Sunday, 30 December 2012

The strongest message your website can deliver

Here's an interesting article on Of the '10 Things Customers Want on a Website', many are obvious: At number 2 - 'A clear sense of what your company offers' and even more so at 3 - 'Contact information, including a phone number and physical location'.

But it's numbers 4 and 8 that interest us the most - partly because so few businesses are yet incorporating them...


Entrepreneur went on to reference an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled 'To Keep your Customers Keep it Simple'...

"The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was “decision simplicity”—the ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product."


"User reviews and ratings are front and center there [a successful case history], and a navigation tool lets consumers quickly find reviews that are relevant to their intended use."

Look at a client of ours who has recently redesigned their homepage from a potential client's perspective. They've included... 
  • 'View what our customers say' in the main header 
  • Dynamic Display in the heart of their home page
  • Dialogue - for potential clients to view credible and verified testimonials

We think the message it sends out to potential clients is clear: If you're considering an estate agent in Hertford our clients think we're great at what we do - contact us!

(and, by the way, it's great for SEO as well!)

Perhaps there's an idea for a New Year's Resolution here!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

TripAdvisor - all change at the top?

You heard it here - Liberty Interactive has taken control of TripAdvisor (read the full Financial Times online article here).

It's too soon to make guesses as to how this might affect our hotelier clients, but were going to contribute our twopenny-worth anyway.

What does HelpHound think the new 'Liberty TripAdvisor' should do?

A big number 1 is 'communicate': TripAdvisor needs to invest heavily in client services - meaning employing high-grade people on the ground who hoteliers can rely on for advice and assistance.

Number 2: a massive investment in systems to 'clean up the site' - end the 'assumption of innocence' where reviewers are concerned. Far too many reviews (and reviewers) are not what or who they purport to be: genuine guests.

Number 3: End the current 'ranking' system, in favour of scores like Ranking one hotel above or below another is meaningless and leads to the 'one winner, everyone else a loser' situation that currently prevails at TripAdvisor.

All in all: care more about not biting the hand that feeds - the OTAs pay TripAdvisor commissions paid for by the hotels. TripAdvisor charges the hotels. Stop hiding behind the 'it's the consumer who pays' excuse (tell that to hotels who cannot increase their rates in an intensively competitive market).

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Yelp - review filter working OK??

A flurry of activity surrounding Yelp recently - a builder in Washington DC is suing a Yelper for posting a defamatory review. The case is ongoing, but Yelp has been sufficiently concerned that they have deleted her review.

But that's not what intrigued us most: Yelp make much of their 'review filter' (see their explanation here) but it is working most mysteriously for Deitz Development's listing; a quick scan reveals eleven 1 star reviews, all posted in the last week, from 'customers' from as far afield as California, Ohio and Texas. Now, either Mr Deitz gets about a bit in search of work, or these are simply Yelpers driving the business's rating down because they don't like his legal stance.

Time to look again at your filter, Yelp?

2012 - a year in Review

Now seems as good a time as any to bring everyone up-to-date with developments during 2012

2012 was the year that Dialogue proved itself:
  • to the hotel trade, by improving relative rankings and scores for our clients 
  • to estate agents, by helping them demonstrate their professionalism
  • to clients in a multitude of other verticals - from employment agencies to solicitors
It was also the year that we introduced a fundamental improvement: Dynamic Display - helping our clients show live reviews to their prospective customers, streamed from Dialogue straight to a tailor-made screen on their home pages.

And a round-up of the most popular blog posts of 2012...

At number 1 - Blackmail, addressing an all-too-frequent issue faced by our hotel clients, but not far behind in second place: Well done Castles relating one estate agent's experience with Dialogue; then it's back to hotels with Scores Rise on about our results for clients on that crucial OTA.  Just outside the medals was TripAdvisor face-to-face with our report on their session at the Independent Hotels 12 expo.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Estate Agents - Dialogue in a nutshell

Now that results for Dialogue have been conclusively proven, our clients are increasingly being asked about Dialogue by their clients and business connections.  A client asked one of our advisors for a short description of Dialogue that they could pass on and it was so well received they suggested we post it here...

Dialogue for estate agents:
  • Shows great client opinions on the agent's own site - reassuring potential clients
  • Deflects negatives away from public sites
  • Aids conversion - see a client's comment here
  • increases the flow of positives to sites like Google Local

There you are! There is more - improved employee morale (leading to improved staff retention), great feedback for management and so on, but the core of Dialogue's value is contained in those four bullet points - even more so since the introduction of Dynamic Display

And remember...

...we reward our clients who recommend us!

Hotels - Dialogue in a nutshell

Now that results for Dialogue have been conclusively proven, our clients are increasingly being asked about Dialogue by their clients and business connections.  A client asked one of our advisors for a short description of Dialogue that they could pass on and it was so well received they suggested we post it here...

Dialogue for hotels:
  • Shows great guest opinions on the hotels own site - encouraging direct booking
  • Deflects negatives away from external sites, and in doing so...
  • ...enhances rankings and scores on TripAdvisor and and all other OTAs
  • increases the flow of positives to sites like TripAdvisor and Google Local

There you are! There is more - improved employee morale (leading to improved staff retention), great feedback for management and so on, but the core of Dialogue's value is contained in those four bullet points - even more so since the introduction of Dynamic Display

And remember...

...we reward our clients who recommend us!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

OTAs - are they fair? Are they good value for the guest?

This debate has been bubbling away since Thomas Cook took 540 temperance campaigners the eleven miles from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841, and was paid a commission by the railway company.

It has been accelerated since online OTAs became the dominant force in travel, and there are very much two sides to the argument...

Those in favour:

And they include hotels who pay commission willingly and travellers themselves - say that the OTAs:
  • Reduce the hotels' own marketing costs
  • Enable travellers to access the widest choice of accommodation
  • Provide value to hotelier and traveller alike

Those against:

Overwhelmingly in the hotel trade, say:
  • Commissions ramp their rack rates to the detriment of guests
  • That OTAs are unresponsive to their needs
  • That users are unaware of the financial arrangements between them and the OTAs
What is undeniable is that the OTAs now have a stranglehold on the hotel booking market. And this is not entirely their own fault. It is possible that hotels have become over-reliant on OTAs (we meet hotels every week who have cut back on all their non-OTA marketing, even letting their own websites suffer). 

Here's a link to a quite remarkable blog post on a small hotel's own website - we would very much like to hear your opinions - so feel free to comment below...

Make your website as good as you are

While we're not web-designers, we do look at dozens of client websites every week, and most of us come from marketing backgrounds. On top of that we see just how many negatives posted relate to the business's website. This article in Hotels magazine resonates with us and we thought we ought to share our thoughts:

What do you want visitors to your website to do?

Book (hotels); contact you (estate agents) - so your whole site should be dedicated to this end.

Most common errors...
Not quite the hotel! Definitely not the estate agency!
Photos of Buckingham Palace. Awful photos (out of focus/mobile phone). Small photos (with no way of enlarging). 'Stock' photos - a 'receptionist' but not the agent's receptionist). Lots of text that never gets read, links that don't work, links to sites that take your business away.

Examples (real, but no names!): 

"Within easy reach of [Buckingham Palace]" - again - 3 miles and 6 tube stops (that 'looked close' to their web designer who was in Manchester) 

"Park view" [4 rooms out of 60] setting the hotel up for a constant stream of complaints on TripAdvisor: 'Our view was of the hotel opposite.'

"Quiet" [unless the nightclub is open, which it is - until 2 am - Thurs-Sat] - enough said

One lonely testimonial (for an estate agent), from 2009 - from a client called 'Mr P'

A link from an estate agents' site to a site that ranked them 213th in the UK

Last Christmas's special offer still on the site in May

What the visitor to your website wants in 2012

It's all about first impressions. And that impression has to be made instantly. In the early days of the web it was all about telling everything, now we know you have seconds to convince the consumer. By all means include detail but keep your home page clean - the detail can be kept behind tabs.

We are constantly surprised by the contrast between websites and reality; estate agents who spend huge amounts of money on their offices, but next to none on their websites, lovely hotels with awful websites. Great websites need not cost a fortune, but cheap ones will cost you a fortune in lost business.


According to TripAdvisor the average guest visits seven websites before booking. And one of those will be the hotel's own site - so the hotel has at least a chance of getting the booking (and getting it direct) if their website does what the potential guest wants. 

You want them to book through your website, so...

Where DO I start?
  • Photographs - the bigger (and more professional) the better, with accurate descriptions - of bedrooms and other facilities the guest will use - exterior shots are great, but remember they will be staying in the hotel
  • An easy way to book - with all the options - booking engine, phone, email
  • The credible opinions of people who have stayed recently
  • Biographies of the owner/gm/key staff - it's a people business

Estate Agents

Most visitors to estate agents' own sites are, by definition, potential sellers/landlords (purchasers/tenants visit once the transaction is underway). What do they want to see? 

Just like hotels, it's all about first impressions:
  • Clear and informative
  • The answer to the question: 'what value will this agent add?'
  • Biographies of key members of staff - again 'its a people business'
  • The credible opinions of clients who have done business recently
Staff photos are great - but steady with the gel!
In summary:
  • Lavish the same care as you do with your hotel/office
  • More images - less words (unlike this blog!)
  • Personality - people buy from people
  • Credible reviews - up-to-date

Friday, 23 November 2012

Show reviews live!

This week we launch Dynamic Display - you can now show live reviews to visitors to your website before they click through to your Dialogue module - now every visitor to your website sees reviews.

For hotels:

Reviews give visitors to your website the confidence to book - direct! Up until now the Dialogue module performed that function for our clients; the addition of Dynamic Display gives every visitor to your website current guest opinions...

Click to enlarge

For estate agents:

This week two independent reports - one by the RICS ('Renting: Property's Wild West') and one by Which? - address the issue of regulation of letting agents. Whilst we are sure their findings are justified, they damage the reputations of good agents. So It is increasingly important for our clients to differentiate themselves from the so-called 'cowboys'...

Click to enlarge
Here is a live demonstration: for hotels and for estate agents

You will see just how powerfully the live reviews support your key marketing messages.

The Dynamic Display can be tailored (size/font/colours) and can be used on any web page you decide. Dynamic Displays will be available for each service you have a module for - 'weddings' and 'conferences' for hotels, for example; 'sellers' and 'landlords' for estate agents.

For full details please contact Karen ( or your business member advisor

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Horror stories (3) - Restaurateur jailed!

All our clients know that responses to reviews have to be:
  • Polite
  • Conciliatory
  • Constructive
...and above all - legal! Only last week one of our moderators spotted a potential PR nightmare in the making where the hotel guest was demanding compensation for a sleepless night and the hotelier seemed to be suspecting a mild form of blackmail and was about to include an allusion to this in their response. We spoke to the hotelier and suggested that an offer of 'three nights for two' next time the guest stayed might be a more constructive solution - the hotel adopted this strategy and the guest was satisfied (and did not go on to post a negative review).

In Ottowa things panned out slightly differently - and the result was 90 days in jail for the business owner.

Read the full story as reported in the Ottowa Citizen here

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Don't think they're reading about you?

Helpful votes are a good guide to the number of people actually reading a review...

One of our directors wrote a review of a small hotel in France in June this year - the hotel gets about 1 review a week from guests, but just look how many potential guests have read that review in the last four months (and it's now down on page 3 of their TripAdvisor listing). 

He's a bit miserable about the number of 'helpful' votes he's received, but we don't think that's a particular reflection on his review, just a good guide to the proportion of readers who bother to vote (about one in 75).

This is also a good rule of thumb for our clients to apply to their reviews on Dialogue...

Click to enlarge
...on that basis just how many people have read this review on a client's Dialogue module?

Not just a bed for the night

Many hotels provide more than just a bed for the night - and for their customers it is vital that they are able to judge the service they want. One of our clients, for instance, does a roaring trade in weddings... they have a Dialogue module dedicated to that service (see how many potential clients have voted the review above 'helpful'). 

As well as weddings they have two restaurants, conference facilities and a wine bar - and Dialogue enables their guests to review them all... guests can instantly access reviews for the specific service they require.

Dialogue is tailored to every client - so whatever service you provide (and whatever questions you want to ask your guests about that service) we will accommodate you.

Learn from the Top 20

If you look at the shining examples (and the hotel industry, which has been subject to consumer reviews more and for longer than any other is a good case in point) - you will see that hotels that rank in the top 20 out of over 1000 hotels in London on TripAdvisor aren't always the obvious ones (the Ritz is at 47, Claridges 63, the Connaught 135 and the Westbury at 329).

So what are the top hotels on TripAdvisor doing right? The answer is simple: they have strategies in place to manage their online reputations.

The benefits: higher occupancy, higher relative rates, better staff morale (and retention) and maybe best of all - more direct bookings from returning guests who don't need to check their online reputations at all.

While Dialogue cannot guarantee you a place in the top 20, it can help you do what so many of the top 20 hotels are doing at a fraction of the cost - and a fraction of the effort

On top of that...

Click to enlarge

...showing credible reviews on your own website to attract more direct bookings.

All it takes is an email, Dialogue will do the rest.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mobilising the silent majority

Yesterday TripAdvisor released the results of a major survey of traveller behaviour - you can read a good summary by here

This survey needs to be taken in context. According to a report by Market Metrix which compares TripAdvisor users' behaviour with results from hotels' own surveys "there were nearly 300% more negative responses (1- and 2-star ratings) when compared to survey research, and positive responses (5-star ratings) were underrepresented by 35%." They call this the 'Negative Tilt':

This dovetails with our own analysis and anecdotal evidence from hotel clients. In reality the 'tilt' is even greater. Why?

Because the silent majority don't write reviews (and don't respond to guest surveys either). 

Let's expand on this:

Point 1

On average only one in 1400 guests write any kind of review on TripAdvisor

Point 2

Response rates to guest surveys average less than half of one percent

An example:

A recent client - a hotel in London which has recently undergone a change of ownership and complete refurbishment (significant enough for TripAdvisor to delete previous reviews) has had nearly 5000 guests since then. They have received less than 20 reviews on TripAdvisor - almost half of those being negative. 


They have done 'better than average' (on the figures above you might expect them to have about 4 reviews) but has this helped them? No - because unhappy guests are MUCH more likely to post a review than the 'silent majority' of happy guests. And everyone in the hotel trade knows how damaging negative reviews on TripAdvisor can be - driving the hotel's relative ranking down and impacting on bookings/occupancy/rates, especially when the negative remains on page 1.

The Solution

There are two alternatives - denial (and we do come across this) or a proactive effort to engage with the 'silent majority'. 

Dialogue™ - engaging with the 'silent majority'

Response rates to Dialogue vary from 4-6% (more for hotels who maximise* their engagement). And Resolution's success in enabling clients to manage negatives means that very few of those are ultimately published.

This gives our hotel clients a much better chance of getting the satisfied 'silent majority' to voice their opinion - both to their own websites and then on to TripAdvisor - with a fighting chance of enhancing their rankings - leading to wins in occupancy and rates as well as the potential for increased direct bookings through their own websites.

* Contact Karen or your business membership advisor for details

P.S. This works for and the other OTAs as well - see this recent post

Monday, 12 November 2012

Dialogue vs. conventional CRM

Clients often ask us...

"Why does Dialogue get such a high response when compared to our own CRM?"

We have collated a wealth of evidence, both numeric and anecdotal, over the years; here's our answer:

First - the promise to publish

When consumers know that they will be heard by more than just the business, they are more likely to respond.When they know that their review will definitely be published they are even more likely to respond

Second - the opportunity to get an issue resolved

Most people who post negatives don't want to hurt the business, they want to get an issue that's important to them resolved - and Resolution™ does just that for them. Often they actively want to continue to use the business concerned, providing they get a meaningful response to the issue they raise

Third - it's non-confrontational

Some people hate the thought of complaining face-to-face (or even direct by email). Dialogue gives them a completely non-confrontational channel to communicate issues that concern them - a massive benefit for businesses as well

Fourth - independence

They like the fact that HelpHound is verifying that they are a 'real customer' and that we impartially oversee the conversation.

Fifth - the 'thank you letter' syndrome

It's used as a modern way of writing a 'thank-you letter' for good service, and Dialogue gives consumers that opportunity at the click of a mouse

Sixth - it's not seen as 'an invitation to help the business run its business'

A lot of consumers we have spoken to have stressed this aspect - they expressed an aversion to the kind of CRM that 'simply helps the business'

Seventh - and perhaps most important of all:
The overwhelming majority of people who complain through Dialogue want to use the business again! In effect they are using Resolution™to get reassurance - that 'they'll get a better room next time', that 'next time they ring the [estate agent] they won't be put through to a recorded message' (Yes - it's happened).

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Resolution™ - why it works

Resolution works so effectively that some clients 'know it works, but don't exactly know why it works'. This is understandable, so in this post we address the 'Why?'

First - some statistics:
  • about 3% of all reviews we moderate are put into Resolution for a response from our client - and they can range from an outright complaint to an issue we feel our client should have the opportunity to address privately
  • Of those, just over 98% result in a satisfactory outcome - a improved final review or...
  • In over 95% of cases - no final review at all
Let's examine these further...

Why are only 3% of initial reviews negative?

All of our clients are paragons! Seriously though, only good businesses join HelpHound. Dialogue simply doesn't work for a badly run business. But no business is perfect, and that's why Dialogue exists - not to give consumers a way of hurting businesses, but a way for them to get mistakes rectified. 

For some, let's call them the 'mildly dissatisfied', the simple act of inviting the review through HelpHound will be enough to make them think again about posting anything, anywhere - they simply say to themselves 'never mind' and nothing happens.

How does Dialogue achieve such a high rate of 'satisfactory outcomes'?

The answer to this is partly because our clients take reviews in Resolution seriously - they respond immediately and the reassure their customer that their point has been taken on board and acted upon. 

And its partly because our moderators are very good at overseeing the process - they won't let a reviewer 'rant' and they won't let our clients 'rant back'.

Why do so few customers go on to post a 'final review'?

We know the answer to this because we see both sides of the conversation: it's because they didn't really want to write a review in the first place. They simply wanted an acknowledgment from the business that it had a point to answer.

Examples of this include:
  • Mistakes - Customers who say "Something went wrong - if you can reassure me that it won't happen again I'll continue to use your business."
  • Financial issues - Customers who wanted clarification: "I didn't understand your charges."
  • Misunderstandings - customers who thought the service included something when it did not: "We were expecting a spa at your hotel."
  • Personality - the customer who 'got out of the wrong side of bed' - often resolved by explanation or simple apology "We're sorry." 

The bottom line is that Resolution works - it's one of the core features of Dialogue - helping our business members ensure that their customers have a way of communicating with them without having to post publicly on the web.

We hope this helps, if you would like further clarification please contact Karen Hutchings ( or your business membership advisor.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Graduate opportunities and Partnering

HelpHound - with thanks to our clients - is growing fast, and we need help to spread the message...

Graduate Opportunities

We have vacancies on our graduate scheme for trainee business member advisors. If you know anyone who might fit the bill ask them to contact us, initially by email at We will then invite them to come and meet one of our last graduate intake so they can fully understand the exciting opportunity to be part of the HelpHound journey.


HelpHound partners with all kinds of organisations and businesses; some, like advertising/PR agencies and professional bodies are obvious, but we welcome introductions from all around the business world, from our clients - it's a great way to reward yoru suppliers and service providers (and you can write their first review) - and from others who understand the value of our services. 

If you would like a copy of our Partnership Terms please email

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Horror Stories 2 - United Breaks Guitars

Just how bad can a single customer service mistake be? An airline breaks a passenger's guitar - so far so (relatively - unless you like Taylor guitars) mundane. It's what the airline did (or didn't) do next that saw one video get over 12 million views on YouTube, spawn 2 sequels, numerous spoofs and spin-offs and, most important of all for United Airlines, causeduntold long-term damage to their reputation (and prompted a 17% fall in its share price):

If only United Airlines was a HelpHound client:
  • Dave Maxwell would have received an 'invitation to review' email 
  • He would have submitted his complaint - in private
  • Miss Irhlweg would have responded - through HelpHound
  • If her response had been inadequate - one of our moderators would have contacted United and made sure it was corrected
  • Mr Maxwell would have got his guitar fixed/replaced
  • No-one but United, HelpHound and Mr Maxwell would have been any the wiser (unless Mr M went on to post a review, which in all likelihood would have been what we call a 'positive negative': 'They broke my guitar but they replaced it - thanks United.')
  • United's share price would have been 17% higher!!

Testimonials - there is a better way

Here we address a question that crops up with increasing frequency - why not just show testimonials?

Firstly, let us be clear: showing testimonials on your website is a great first step, but there is a 'but', and that 'but' is all about verification and credibility. In order to be credible in the eyes of today's sophisticated consumer, testimonials must incorporate...
  • The customer's full name -  'Mrs J of Chelsea' won't cut it
  • The company's name - if it's a corporate testimonial
More importantly, the business must not be seen to be filtering or editing. There is plenty of evidence that businesses showing 100% positive testimonials (in tone and in content) create a 'credibility gap' in the eyes of the consumer. And it's one of the the reasons so many 'independent' review sites (from TripAdvisor to Yelp to AllAgents) have become so popular with consumers.

Where does Dialogue™ add value?

In the eyes of the consumer - first: the line 'we invite all our clients...without any selection or editing' is crucial. It's the main creator of credibility

Next: independent verification; thanks, in part, to the Sunday Times (and much other media coverage - the ASA ruling that TripAdvisor couldn't call their reviews 'trusted' is a high profile example) consumers have been made aware that testimonials and reviews can be manipulated by businesses.
For the business:

Because of Dialogue's 'promise to publish' the response rate (to the invitation to write a review) is over ten times higher than that for conventional in-house CRM. Put simply, Dialogue gets reviews.

Dialogue also takes a great deal of the effort (effort = time = expense) out of getting reviews. Clients respond to the invitation in significant numbers - bringing great reviews (as well as issues to be resolved in Resolution™) effectively and efficiently.

And ultimately - credible and verified reviews drive enquiries from your website and conversions at point-of-sale.

More Yelp!

We make no apologies for highlighting Yelp yet again - it poses a significant challenge to businesses in the UK now, and it is important for us to tell our clients about strategies for managing that challenge.

We have closely monitored the progress of Yelp in the US since it was a San Francisco fledgling. It now dominates the world of business reviews in the US.

Please read this post from business2community then read on...

Important points raised:
  1. 'Not just for restaurants' : it's a popular misconception that 'all Yelp reviews are of bars, restaurants and clubs'. The demographic of active Yelpers (18-30) means that there are plenty of those - but over 35% of all Yelp reviews are of other types of business, from employment agencies to accountants, from estate agents to doctors
  2. Yelp continues to do deals with the likes of Apple (Suri search on iPhones points to Yelp reviews) and Bing (Yelp results in search)
 What to do...

Claim your listing on Yelp (if you haven't already done so). But prepare yourself for a sales assault by Yelp's salespeople - we're not here to tell you whether or not Yelp's proposition in the UK will add value because Yelp is so much smaller in the UK (for now) than the US, and so there's simply too little evidence - a good strategy will be to keep and eye on businesses in your sector and then get feedback once someone else has taken the plunge.

Yelp and Dialogue

Now - it's more important than ever to make sure Dialogue works effectively for you. Invitation emails must be sent in a timely fashion (hotel clients might even consider sending their email before their guest checks out - estate agents and other 'service' clients must not cherry-pick* who they send the email to). 

If you don't follow this advice you will almost certainly find, sooner or later, you end up with a review on Yelp that you would rather had not been posted.

Here are the answers to some of the questions we are routinely asked about Yelp:
  • Can I get a review taken down? Here's Yelp's own answer: 'Colorful language and imagery is fine, but there's no need for threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other displays of bigotry' Which in practice means 'No' unless it's breaking the law.
  • Can I respond to a review? Only if your business has claimed its listing
  • Customers say they have posted positive reviews and they aren't showing. Why not? Yelp has a 'filter'. The way it operates is one of the mysteries of the 21st century - for comments from business owners read this
If you would like to speak to someone don't hesitate to email Karen ( or phone your business member advisor

*cherry-picking': the practice of only sending email invitations to 'happy' customers; risks the very real threat that the 'unhappy' customer will post negative comment elsewhere on the web

Friday, 26 October 2012

Our Charges - an overview

Dialogue has been working for clients for two years now - and we have had an immense amount of feedback on our charging structure. We are using this blog post to explain how this now works, but first a word of reassurance for existing clients - none of this will change the basis on which you became a client; we are enormously grateful to those of you who 'had faith' in the early days of Dialogue, particularly as it is you that have enabled us to prove its effectiveness!

The basis of charging for Dialogue:

As our existing clients know: Dialogue is much more than just a very effective 'piece of software', every post is read by one of our moderators and negative posts require intensive input from our client services team: they monitor both sides of the conversation between our clients and their customer. Input is often needed in both directions: advice form us to your customer on how best to phrase their concern, and advice to our clients on how best to respond. All leading to the incredibly high success rate of Resolution*.

The second 'tier' of advice we provide to clients is in proactively making the very best of Dialogue in their marketing. Karen and her team provide advice and support to all our clients on this - examples include:
  • effective placing of the Dialogue 'module' on clients' websites - e.g. on multiple pages
  • bespoke designs for the module
  • tailoring the questions asked
  • varying the email inviting the review to increase response
  • other techniques to increase response - e.g. follow-up
  • ways of incorporating Dialogue into the sales process
  • ways of incorporating Dialogue into marketing campaigns
  • ways of incorporating Dialogue into advertising
  • dovetailing Dialogue with your social media strategies
  • incorporating Dialogue into POS strategies
and, perhaps most important of all - sharing your fellow clients' experiences.

So - to summarise - there is the software that simply hums away in the background (which, in itself, is in a constant state of development and improvement) and the 'management, support and advice' provided by our client services team under Karen Hutchings.

So we have developed a charging structure that, as far as possible reflects our own costs in providing market leading software and ongoing support. This relates to the volume of work predicted - setting up, and ongoing management and support - in its most basic sense: 'the number of reviews we will be processing'.

For new clients:

We establish a 'guestimate' of the volume of work and then prepare an individual quotation. This consists of a one-off fee for design and implementation, a basic monthly fee and the standard charge for processing each negative (Resolution™).

This charging structure will be guaranteed for the first 18 months. For the first six months there is no contract, after six months we will conduct a client review with you: and the first objective of this review will be to establish that Dialogue has been a profitable exercise;  we will make suggestions for improvements (if any) to processes and the way you are using Dialogue and and ask you for two things:
  1. to sign a contract for the next 12 months
  2. to give us a review of your experience so far with Dialogue
We hope this helps - if you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to contact Karen Hutchings ( or your business member advisor.

 *Resolution - a success story all of its own: so far in 2012 over 97% of cases that have gone through the Resolution process have resulted in no final review being posted. Why? Because Resolution has enabled our clients to have an off-line conversation with their customer and resolve whatever issue has been raised. A win for the client, a win for the customer - and more often than not resulting in a customer who might otherwise have sought to move their business elsewhere (whether hotel guest or and estate agent's landlord client) being retained.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Yelp buys Qype - pay attention!

Why should that concern our clients?

First - Yelp is by far the biggest general review site on the planet. Second, because they have bought Qype (for $50m - that's $25* a review!) to boost their presence in the UK and Europe at a stroke.

The implications

So far neither Yelp nor Qype have made a big impression in the UK (although we're already seeing potential clients with damaging reviews on both). That won't last long! Yelp IPO'd on the NYSE this spring and now has a market value just short of $3bn - that's serious financial muscle by any measure. And now that financial muscle is being applied to get reviews in the UK - of your business!

Why do they need reviews of your business (and how do they get them)? 

Simple answer? So they can sell to you. Yelps sales staff (who are also inveterate reviewers) sell on the basis of page views - and every review is a page view.

You will see the Yelp 'Elite' button next to many reviewer's names. Elites are chosen on the basis of the number of reviews they write (and other subjective criteria). In return they are invited to 'events' at various watering-holes and eateries (and write reviews of them). So there's a big incentive for Yelpers to write as many reviews as possible of as many (kinds of) businesses as possible.

Bad behaviour?

Yelpers aren't all quite as nice as TripAdvisor reviewers (or even AllAgents reviewers). Yelp prides itself on 'freedom of speech' which all-too-often translates into 'freedom to pan' and woe betide the business that gets on the wrong side of Yelpers (their active 'community' can quickly gang up). Think of Yelp as 'Facebook for reviewers.'

Click to enlarge - a Yelper reviews his letting agent in London

Like TripAdvisor, Yelp has an algorithm for ranking businesses, and it's just as shrouded in mystery. Unlike TripAdvisor Yelp has a 'filter' and this has caused many a small business a great deal of anguish (positive reviews not being displayed, but negatives showing). 

This point is raised by the Los Angeles Times at 1 minute into this video...

Also, like TripAdvisor and AllAgents, anyone can write a review. ANYONE. Have a look at Qype's entry for Le Gavroche. Is it just us, or do we think maybe just a few of these reviewers have never set foot inside Le Gavroche (or maybe even in the UK)? 

In the past Yelp US has been the subject of criticism about its sales practices...

There's a similar report here

What action do you need to take?

Just as Dialogue defends our clients against the vicissitudes of reviewers on TripAdvisor, AllAgents and Google, so it will for Yelp/Qype. Make sure all your customers are invited to review you through Dialogue and you should be insulated. We will keep a close eye on Yelp's progress in the UK and keep you posted.

*Wow - that would value our sister site - - at $5m - thanks Yelp!

the 'Negotiator' Conference - a briefing

Some 500 of Britain’s top agents met yesterday at The Negotiator Conference. Branding, marketing and social media were the subjects of three of the discussion forums and HelpHound was there to meet with our clients and so we could brief those of you who were unable to attend.

Giles Redmayne, Business Director at Purpose, was refreshingly honest in his analysis of estate agents’ online presence. Commenting on the ‘general tendency to overuse adjectives’ (‘passion, integrity, professionalism’) Redmayne remarked ‘You guys all use the same type of language on all of your websites - if you claim it you have to prove it.
He acknowledged that ‘there’s a recession’ (‘I run a business too,’ he said) but argued that ‘establishing your brand and reputation, which need not be expensive, is the best way of surviving any downturn and emerging from it stronger.

Ian Laverty, an expert in marketing and business development, agreed with Redmayne’s comments on the ‘striking similarity of estate agents’ websites. He advised those attending to ‘start doing things that highlight how you are different and better’ (‘Don’t claim to be unique’ he added) and to ‘make sure whatever you do ‘is credible.’ 
Social media
Streetsmart’s Tracy Wood’s social media segment focused on ‘engaging with your clients, satisfied or not.’ Her message was a powerful one: ‘If you take your business seriously and want to be around in five years time you must engage with your clients.
HelpHound was delighted to hear Wood speak about ‘the need for structured and planned communication with clients’ and she stressed how a 'complainer with an issue resolved can be transformed into a valuable client.' ‘You need a means of settling issues through the web, but offline; public spats are never good’ she concluded. 
Clients will be reassured that HelpHound's Dialogue™ ticks all the boxes highlighted by the issues raised in these presentations
If you would like a more detailed briefing on any of this, please contact Freddie Manson at HelpHound or your business membership advisor.