound's key - and crucial - USP

Everything we do here is designed to make your business look as great as it is in all kinds of search as well as on its own website. But that would be all as nothing without moderation. 

We read every single review written to our client's website, before it is published there and before the reviewer is asked to post it to Google. This is what enables our clients to relax in the knowledge that it is highly unlikely that a factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair review will ever see the light of day.



And finally...Results!

The ultimate objective of professional review management:



The above are actual figures for a client from Google exactly six weeks after they joined HelpHound. We have seen better but we reckon most new clients in the professional sectors we specialise in will be happy with similar results, especially when they are sustained.


And to have our clients looking like this on their own websites:




Please read this review - and as many reviews on their website as you can - for it is those, the individual reviews, that prompt contact from potential clients, just as much as the pure numbers (review score and totals) if not more so. 


And like this in local search:




Local search is used by everyone when conducting their initial search for a service, even if the business has been referred by a friend and/or their advertising is impressive. Making an impression there is vital if calls and clicks are to flow. If you look carefully at this search - and even conduct a similar real-time search yourself - you will see Winkworth leading the Google 3-pack and organic search. 

Their Google score, combined with the absolute number of reviews, will reassure potential clients, certainly enough to prompt them to make initial contact. The score from their own reviews on their own website (the 4.9 and 237 just under their listing in organic search) reinforces the impression created by their Google score and reviews 


We've already mentioned the intangibles: being 100% compliant with the law, focussing on Google and so on, but here is the clincher for your CEO/CMO/CFO...

 

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Rewarding our clients for success

Many of you will have read articles - here and elsewhere - extolling the virtue of achieving critical mass with reviews. Before we explain how we intend to 'reward' clients for achieving this, perhaps we should define 'critical mass'.

Our definition is simple, to begin with anyway: it is the point at which your prospective customer (or client, or patient) begins to be really - and properly - influenced by your business's presence in the reviews sphere.

There are two main constituent parts of that 'influence':

1.  Numbers. Pure and simple. 

Businesses need to have 100+ Google reviews per location. 

In order to achieve this businesses can adopt one of two strategies. 

High risk

Simply invite customers to post reviews direct to Google. Suitable for businesses where factually inaccurate and potentially misleading reviews, if and when posted, will do a minimum of harm. Readers may think such a business is a rare beast; in the service sector it most certainly is, but in retail most businesses can weather such reviews, as long as they don't become a constant theme. 

Minimum risk

First let us state the obvious: that there's no such thing as a no-risk review management strategy. We completely understand why we are often asked if such a thing exists - building a business's reputation is a long hard slog and losing it is all too easy in these days of abundant social media. But the rewards of getting review management right are manifold, and well worth both the effort and the minimal risk - and added benefits (see *below) - presented by this strategy.

To militate against the aforementioned factually inaccurate and potentially misleading reviews a business must adopt a moderated review management strategy. This involves first inviting reviews to the business's own website via a third party - HelpHound preferably! - whhich will moderate each and every review ('moderate' being accepted industry-speak for 'checking and, if need be, referring back to the reviewer').

The downside, and we have never met a client who actually considered this to be a negative, is that to achieve the magic number of 100+ Google reviews the business will have to achieve roughly double that to its own website.

*The advantage alluded to above is that over 60% of all consumers - that figure is higher for service and professional businesses - first visit a business's own website before making first contact. Having reviews displayed there is, therefore, a big advantage (it's proven to increase contacts by between 20 and 30 percent) but it also benefits the business's SEO (Google loves independently gathered and displayed reviews) and show in search. See this...




Our client: heading local search with 236 reviews scoring 4.9 out of 5 and five glowing gold stars. You might be surprised to know just how many consumers think that those stars and scores are awarded by Google when, in fact, they are derived - by Google - straight from the reviews hosted on the business's own site...





Interestingly any sacrifice a business makes by adopting the second - low risk - strategy, in terms of pure numbers (there will be a fall-off - we have never seen a business succeed in getting 100% of customers who post to the business's own website to copy their reviews to Google) will be more than compensated for by the punch delvered by the reviews hosted on the business's own website and, most important of all, the reassurance, for the business and its potential customers, that the likelihood of a factually inaccurate or potentially misleading (or even downright malicious) review seeing the light of day is minimised.


2.  Quality. 

Good quality reviews reflect well on businesses. High quality potential customers identify with high-quality reviews.

A review like this...



Will always carry far more weight and influence than a review like this...




How to get this kind of quality? We have definitely learned the answer to that question over the years. It is a combination of the following:

  • personalising the invitation: an invitation from a member of staff who has had contact with the reviewer will always eleicit a better review than an anonymous 'corporate' invitation
  • building the review into the sale: when staff mention reviews from the outset - 'have you seen our reviews? We always invite our customers to write one' - defuses any objections straight away (as well as supporting the sale)
  • stressing the importance of the Google review: those clients that mention this to their customer as early as possible get the best results. Often in excess of a 50% success rate. There's hardly anyone on the planet who doesn't know how to write a Google review these days and most savvy customers know just how valuable they are for businesses. 
  • it may sound glib, but some version of 'don't bother thanking me, I'd much rather you wrote a review' often works wonders
  • using the right mechanism: sending the email followed by a brief phone call is an unbeatable solution; invitations by text don't produce quality reviews


So: what about the 'reward' in the title?

We want to incentivise our clients to get to 'critical mass' as soon as possible. We have seen examples where it has been achieved in a matter of weeks, but it does require some effort, from both management and staff. 


The incentive?

We propose to reduce our monthly fee by 50%* - once our client has achieved the following for each location...

  • 200 reviews to their own website
  • 100 reviews to Google

Support

Always remember: we are here to help and advise, every step of the way. 


*this discount applies to clients not already in receipt of any other reduced fee scale


 


Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Avoiding cowboy builders - and other trades - the solution is hiding in plain sight


As reported in the Times and many other papers, Mark Gardiner MP introduced a private member’s bill  last week calling for the mandatory licensing of construction companies. Unfortunately government regulation - financial services, communications, transport and so on - has a far from satisfactory record when it comes to ensuring the public are properly served through regulation.

But, as our headline suggests, there is a simple solution that reputable businesses, whether they be builders, plumbers, electricians or lawyers, financial advisers or accountants, can adopt to reassure potential customers - and differentiate themselves from less than scrupulous businesses of whatever kind: reviews. Specifically their own reviews and Google reviews.

Now, we know what some of you will be thinking: Google reviews are not foolproof. But nor - as we have already mentioned - is government regulation. At least Google reviews already exist and are free. Government regulation will take years and comes at a very high price (UK financial services regulation, for example, costs £1.2 billion a year - money straight out of the pockets of savers).

Let's look at some examples so we can refine this advice for the benefit of both businesses and consumers:

How all businesses can safely adopt reviews for everyone's benefit


1.  Businesses with no Google reviews at all



According to Google - which now lists such facts in map search - this business has been in existence for 'more than 10 years'. Now, we fully accept that businesses are not forced to have Google reviews, but we would certainly advise anyone considering such a business with zero reviews to ask some very searching questions before using them.

What should this business - and businesses in a similar position - do? It's never too late. Begin inviting customers to write reviews - compliantly (here's a useful article that covers all the basic compliance). Aim to have at least 50 reviews by this time next year. Then keep on going past 100 and onwards. Note the impact this has on enquiries; we are sure you will be pleasantly surprised.


2.  Businesses with Google reviews, but fewer than 50 


Nine great reviews. The point, though, is that it is possible to acquire a handful of reviews by nefarious means. Even twenty or thirty, But upwards of fifty - or a hundred? That requires some serious mischief. We have been in this business for over ten years and have rarely come across a business with over 100 Google reviews that were not predominantly genuine (100+ reviews on a review website? That's another matter entirely).

The exception is where a business is cherry-picking (choosing only proven happy customers to invite to write a review) and/or gating. Gating is where a business uses a mechanism to establish which of its customers are most likely to write a five star review and then only invites those people to review it. This is almost always done in one of three ways:

  • by getting staff to identify 'happy' customers (known in the trade and by regulators as cherry-picking - illegal in the UK - see how Yell gamed their Trustpilot reviews here)
  • by misusing/manipulating customer surveys: email the customer asking if they are happy and then only invite happy customers who respond to post a review
  • by using a less visible review site (all review sites are less visible than Google): invite reviews to the site and then only invite those customers who post a five star review there to copy their review to Google
What should this business - and businesses in a similar position - do?  Keep inviting customers to write reviews - compliantly (here's a useful article that covers all the basic compliance). Aim to have at least 100 reviews by this time next year. Then keep on going. Note the impact this has on enquiries; again: we are sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

A note here on what stops so many business from actively engaging with reviews: fear of unfair criticism. There is only one way to compliantly ensure that the absolute minimum of unfair, misleading or factually inaccurate reviews see the light of day: moderation.

Moderation is the act of checking each and every review pre-publication. Self-evidently this can only be done by an independent agency - HelpHound is one such - but has the important added benefit of allowing the reviews to appear on the business's website before the reviewer is invited to post them to Google. This article explains the process in full. Ask any business about the value of moderation and they will generally put it in the top three benefits of professional review management. A factually inaccurate or misleading review on Google can literally stop the phones ringing (we call such reviews 'killer reviews' - here are some examples).

3.  Businesses with upwards of 100 Google reviews




Such is the paucity of building firms that have actively engaged with Google reviews we have yet to find one with more than 100 reviews! This is the nearest we could find. Do let us know if you know of one.

As previously stated: if the reviews themselves have a ring of truth - and we always recommend reading a good handful - and the dates are spread across the years, not just all at once (that can be indication of a concerted gating effort) and the business's response to the reviews looks genuine, then we would suggest the consumer is reasonably safe in assuming the business and its reviews are genuine. That does not mean they should instantly appoint the business regardless of any other factors, but they should be safe in proceeding to the next stage: speaking to or otherwise contacting the business.



Conclusion:

Consumers trust Google reviews. Businesses that take reviews seriously and incorporate them into their marketing strategy thrive. Businesses that 'game' reviews run the long-term risk of CMA sanction but they also expose themselves to attack by their competitors in the short term (how many times have we heard 'I used to work at XYZ, they systematically cherry-picked'?). 

Professional review management is proven to measurably boost both clicks and calls. Channelling your business's reviews through your own website gives you massive advantages:

  • the opportunity to correct misleading or factually inaccurate reviews before they are published - on your own website or Google
  • owning your own reviews - data that is hugely valuable these days
  • having your own reviews to display on your own website - especially important for those who don't arrive at your website via search

All of the above adds up to a huge USP:

"We allow anyone at all to write a review direct to our website, and all of them are published there for everyone to reference - and then the reviewers are invited to copy them to Google"

...is a massive win when competing for business.

Just look at what follows:






These reviews - and all the reviews the business collects - belong to the business, not HelpHound or any other entity (and certainly not a review site). Anyone visiting this business's website will see these reviews and will over a hundred more to read just by clicking on the number of reviews under the office name. 

Next to that is the crucial 'Write a review' button which allows anyone to click and submit a review. That review is then moderated by HelpHound to ensure, as far as is practicably possible, that it doesn't contain errors of fact or potential misleading comments before the review is posted to the business's website alongside the ones you see here. Then the reviewer - every reviewer - is sent a direct link to the business's Google listing and asked to copy their review there. Just about half do so.



 
Here's the same business in the vital local search. Top of the Google 3-pack. Top of organic search with their star rating - 5* - and number of reviews - 235 - generated directly from the reviews hosted on their own website. This leads to an uplift of between 20 and 30 percent in inbound enquiries and supports the sale  from beginning to end. Just read this case history on enquiries and the 'consumer's tale' midway down the same article on the vital support they provide in the sales process.


All of the above adds up to massive reassurance for consumers that the business they have found - whether by personal recommendation or by searching the web - is bona fide. It's all consumers need to take the next step: making contact with the business. Review management works, for everyone concerned.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Why you should respond to all your reviews

The overwhelming majority of businesses still don't respond to their reviews. In this article we will address just why it is so important to do so and we'll share our years of experience in advising businesses how, where and when to respond. 


1.  Reviews are one of the most visible references of and for your business there is, and the overwhelming majority of consumers now use them; current estimates vary from 75 - 90% of consumers referencing reviews before purchasing a product or even going so far as to enquire about a service (put yourself in the position of someone requiring an oncologist or a builder - would you take the minutes needed to read their Google reviews?). 

If a business responds to the review its response is just as likely to be read as the review itself. Look at this example:




The review is a fortnight old and already 4 readers have taken the trouble to vote it 'helpful' (we estimate that between one in ten and one in twenty readers bother to vote - on that basis between 40 and 80 people have seen/read this review).

All of the potential clients - for whoever else would be reading these reviews? - will have also read Natasha's response.

2. Your response is a great - and free - opportunity to highlight your business's USPs. Here's another response, this time on Google:



Again: besides being basic good manners (the client has taken the trouble to write a review, surely the very least the business can do is thank them?) the response gives the business a great opportunity to reinforce some of the compliments paid in the review.


3.  Now on to the less obvious. First: there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that shows that businesses that respond to reviews receive fewer negative reviews. Think about it: if you are not entirely happy with a business there is, these days, a temptation to resort directly to writing a review. When such an individual sees that the business they are about to review invariably responds to their reviews how much more likely are they to give the business a chance to rectify whatever issue they may have offline, at least in the first instance? 

Every single customer complaint should be viewed as having the potential to turn into a harmful - and publicly extremely visible - negative review. Here's just such an example - in this case the business has failed to satisfy the customer offline and a negative Google review has resulted... 




And the business's response? A classic case of 'ignore the key points raised that any other reasonable potential customer might be interested to hear the answers to'...



The requested title, given that the above is a review posted to Google, of 'Trust Pilot SOS' will only serve to encourage readers to go to that review site and be faced with nearly 2,000 one and two star reviews of the business there.


4. This leads directly to our next point: when responding address the issues the customer has raised. As much as the business might like the conversation to take place in private and offline - usually by responding with a generic 'I'm sorry, please could you contact complaints@business.com' such a request will not have the desired effect, not only for the reviewer but, importantly, for others who read the review and will be intrigued to see how the business responds (and addresses specific points which may well be of interest to them):




This, again, is an example of a business misunderstanding - or simply not thinking through - the role of reviews and responses. The reviewer clearly states their issues with the business and any sensible reader will be interested to see how the business responds to those issues. The business had a cardinal opportunity to communicate with all stakeholders: potential customers as well as the specific customer/reviewer. 

How much better, for all concerned, if the response had addressed the issues directly: 'Dear Mr* Gabbett () [insert reason for the initial delay]/[reason for only half of order being delivered]/[reason for the further delay]' along with the promise to contact the customer directly with specific details?

*using the reviewer's surname and the salutation Mr/Ms etc. can never be criticised, already irate customers sometimes react very negatively to the use of their first name


5.  However great the temptation, never ever get into a tit for tat exchange with the reviewer (remember that most platforms, including Google and Trustpilot, allow the reviewer to either edit their original review - as has happened under 3. above) or post a new one in response to the business's reply).

Far better to simply apologise, even if you have to grit your teeth - remember you are predominantly addressing the subsequent readers of the review (the reviewer may not even read your response - there is a common tendency to 'review and move on') - just explain the action your business took to rectify the situation in such a way that any reasonable person will shrug and say to themselves 'well, at least they apoligised and I understand what action they took, they did their best'.


6.  In the same vein: never, however much it may support your case, disclose personal information about the reviewer. Not only may this leave the business on shaky legal ground it also transmits an entirely negative message to prospective customers reading the response ('Do I want to be dealing with the sort of business that will publicly disclose personal information in this way?').

At first reading you may well be saying 'we would never do this' but we can assure you we see daily instances where personal information, often personal financial information, is disclosed in responses by businesses (examples consist of disclosing the - lack of - creditworthiness of the reviewer or the reviewer's supposed unwillingness to pay invoices, to name but two).


HelpHound members

All HelpHound members have a one-click facility that enables them to respond to every review on their website and we heartily suggest it is used, for the reasons outlined above. If you are in any doubt as to the mechanism or wish to receive advice on the wording of your response we are here to help.

The same applies to Google reviews. Just log into your Google My Business account at business.google.com and follow these easy steps:




Then select 'Reviews' from the left-hand menu...




And click the 'Reply' button found under any reviews yet to be responded to, remembering that as soon as you click 'Post reply' your response will be publicly visible under the review...



That's it!

Remember: we're here to help and advise. All the time. So if you are in any doubt whatsoever about procedure, strategy or wording just call us.


Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Have your cake and eat it!

 This flyer was sent out by a business this week...




What a pity.

Let us explain: how much more powerful would that have been had the business in question adopted a Google-focussed solution?




It has sixty-one reviews on Trustpilot, but what does a prospective client see when they search online?



Remember: Mobile searches now outnumber desktop by 2:1 and that number is growing every month


Google. How much more powerful if they had directed their sixty reviewers there? 

How much more credible? 

How much more visible?

So - no excuse - focus on Google. Or is there more to it? We have heard many reasons for going elsewhere - or even doing nothing - over the years. Here are some...

  • Fear. Pure and simple. Fear of the dreaded killer review appearing where it can do the most harm: on Google. There's some perverse logic at work here: a damaging negative is somehow acceptable on Trustpilot or Feefo, because 'it won't do so much harm' ! But why engage with reviews in the first place? To get them seen by as many potential customers as possible, of course. And that means Google. But with a safety mechanism: moderation. 
Employing a moderator boosts the value of your reviews for everyone: the writer of the review (who doesn't want to mislead anyone), the reader (who is relying on the veracity and accuracy of the review to make a crucial choice) and lastly, and self-evidently you, the business owner. 
 
A professional moderator will read every single review written to your business's website and then interact with whichever of the three parties to the moderation process they need to to, as far as is humanly possible, eradicate any factual errors or statements likely to mislead a reader.
  • Everyone else is with [name of review site]. So much of marketing involves looking at one's most successful competitor and then taking their lead. But here's a massive exception: Google don't have a salesforce where their reviews are concerned, so you're never going to get a call selling Google reviews. It's up to you to work out the right solution for your business. Here's a hint: if it is a service or professional business - as opposed to online product/retail - you need to be focussing all your review efforts on your own website and Google. 
And: your customer data is extremely valuable, so you need, as far as possible, to retain control over it, not be giving it away to a review site.
  • Consumers won't write a review to Google. We nearly left this one out, but so many businesses missed out on the early days of Google reviews because of this popular misconception. Google now hosts over ten times the number of reviews as Yelp, the biggest quoted review site. If you ask a hundred people to write a review, anywhere, you're never going to get 100 reviews. But we commonly - and confidently - advise clients to target to get 50% of their customers to write a review to their website and then 50% of those to copy their review to Google.
  • [name] review site gives us a drop-in widget that is so easy from a tech point-of-view. That's like saying 'I'm going to do what's best/easiest for my web designers rather than what's best for my business'. Google is so demonstrably the end focus of your review management, but you simply cannot afford to run the risk of inviting reviews unmoderated - see 'Killer reviews' - so your web people must be competent to fully implement a review management API, allowing Google to scrape your own reviews to boost your local SEO.
  • If Google is the right place to have our reviews, why bother with our own website? For two main reasons: first, if you are in a high-value service business or one of the professions you need moderation. It's not a 'nice to have' add-on, it's absolutely core. Without moderation it's only a matter of time before a factually inaccurate or potentially misleading review gets published to Google. And those have the potential to stop the phones ringing, it is simply too high a risk to take with your business's hard-won online reputation.
The second reason: owning your own reviews; don't give that valuable data away unless you're getting something equally valuable in return. In the case of Google you will be (an uplift in enquiries), but you will be far better off, both financially and presentationally, owning your own reviews in the case of those displayed on your website.

If any readers can add to this list we would welcome your feedback, simply use the 'Contact us!' box on the right and we'll include your point along with our response right here.


It's never too late!

Finally, resist the temptation to say 'well, we committed to X review site and its been hard work getting all those reviews, so we'll stick with it'.

We have had great success taking businesses with many hundreds of reviews elsewhere and getting them a well-established profile in Google reviews in short order. 

Have your cake (with lots of great reviews - that you own - on your website) and eat it (with lots on Google too).