Tuesday, 29 January 2013

"Comparisons are Odious"

A phrase intentionally misquoted by Shakespeare (he substituted 'odorous') and appearing in Marlowe and Donne, but seems to have fallen into disuse of late. Why do we quote it here?

The Web and Comparison

We are all familiar with comparison sites - for insurance, utilities and such - and they can be very useful when comparing absolutes (price being the obvious). But what about subjective issues like 'best hotel' or 'best estate agent'?

Not so helpful, in our opinion. Let us explain why: in over six years of running our own review site (helphound.com) and over two years in managing businesses' online reputations through Dialogue we have been asked again and again 'Why don't you rank businesses against one another?' It's time to publish our answer...

We don't rank businesses because it doesn't work. It doesn't work because...
  • Every person's opinion is personal
  • Every person's opinion is subjective
  • One person's great business is another person's average business
  • One person's terrible business is another person's ideal business
Let's take an example - you want a hotel. You consult a site that ranks hotels. You choose the top-ranked hotel. And then it gets difficult - is the hotel in the right location? Does it provide the facilities you want? Can you absolutely trust the opinions of those whose reviews made that hotel the top ranked hotel in that location? Is the hotel doing something to enhance its ranking (and that doesn't need to be something sinister)?

Another example: a site that ranks estate agents. Top agent in the UK? Pretty well the same issues - location, services, trusted opinions.

Review sites can add tremendous value for consumers, but what (in our opinion) they shouldn't attempt to do is to compare one business against another. If you doubt this, pick a great business in your area and see how it fares against competitors you know - a hotel for instance. It may come out on top, but often it won't, and it's the same for other sectors.

Reviews are hugely useful - consumer feedback about their experience of a particular business can really help consumers choose (or at least make a short-list), but we don't think they should be used to conjure up a ranking system which will almost certainly be misleading (and potentially harmful to business and consumer alike).

Monday, 28 January 2013

Back-End v. Front-End (reputation management)

Here we examine the (sometimes confusing) difference between back-end and front-end reputation management...

Back-end reputation management?


Simply put: responding to consumer feedback. This can be via in-house CRM (guest questionnaires for hotels, client surveys for estate agents, for instance) which will tell you areas and issues that need addressing. In the hospitality industry there are companies that will aggregate feedback via OTAs and social media - ReviewPro and TrustYou are good examples - so businesses can track patterns and address recurring issues.

Means addressing what's being said about your business before it's published on the web (our Dialogue™).

The difference? 

Both are tools to help you improve your reputation; 'back-end' by making improvements to the way you manage your business, 'front-end' by addressing consumer concerns before they are posted on the web.

For example...

No - we're not going to name names! But we visit hundreds of businesses every year and we get a very good feel of how well those businesses are run; for instance: it's amazing how far from its online reputation the reality of a hotel experience can be, we see at least one great hotel a week, and often they look seriously average on TripAdvisor.

The solution

In an ideal world every business should do both. If one or other is neglected your businesses' reputation will suffer. How is up to you, but we're here to help!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dialogue for Estate Agents in 2013

With the recent introduction of Dynamic Display, Dialogue has taken on a life of its own. Here we look at the different ways two estate agent clients have incorporated it into their home pages...

First - 'standard' - Rampton Basely...

Second - 'bespoke' - Shepherds...

We think that the message both transmit are equally powerful: "We are so confident in our standards of professionalism that we invite all our clients to comment, and furthermore, display all those comments here for all to see."

Whether you go the 'standard' or 'own brand' route, we think that showing verified and therefore credible client opinions via Dialogue + Dynamic Display will be the way ahead for professional agents in 2013 - Happy New Year!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Results for 2012 - Hotels

Here we share with you the results we have achieved for our hotel clients in 2012. We are proud of these; when they are combined with the new services we are now offering clients for 2013 (Dynamic Display and Feedback Manager) we are confident that 2013 will see even more value being added...

Dialogue™ for Hotels in 2102
  • Average response rate: 5.2% - massively higher than any equivalent CRM, and - essentially - containing a very high proportion of the damaging negatives that might otherwise be posted live on the web - one client is achieving over 12%
  • Average score of 4.6/5 on 'overall opinion' - our clients are being rewarded by their guests...
  • 4.8% of reviews entered Resolution™ - containing some sort of issue and enabling the hotel management to resolve it offline
  • 98.6% were of these resulted in no final review posted - a massive win for both our clients and their guests
  • An average of 2.4 'helpful' votes per review - potential guests are referencing reviews before booking - increasing the likelihood of direct booking

 And as a result...
  • TripAdvisor rankings rose by 11.2% (more for clients who achieve a high % of guest email addresses)
  • Booking.com scores rose by 13.7%
So: we're happy and our clients are very happy - here's what one has said...

"Since using HelpHound's Dialogue service we've seen a sharp increase in positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Booking.com. Guests tell us that they refer to these and our website before deciding to stay with us, and we're getting more direct bookings as a result. Consumers are getting savvy about the credibility of anonymous reviews, so highlighting verified, trustworthy reviews on our own site is crucial - it really can make the difference between a guest choosing to stay with us or at another hotel.

Another benefit of Dialogue is that it can alert us to complaints before they get posted online - this is extremely important for us, not only in resolving issues effectively and retaining customer loyalty, but also for minimising any negative online comments that we feel don't reflect our consistently high standards. Really grumpy people will still be grumpy and mean, and may run straight to TripAdvisor but people with realistic issues which can be resolved do like the Dialogue process and have been pleased with the outcome."

Christopher Nevile, CEO - The Lincoln Hotel

...and not simply because of these scores: Resolution is enabling them to retain guests who might otherwise not return, encourage direct booking through their website and understand even better how to deliver guest satisfaction.

Feedback Manager - for all

Our full-service option

We soft-launched Feedback Manager last year, and we are now offering it to all our clients...

Feedback Manager handles all responses to reviews - both positive and negative: It ensures...
  • that customers who post positives are thanked
  • the best possible outcome if a negative post is received
Clients are allocated a dedicated member of our client services team who will liaise directly with them to ensure Feedback Manager works seamlessly.

Who should use Feedback Manager?

Clients who find themselves pressed for time or resources, clients where key staff are sometimes unavailable to respond in a timely fashion.

Feedback Manager™ - taking your CRM to a whole new level of excellence 

Just how harmful can one single review be? - Horror Stories (3)

There remains a feeling in some quarters that 'Our kind of business doesn't need to worry about reviews'. So here we look at the logic of this...

Here's a review posted on Ciao (Bing's product and service review platform): 

It is the only review of this (large) company we've found on the whole of the world-wide-web. So:
  • Is it helpful to the business? - no!

  • Is it harmful to the business? - this question bears more thorough examination...
If the search is simply '[company name]', probably not - Google does not return the review in the first 10 pages of its results.

If, however, the search is "['company name']+[ 'reviews']" then the review is returned on page 1. This, then,  is potentially very damaging - the potential client googling '[company name]+[review]' is explicitly looking for opinions - and this is the only opinion being returned.

  • Engage with all your clients
  • Invite reviews
  • Manage negatives in private
  • Show the world credible positive opinions
In short - Dialogue™