Sunday 30 June 2013

DIY - why it will never work

The flaw at the core of the best DIY solutions...

Over the last 6 years we have watched with interest as some market leaders in their respective fields have embraced the concept of consumer reviews - and formulated some of their own in-house solutions; and then we've spoken to the consumers themselves. Here are some examples...


The major group who embarked on DIY: "our regular guests from our loyalty program are bound to love us..."

Credibility: 2 stars: You only invite guests on your loyalty program??? You promise me you don't filter negatives?

Results: 2 stars: They found out that the guests on their loyalty program weren't that loyal after all (many had no option but to stay with that hotel group - it was their employer's choice). And potential guests were still going to TripAdvisor for unfiltered opinions.

Estate Agents

The 'testimonials' solution:

"We'll put every (positive?) comment on our website."

Credibility: 2 stars - we're not saying they make them up, but not one single gripe, not one client even remotely disgruntled?

Results: 2 stars "You can fool all of the people...

The bottom line

For reviews to be credible they must be independent - either from an external site like TripAdvisor or AllAgents, or (surprise!) HelpHound. The biggest turn-off for any potential customer is a solid stream of uncritical 'testimonials' - in 2013 it's become worse than nothing at all because it's even more likely to drive them into the arms of an independent review site.

If you look at any of our clients' websites you will see that verified reviews (as opposed to testimonials), even if they do award the business 4 or 5 stars, include helpful comments (helpful to both the business and the potential customer) like:


This, by including the word 'eventually', was the most negative thing anyone had to say from 97 reviews about this agent client! 

The key here? CREDIBILITY...

And our solution? Dialogue - where you can interact with your customer before they post a negative

Thursday 20 June 2013

TripAdvisor - code cracking!

As near as makes no difference...

As regular readers of this blog and our hotel clients will know, we keep a very close eye on what goes into making up your ranking on TripAdvisor. Up until now we haven't had all the pieces of the jigsaw, so we have had to make educated (very educated) guesses...

But this month TripAdvisor gave us a massive helping hand. How? By introducing this...

As soon as it appeared Nigel Cann and his team set to work, reassessing hotel rankings across the world in the context of their overall ranking and the new 'thumbs up' percentage; the results made very interesting reading.

We now know, with something approaching absolute certainty... 
  • Volume of reviews is critical
  • Old reviews are discounted (over 18 months old)
  • A steady flow of positives (5*/4*) is very important
  • Any 'poor'/'terrible'(2*/1*) reviews have a dramatic negative impact

All of this makes sense, but it's good to have it confirmed. It will make life so much easier for hoteliers who have, up until now, struggled to understand exactly how their ranking is established.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Dialogue™ - 100% success for a new client!

Let's keep this simple...

A (large, central London) hotel joins...

They obey all the rules for making Dialogue a success...

We review their results...

That impressive '0' doesn't mean every review posted in Dialogue was positive, far from it, but the hotel responded and the guest didn't take up our invitation to post a review on Dialogue.

And - to cap it all - 9 of the 'excellent'/'very good' reviews posted to TripAdvisor are directly attributable to Dialogue.

So, if you want:
  1.  great credible reviews on your own website
  2.  more great reviews on TripAdvisor
  3.  no negatives posted on TripAdvisor*
  4.  more direct bookings - less OTA commissions
Then join all the great hotels that have Dialogue working for them.

*Dialogue isn't about denying your guests the right to post on TripAdvisor, it's about giving you an opportunity to resolve issues yourselves before they feel the need to. All guests who post through Dialogue, positive or negative, are invited to review our clients on TripAdvisor.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Feedback Manager™ - an important addition

Let HelpHound take the strain - Feedback Manager Plus

As most of you know - HelpHound's service to businesses consists of three elements...
  1. Dialogue™ - to harvest reviews and manage customer complaints in private
  2. Dynamic Display™ - to draw attention to your customers' opinions on your website
  3. Feedback Manager™ - to manage the response to those reviews
And it's the third of these we're going to focus on in this post; all research shows that your customers really appreciate 'being thanked'. Just as importantly it also shows that your prospective customers are impressed by a business that responds to reviews.

So? Two things: you will be contacted by a member of Karen's client services team about adopting Feedback Manager, and this, for the first time, will include us helping you manage responses all across the web

This can include any 'open' website - TripAdvisor for instance. HelpHound will simply act as an extension of your CRM function; you choose exactly balance of input between HelpHound and your business. 

Welcome to Feedback Manager Plus!

Important update 1-11-13: since the introduction of Feedback Manager Plus we have engaged with TripAdvisor on behalf of our clients and had great success in effecting the deletion of negative reviews where TripAdvisor T&Cs have been contravened. 

We calculate that the deletion of a single one star review for a hotel in a marketplace like London is equivalent to between 2 and 3 places in their TripAdvisor rankings. More important than that is the effect a 1* review has on direct bookings while it remains on the first three pages of the hotel's TA listing.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Our first hat-trick!

Three in a row, in one day, for a single client

Almost all of our clients incorporate a back-end invitation into Dialogue - to post elsewhere. With most hotel clients, this is TripAdvisor. Here's what happened last Friday...


And then this...

And finally - this...

Happy guests - and a happy client!

Feedback Manager™ - across the web

Never leave another review unanswered

Up until now Feedback Manager has managed responses for clients within Dialogue - thanking your customers for writing positive reviews and ensuring appropriate responses are posted to criticism.

From today we are broadening Feedback Manager's role to include external 'open' sites (like TripAdvisor and AllAgents). What will this mean for clients?

In an ideal world nothing should be posted, anywhere on the web, about your business without being responded to - even if just to thank the customer writing the review for taking the trouble, and even for a one word review like this...

Even more important is to address criticism, like this...

Now we can do the same for you, right across the web. Please contact your Membership Advisor or Karen and her client services team and they will give you full details

Thursday 6 June 2013

Turning the corner with Dialogue - Fast!

Some of you might be asking the question : "is it really possible that Dialogue can have that great an effect on our online reputation?"

We all know that larger hotels will, by their very nature attract more negative comments than their smaller competitors - sheer volume of guests dictates that some negatives will be posted - or will they?

Here's a snapshot of a recent client's poor/terribles on TripAdvisor:

Since implementing Dialogue?

 *And a score of 4.6 out of 5 from nearly 100 guest reviews showing on their Dialogue module

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Why your customers need HelpHound

Dialogue - for reviews your customers can trust

All our clients run great businesses. How do we know? Because Dialogue tells us so - we see all their customers' comments. But not every business out there is quite as great as it looks on the web. In the last 6 years we have met with hundreds of businesses and done a lot of research on them, we have spoken to staff at all levels and we've even employed people from those businesses

So what have we learned?

That the web - from the consumer's point-of-view - is still in its 'Wild West' stage. It's full of gunslinging businesses exploiting the gaping flaws in the area of reviews and social media to give their potential customers a completely false perspective on the services they provide


How about the London estate agents who employ a full-time member of staff to manage their presence on the web? Her actual role? To post fake reviews onto AllAgents and then post the results to Facebook and Twitter - all day, every day*

The hotel that ranks in the top 100 in London and has loads of great reviews on TripAdvisor. When we looked at their ranking just didn't match up, so we looked harder at their TripAdvisor reviews and, sure enough, every time they got a poor review it was followed by a flurry of 5* reviews, all written by first-time reviewers. When we challenged them about this they came clean, but justified it by saying "We have to, all our competitors are doing the same" and then went on to name some quite surprising names - we checked them out as well, and sure enough, the same tell-tale pattern

One country-house hotel we approached was even more candid: "We ensure we stay top on TripAdvisor, it's so easy, and it only takes minutes a month. You would have to be an idiot to be caught out."

Hardly a day goes by without someone somewhere, in the press or online, writing about how easy it is to 'game' sites from Yelp to Google Local, and therefore: how consumers shouldn't trust them

So here's a benefit of Dialogue that you may not have immediately considered: reviews your customers can really trust - by showing the HelpHound logo next to your reviews, your customers know they can be relied on, and crucially, you remove your business from even the faintest suspicion that your reviews are not completely genuine

*And at what cost - Compared with Dialogue?

Monday 3 June 2013

Results - simply astounding

Dynamic Display turbocharges Dialogue

It is now six months since we launched Dynamic Display. We had no idea of the profound effect it would have - for all our clients - on the overall performance of Dialogue...

Early signs were encouraging: clients commented on how their customers were referencing their reviews more frequently when booking (hotels) or making appointments for valuations (estate agents). So we began to track performance, and we are now very pleased to report the results...

For hotels:
  1. An average reduction in negative reviews on TripAdvisor of over 70%
  2. Similarly rewarding results across all OTAs and social media
  3. Uplifts in TripAdvisor rankings across the board
  4. Uplifts in scores across the board
  5. Consistent reports of increases in direct bookings
For estate agents:
  1. Increases in enquiries through clients' websites
  2. Reports of enhanced conversions across the board

For all our clients:
  1. Reports of positive impacts on staff confidence and morale
  2. Dialogue helping in the recruitment process
  3. Quotes from Dialogue being incorporated in advertising and marketing
  4. Dialogue becoming increasingly influential in contract negotiations

A big thank-you to all our clients - Dynamic Display was untried when most of you adopted it - and especially to those who have taken the trouble to report your experiences