Friday 20 September 2013

Estate agents - getting the very best response

We never stop learning, and that learning comes mostly from our clients. Here we pass on some tips on how to get the best response from your clients..
  1. Introduce Dialogue at the very first contact with your potential clients: not only does this prepare them for the invitation to review later on, it actually enhances your chances of gaining the instruction. Why? Because clients really like the idea that they will be asked to review your service, it indicates (a) your confidence that the service will be first class and (b) that you take client feedback very seriously - both great positives in the mind of your prospective client which may easily tip the balance in your favour
  2. Send the invitation to review from their main point of contact (usually the negotiator): not from the office manager, your PA or someone the client has had little or no contact with
  3. Follow the email with a phone call: reviews are important to you, so a call to say "Please do write your review, we really value your opinion." is not just a way to maximise response, it will be viewed as great client service as well
That's the 'process' part dealt with, what about the format of your Dialogue module itself?
  1. Don't ask too many questions: this is becoming very clear indeed, a maximum of five, after which response rates fall dramatically. It's important to stay focused on the objective of Dialogue: to get your clients to rate your service and write a review - that can be achieved with one question (overall opinion) and the review box!
  2. If you want to combine a CRM questionnaire with Dialogue: do it as an optional extra (ask Karen - she'll show you how), don't extend the Dialogue questions themselves (by number or length)
  3. Don't: ask for the client's name: remember you sent them the email. If they don't identify themselves in the response our moderators will do that for you
  4. Do: ask if they would be happy to recommend you: potential clients like to see that
 And in sales?
  1. Increasing enquiries: Dialogue drives enquiries through your website, it gives prospective clients the confidence to contact you
  2. Again: introducing the fact that you will be inviting a review - the first time you meet a prospective client - is being seen as a big positive; it will help you get that instruction
  3. Drawing potential clients' attention to your reviews further enhances your chances of gaining the instruction - sometimes one individual review can address the key issue that will tip the balance

And finally: remember that many businesses spend thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours focusing on just this kind of customer research and feedback, don't begrudge the odd phone call to achieve the same result. 

Friday 13 September 2013

Killer Reviews - L'Hotel Quebec

Horror Story and Killer Review - all in one: this story has gone viral

How many times do we have to read this nonsense? 

'What nonsense?' we hear you say. This nonsense (contained in the comments on this and other sites where the story has appeared):

"It seems to me that like any aggregated score it'll eventually sort itself out." and "Potential guests can see through the odd negative."

Time and again we hear this, not just in the context of TripAdvisor, but reviews in general.

So why is this 'nonsense'?

It's nonsense on so many levels:
  1. A 'killer review' like this has the potential to stop bookings dead in their tracks
  2. Killer reviews encourage 'piggybacking': 'me too' negative posts
  3. They discourage positive reviews - reviewers don't want to appear to be 'going against the flow'
  4. They discourage previously loyal guests from returning
  5. Any 'one star' (or two star, for that matter) dramatically impacts on a hotel's ranking and CSI
  6. If you doubt any of the above, just consider why L'Hotel Quebec has been driven (wrongly, in our opinion) to resort to the courts
  7. Lastly - look at the 'helpful' votes!

So many lessons...

Why, oh why, didn't the hotel respond to the review on TripAdvisor? A simple "Dear Laurent A, We were so sorry to read your review. We immediately contacted our pest control agents who made a thorough inspection of your room and bedding and could find no trace..."

...would have defused the issue (and made the hotel look professional and caring in the eyes of potential guests).

And why wasn't Laurent A offered a way to communicate with the hotel in private? Some might say 'he would have posted to TA whatever the hotel had done', but our experience dictates otherwise: we see reviews like this posted though Dialogue on a regular basis, where the hotel is able to respond in private, reassure the guest, defuse the anger, prevent a damaging review being posted on TA (or anywhere else) and, in almost every case, retain the guest's future custom.

Monday 9 September 2013

Partnering with HelpHound - how Dialogue adds value for PR professionals

"Dialogue reaches the parts that conventional PR cannot reach"

Dialogue gets credible customer opinions and presents them where the business needs potential customers to see them most: on their website

This has the effect of supporting all the work the business and its public relations professionals are currently doing. It also has the added bonus of protecting clients from the vagaries of the social web - review sites and forums as well as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter: Dialogue allows the business to engage with their dissatisfied customer before they post anywhere else on the web.

It also generates great content: credible positive opinions from customers.

Let's let a client speak for us:

Jonathan Jennings is the Marketing Director of David Phillips Furniture, the UK market leader in directly supplied furniture for both the private and public sectors.

Ignore Yelp at your peril

Yelp is the biggest review community in the world, yet few businesses we meet in the UK have ever heard of it - and even when they have their attitude seems to be "they're not big in the UK, so why should we bother?"

 Here we show you why you should be 'bothering'
  1. Because Yelp is so massive it has great SEO; if there is a single review of your business on Yelp it will show up high in Google search results
  2. One single review can be immensely damaging - it will be read by so many of your potential customers
  3. Yelp recently bought Qype, which has a much larger footprint in Europe
  4. Yelp is investing heavily in the UK to boost its presence (and influence) here
  5. 'Yelpers' tend to write much more exhaustive reviews than, for instance, those who post to TripAdvisor
  6. Yelp has partnerships with Facebook, Bing, Apple and a multitude of others to extend its reach and influence - there's a good piece on Forbes
Yelp's community is strong - they trust each other; if a single Yelper says "don't use this business" that carries a lot of weight with their fellow Yelpers. If you look carefully, beside every reviewer's identity you will see how many 'friends' they have on Yelp. In the example below 'Jen K' has 387 - how many of them will be booking this hotel?

The solution?

Engage with the 'K CD's' and 'Jen K's' before they resort to posting about your business on Yelp. Use Dialogue to get closer to your customers than Yelp ever can.

Sunday 8 September 2013

TripAdvisor deletes old reviews for 'renovated' hotels

For some reason this change (which took place at the end of 2012) has received a lot of coverage recently.

Like so much about TripAdvisor - the headline makes sense, but the devil is in the detail...

Let's see what TripAdvisor's Alison Croyle has to say about this modification of a key element of their policy:

"Hotels essentially start back at zero with a clean slate and any comment about bed bugs, rude staff, or disruptions from ongoing renovations never happened as far as new customers can tell."

Hang on! You renovate and TripAdvisor will remove negative reviews about 'rude staff' and 'bedbugs'? Surely in order for that to happen all you need to do is provide evidence to TA that you have replaced all your staff and bought new beds and linen?

We think TripAdvisor should think very seriously about investing more in this area. We welcome the concept of 'clean slates', but not right across the board - deleting reviews relating to service and other non-physical aspects of the guests' stay is counter-productive for both the potential guest and the hotel; and it's demonstrably unfair to hotels who have made huge improvements in the area of guest service and accommodation, but have stopped short of full on rebuilds. 

It's even more unfair to hotels where management have invested heavily in staff training. They could easily end up in a situation where their major competitor 'renovates' and leaps ahead in the oh-so crucial rankings overnight - their 'rude staff' and 'bedbugs' will bring them back down again, but in the meantime they'll lose out in a big way.

And what about TA's loyal reviewers? They write a review of a hotel citing poor staff and other non-property related matters as a reason for a critical review - only to find it's been deleted!?

Potentially more sinister is this: 

"TripAdvisor will also remove old reviews if a property moves between two major flags or brands. For example, if a Westin in Paris becomes part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection, no one will know of its Starwood past."

Hotels often change ownership, but that seldom means big changes in on-site management and staffing. Why not let the new ownership prove itself with a big improvement in guest satisfaction through its reviews first?

Here's one easy 'quick fix' suggestion for TripAdvisor: 

Delete all reviews more than 2 years old for all properties. How's that? Hurt anyone? anyone interested in or helped by 3 year old reviews?

Renovated properties would soon recover their reputations, and there would be an even greater incentive for everyone in-hotel to make that extra effort.

Friday 6 September 2013

The Negotiator Awards 2013 - HelpHound shortlisted

We are very pleased to have been shortlisted in the 'Best Service Provider' category for the Negotiator Awards

Many thanks to our clients in estate agency who nominated us. The winners will be announced at the conference and awards ceremony on 3 November at the Park Lane Hilton - watch this space!

Thursday 5 September 2013

Hotels - 10 reasons to join HelpHound today

Well, 9 + 1 actually...

  1. If you have a great online reputation: 
  2. If you have a good online reputation - and you want to improve it
  3. If you think your online reputation is unfair - and you want to improve it
  4. If you want more repeat stays
  5. If you want to pay less OTA commission
  6. If you want to understand exactly what your guests think of your hotel
  7. If you want a great communications channel with your guests
  8. If you want to minimise negative noise on social media
  9. If you want more bookings from visitors to your website
  10. If you want to save on our fees!
Lets look at each in turn:

Great online reputation

You run a really special hotel, and you get very few one and two star reviews (maybe none!). But you are aware that you don't have 100% guest loyalty and you'd like to improve that: Dialogue will enable you to convert guests who might otherwise never stay again into long-term loyal guests. How? By enabling you to address the issue(s) that they bring to you.

On top of this Dialogue will ensure that you maintain (and improve) your already great reputation.

Good online reputation

As well as all the above, Dialogue will rapidly improve your online reputation. See here.

Unfair reputation

You work hard to provide a great experience at a competitive rate, but you are subject to a 'drip' of negative reviews that are harming your ability to maintain RevPAR. Dialogue will address this - right away: by getting you more positive reviews and by enabling you to address negatives in private, before they are posted somewhere where they'll do you harm.

Repeat stays

The lifeblood of most seriously profitable hotels. But most don't know when they are at risk of losing a loyal guest to a competitor. Dialogue will tell you when a guest is wobbling. One of our clients had a 1* review in Dialogue three weeks ago and the guest mentioned that they were a frequent stayer but were unhappy, when the issue was resolved their final posted review was a 4*, they then returned to the hotel and posted a 5* review in Dialogue and on TripAdvisor after that visit.

Less commission  

Dialogue gives guests the confidence to book direct with you. They don't need to visit TripAdvisor or the OTAs to read reviews: you are displaying enough credible reviews to make that an unnecessary waste of their time.

Understanding your guests and communicating with them

Well - that's an exaggeration; it's more like 'understanding enough of your happy guests and almost all your unhappy ones.' But they're the ones that matter. Dialogue provides a two-way communications channel that your guests will use.

Minimising negative noise on social media 

You email your guest inviting their comment. Do they still need to post something negative on FaceBook or Google+? Do they still need to tweet? 

More direct bookings

We've said it before and we'll say it again: credible reviews on your website drive direct bookings.


Saving on fees

We're going to make it really easy for you to try Dialogue between now and the end of October. Call us now and find out how! 


How Dialogue adds great value for even the best hotels

with thanks to Institutional Investor

 Your hotel is doing everything right: and you have a great online reputation. Where can Dialogue add value?

Even the very best hotel knows that it loses guests to its competitors. Why? because no hotel can please 100% of its guests 100% of the time.

With Dialogue it can!


By ensuring that the few guests who might not be overjoyed can have whatever issue that made their stay less than perfect - room issues, staff issues - addressed. 

Guest retention is not just about running a great hotel and hoping the guest will return, it's about having a mechanism that the kind of guest who might write a 3* review on TripAdvisor (but almost certainly wont bother*) will use to communicate to the hotel what they need to do to retain their custom.

One of Dialogue's key functions is to make it very easy (and attractive) for that kind of guest to (a) communicate what the hotel needs to do so they'll stay again and (b) just as easy for the hotel to reassure them.

We see this all the time as we monitor conversations between our hotel clients and their guests through Dialogue: guests frequently comment:

"I'd stay again if" - the room was larger, the reception staff were more welcoming, I could have a room with a certain type of facility. All issues easily addressed by the hotel - in private, through Dialogue.

And at the end of the conversation the guest (who was almost certainly about to drift away to a competitor when the conversation began) almost always says: "I look forward to returning".

And there's a hidden bonus: even if a very few of those '3*' guests would have gone on to write a review on somewhere like TripAdvisor have been deflected from doing so - your online reputation will get even better.

*It is easy to be misled by numbers on TripAdvisor. Suppose your hotel gets as few as five 3* reviews a year: we estimate that they represent one in about fifty of your guests who hold that opinion - that's 250 guests who, if the issue that made their opinion '3*' isn't addressed, won't be coming back.

It's why the top hotel in London (according to the industry's most respected guide) has just adopted Dialogue!

Monday 2 September 2013

Proof - and Proof again!

If there was ever a doubt about the effect that Dialogue has on a hotel's online reputation the following chart dispels it once and for all...

The chart to end all charts

This charts the TripAdvisor rankings of three very similar hotels, only one a client. The first thing you see is how well our client hotel has performed since adopting Dialogue (up 15 ranking places last two weeks alone, see the previous post). How? Because the negatives that would otherwise have been posted to TripAdvisor have been sent direct to them instead - in private.

And - as if that wasn't enough - for six days at the beginning of August there was a glitch in their PMS which meant that the Dialogue email was unable to be sent. And guess what? Some negatives were posted to TripAdvisor - resulting directly in down-tick at that time (the negatives weren't being diverted, the invitation to post their positive reviews wasn't being sent).

So - here is positive proof in both directions: Dialogue implemented: ranking up, Dialogue suspended: ranking down, Dialogue reinstated: ranking up, again.  


During the period in question (three months from May-August):

86 negative reviews have been managed in Dialogue, and only 2 have gone on to be published

26 positive more reviews have been posted to TripAdvisor - as a direct consequence of Dialogue

Additional NOTE (1.3.14): Exactly the same has happened for another client, and during the time emailing was suspended positive reviews to TripAdvisor fell by 47%.