Saturday 30 November 2013

What's new? - Dialogue another year on

It's the nature of our business. The world of reviews is moving so fast, and we're at the forefront of that movement. So this post is to summarise everything that has happened in 2013 (we'll link to relevant posts on this blog and elsewhere...

Across the web

Reviews have continued to grow in importance, for businesses and consumers. All research points to the fact that consumers are becoming more and more conditioned to looking for reviews before they choose which business to patronise, and leading businesses are embracing the concept of serving reviews on their own websites so consumers aren't driven off to comparison sites where they may be poached away by their competitors.

Retailers are at the forefront. This is not surprising as they have the evidence to support the effect: the sheer volume of business the big online retailers do every day of the week makes it very easy for them to measure the effect of consumer reviews. John Lewis didn't introduce reviews by accident...

Amazon don't do it for fun...

Nor have Hyundai based their entire 2013 marketing campaign on reviews by chance...

All these (highly successful) companies introduced consumer reviews for one simple reason: reviews are now recognised as one of the primary new business drivers. Consumers want them, so these companies give their consumers what they want. 

So the question every business should be asking itself is: how can we imitate them?

But why have some businesses hesitated? 

Here are the main reasons:
  1. No business wants to read negative comments about itself on its own website
  2. There are a plethora of websites dedicated to consumer reviews, so why not leave it to them?
  3. The administrative burden - managing (responding to) the reviews
Here we'll introduce what has changed at HelpHound in the last year, because most of those changes have been driven by these very same three reasons...
  1. Negative comments: Resolution - the system where we feed negative reviews straight to the business for response has been around for longer, but it really proved itself in 2013. Less than one in one hundred negative reviews makes it as far as our clients' Dialogue modules - issue number one sorted!
  2. External review sites: Ask any hotel! Seriously, those websites are run for their own benefit. They don't care which business the consumer chooses through them (be it a hotel or a lawyer), just as long as they choose one. Businesses must invite and show reviews on their own websites. You wouldn't think of not showing images or descriptions of your product or service on your website; no more should you hesitate to show your customers' opinions.
  3. Administration: in 2011 we became aware that some clients would value a service that managed the 'back-end' of the reviews process for them. So in 2012 we introduced Feedback Manager™ and Feedback Manager Plus™ to do just that. They've been a huge success and are now handling the whole interaction, from initial review to response and any communication in between, with Feedback Manager Plus responding to reviews on public sites.
On top of this our clients have seen negative reviews posted on external sites plummet (by over three-quarters) and positive reviews increase (this week Dialogue got a new hotel client three extra 5* reviews posted to TripAdvisor in their first week). Dialogue is improving new business flows, aiding conversion, improving existing customer retention and managing every aspect of reviews across the web for our clients; what business wouldn't want that?

Other changes in 2013 that will impact on businesses in 2014 (and beyond)...
So now is the time to make reviews a central plank of your own business's marketing strategy, where they'll have the greatest impact, and where you'll retain control of the conversation: on your own website.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

It's the individual comments that drive business to your door

Here we look at the individual headlines on two of our client's Dialogue modules. Why? Because it's those headlines, combined with the comments below then, that drive business through their doors; giving prospective clients (for estate agency) and guests (for hotels) the confidence to pick up the phone to make an appointment or book a room...

Here are the last 10 headlines for an estate agent client:
  • 'Professionalism above and beyond anything their peers can offer'
  • 'A well managed process'
  • 'Personal and professional service. Highly recommended'
  • 'An unparallelled experience'
  • 'Very impressed with Paul's service'
  • 'Outstanding service'
  • 'Professional and friendly'
  • 'Very happy'
  • 'Impeccable service - highly recommended'
  • 'Excellent professional service'

And the for a hotel client: 
  • 'Really fine hotel'
  • 'Highly recommended'
  • 'Thoroughly recommended'
  • 'Excellent hotel'
  • A***** service'
  • 'Lovely place, lovely people'
  • 'A very comfortable stay'
  • 'A good choice'
  • 'Definitely recommended'
  • 'Perfect!'

Of course, the individual reviews support those headlines, but we feel that the headlines alone convey the right message and impression for anyone considering using either business.

The key question is: "having read those headlines (and the reviews below them), how many more would you need to see (and would you need to consult any other websites) before contacting (the estate agent) or booking (the hotel)?"

Dialogue: Driving business for our clients

Monday 25 November 2013

Responding to reviews - kill two birds with Dialogue

A survey by Choice Hotels Europe has identified the amount of time their hotel management are spending addressing and responding to online reviews - and it can be up to half a day a week.

Now, we're firm believers that it's part of a modern hotelier's job to address their online reputation, but there may come a point when this is at the expense of service in-hotel; and that is why we introduced Feedback Manager™.

To remind everyone what Feedback Manager does:
  • We respond to all your reviews in Dialogue on your behalf, thanking those who posted positive reviews and answering those which incorporate criticisms or suggestions (referring to you as necessary)
  • All negatives are sent to you for comment and input before we post a response
  • Every review is sent to your nominated inbox as soon as it is posted
  • Every response is sent to your nominated inbox as soon as that is posted 

With Feedback Manager Plus:
  • The same for all your reviews on TripAdvisor and Google
This ensures:
  • all your guests' comments are responded to 
  • in a timely fashion - before they resort to posting negatives elsewhere

And Feedback Manager is excellent value for money: just add up what a half-day a week over a full year is costing (a) in pure time alone and then (b) in distracting the GM (or someone in a very senior position - you won't be delegating your review management to an inexperienced member of staff) from their other responsibilities.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Do you need 'Reputation Management'?

Does our business need reputation management?

It's a question we are being asked with increasing frequency lately. Several (mostly US based) reputation management businesses have started operating on this side of the Atlantic. So let's examine what we mean by reputation management - the perception, and the reality...

The Perception
  • "Our business has negative comments showing up in a Google search - reputation management will somehow 'get rid' of those (or at least bury them)
  • "Reputation management will get positive comments written about us on the web - to show up in Google searches 

One business we have met was allegedly quoted a five-figure monthly sum to 'manage' comments about them on this very consumer-friendly US reviews site - and the advertisement in the grey box speaks volumes

The Reality

Both the above are true; in part...

'Getting rid' of negative comment is shorthand for 'driving negative comment far enough down the Google search results that very few people will look far enough to see it', and that's fair enough. We tend to see this kind of SEO-driven activity as akin to standing on a football in a swimming pool: as soon as you take your foot off (stop paying), the ball (negative comment) pops up again.

But more important than that, it pits your business (and your reputation management) against the might of Google. Google's core objective is to provide the best possible search results, so they invest very heavily in addressing reputation management. Simply put: they don't want the value which is their life's blood tampered with. And they have the determination, combined with the resources, to fight reputation management all the way.

Reputation managers will focus on getting your customers to write positive comments on sites that you feel matter to you; but beware this siren call. This may initially appear to be a good thing; but it almost always ignores the one site that matters most of all to you and your potential customers: your own! And...

You can fool...

If you look for examples of reputation management in operation they soon become obvious. Why? Because it's impossible to stem the flow of negative comment right across the web. You will see the reputation managers' clients begin to look really good on whichever site they choose to flood with positive reviews, but they find it very difficult - and expensive for you - to focus on more than one site at a time, simply because it's not possible to ask hand-picked happy customers to post to more than one site. 

We looked at one high-profile example (of a client of a reputation management company). The ten natural search results for "company name + reviews" consisted of the following: 
  • Two critical press articles
  • Two critical forum threads
  • A link to reviews on their own site - all uniformly positive
  • A link to reviews on a well-known review site - almost all uniformly positive
  • Four links to other sources of reviews - almost all uniformly negative

Isn't this very like what HelpHound's Dialogue™ does?

We are in the business of managing consumer relations through reviews

We enable our clients to show consumer feedback:
  • On their own websites - the number one priority for driving new business, and
  • manage any negative feedback in private

We then set about enabling them to get that feedback to sites that matter, and Google loves this. Why? Because verified (and therefore credible) consumer comment is a very valuable commodity for Google. 

If you're in hospitality we'll get reviews posted to Google and/or TripAdvisor, if you're an estate agent we'll get them to Google and/or your key review sites. It won't necessarily be a quick fix, and it will mean that your core business practices must be sound, but it is the only viable long-term solution for well-managed businesses.

Then you won't need to hide behind reputation management. 

If you're interested in finding out more about how reputation management works (and can sometimes backfire) where positive consumer relations and an open attitude to PR might be a much more effective (and less costly, in pure £'s and in terms of lasting brand damage) solution, then read this great article first posted in the San Francisco Examiner. Another unwanted outcome can be the 'Streisand Effect' - the online community doesn't take kindly to overt reputation management either!


It's important to differentiate between effective customer relations and reputation management, whilst they may at first appear to be closely related, the harder you look, the further apart they are

Sunday 17 November 2013

TripAdvisor leapfrogs OTAs as top source of hotel bookings

In a dramatic surge TripAdvisor now rates as the top source for hotel bookings, overtaking recommendations from friends and family and referrals from OTAs.

Read the whole article on Tnooz.

Lessons to take away from these findings:

  1. Your TripAdvisor listing, both in terms of ranking and lack of negative posts, is now more important than ever before
  2. Allocate the kind of resources (human and financial) that recognise how important your image on TripAdvisor is to your property
  3. By all means dedicate some time and resource to Facebook and Twitter, but not at the expense of doing all you can to maintain and improve your TripAdvisor listing
  4. Reply to guest reviews - it is a great way of enhancing your image in the eyes of TripAdvisor visitors (your potential guests)
  5. Reward repeat guests - upgrades/name-checks and everything you can do to make them feel special
  6. Seriously consider introducing some kind of 'friends and family' reward, so you make the most of your guests' goodwill

Friday 15 November 2013

A simple Q & A

This post was prompted by a new client. They had asked themselves the following question: 

"Is their potential customer more or less likely to use a business that...
  • Invites reviews from its customers
  • Has them moderated by an independent agency
  • Publishes all of those reviews 
  • Responds to all those reviews
  • Responds to reviews posted anywhere on the web?"

We spend a great deal of time explaining the multitude of benefits that Dialogue brings to our clients, and even more time collating results, and that's only right, but we felt that this short 'checklist' goes right to the core of what HelpHound is for all our clients, no matter what their business.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Estate Agents - looking forward to 2014

Building on Proven Success

2013 Has been the year that Dialogue proved its effectiveness for our estate agent clients. More than that, it has been the year that those clients helped us (and each other) understand just how to maximise that effectiveness.

Back at the beginning of 2012, building on our experience with the hospitality industry, we expected that the management of our estate agent clients' online reputations would be a big part of the value we would add; what we did not foresee was the direct effect it would have on driving new business. 2013 has been the year that proved...
  • credible reviews drive enquiries through agents websites
  • they are an invaluable aid to conversion
  • they are an invaluable aid to client retention
On top of this we have gained valuable experience in maximising response from our members' clients, so crucial when volumes of business are far from their peak.

Come aboard!

More than ever before, the facts, results and our clients' opinions of Dialogue speak for themselves. So we will be continuing our policy of ‘no contract’ for the first six months of membership up until 1 Jan 2014 - enabling you to test and prove Dialogue for your agency with the minimum of risk. Join now and see the results blossom in the spring!

Hotels - looking forward to 2014

Building on Proven Success

2013 has been a very big year for us at HelpHound: supported by and in constant conversation our clients we have learned so much more about how many benefits Dialogue can bring.

Here we are going to share this with you all (we’ve linked to the relevant detailed articles)...

  • The positive effect on any (and every) given hotels’ online reputation is proven
  • The direct link between improvement in online reputation (rankings on TripAdvisor, scores on and the other OTAs, and, increasingly important, Google and increased revenue is proven
  • The effect of Feedback Manager Plus - responding to reviews on our clients' behalf - is proven
  • The success of combining Dialogue with back-end systems like ReviewPro and Revinate to refine guest feedback and aid guest retention is proven

On top of this, the experience we have gained in managing the process for our hotel clients has proved invaluable: how to maximize the harvest of guest emails and dovetailing our systems with the hotels’ PMS – crucial to the effective operation of Dialogue – is making the whole process easier and much more effective for our clients.

To summarise

There are no longer any lingering doubts about the effectiveness of Dialogue and its ability to drive revenue for hotels. We are able to positively guarantee that Dialogue will produce results, no matter where your hotel is currently ranked 

  • If you're number 1 - Dialogue will considerably enhance you chances of remaining there
  • If you're anywhere but number 1 - Dialogue will improve your ranking
  • Dialogue will ensure that you can maintain and increase RevPAR
  • Dialogue will positively impact on your guest retention rates

Come aboard!

Friday 8 November 2013

HelpHound at the Negotiator - the Risks and Rewards of Reviews

A very full day on Tuesday, with Karen and Gabriella on our stand meeting clients and prospective clients and our CEO Robin Bruce speaking about 'the Risks and Rewards of Reviews'...

Daniella and Karen await the surge!

Here's a brief synopsis of Robin's presentation:
  • Like it or not (and you should like it) your potential clients are looking for reviews
  • So you should be serving them on your website
  • Testimonials are so 2010 - they lack credibility
  • You must have a strategy for managing negative comment
  • Reviews must be verified and credible
  • Don't link to external sites - return rates are very low
  • Whatever system you adopt it must be moderated - so you can manage negatives
Visitors to our stand and the questions at the end of Robin's presentation showed a far greater awareness of the power of consumer comment to drive business - both towards and away from their businesses - than at last year's Conference.

If you would like more detail on any of the above please contact Karen - on or 020 7100-2233

Hotel websites are B-O-R-I-N-G!

Not our words, but straight from the BHA's blog: Hotel Websites are Boring! We recommend you read the whole piece. Here are just two extracts...

"...boring your guests and sending them off to review sites where they feel like they get real, straightforward information...”

"Don’t make them go to TripAdvisor..."

Our clients and other regular readers of this blog will have heard this before, but it's good when an industry leader like the BHA confirms our thinking.

Dialogue: showing your guests one of the things they want the most: verified credible reviews, where they will do you the most good: on your own website

Sunday 3 November 2013

Rankings up = Revenue up - confirmed in a major Cornell report

At the end of last year Cornell (ranked one of the top 20 universities in the world) University Center of Hospitality Research conducted an in depth study of the 'Impact of Social Media on Lodging Performance'. This report is now available online direct from Cornell and we commend it to all our clients.

Here we will extract the key findings; if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to contact your Karen or one of her team.

The core finding:

"The analysis finds the following. First, the percentage of consumers consulting reviews at TripAdvisor prior to booking a hotel room has steadily increased over time, as has the number of reviews they are reading prior to making their hotel choice. Second, transactional data from Travelocity illustrate that if a hotel increases its review scores by 1 point on a 5-point scale (e.g., from 3.3 to 4.3), the hotel can increase its price by 11.2 percent and still maintain the same occupancy or market share."

"Third, to measure the impact of user reviews on hotel pricing power, consumer demand, and revenue performance the study uses matched-sample data from ReviewPRO and STR. By matching ReviewPRO’s Global Review IndexTM with STR’s hotel sales and revenue data, a regression analysis finds that a 1-percent increase in a hotel’s online reputation score leads up to a 0.89-percent increase in price as measured by the hotel’s average daily rate (ADR). Similarly this
1-percent increase in reputation also leads to an occupancy increase of up to 0.54 percent. Finally, this 1-percent reputation improvement leads up to a 1.42-percent increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR)." 

Other key findings...

User Generated Content During Consumers’ Hotel Search

TripAdvisor is by far the dominant source for online reviews in the hospitality space, with more than 75 million reviews generated by some 32 million users.4 In terms of the hotel choice process, as reported by Market Metrix,5 the tipping point came in 2010, as shown in Exhibit 1. At this point, the guest experience mentioned in customer re- views became the dominant factor in hotel selection, with 51 percent of survey respondents indicating they factored guest experience factors into their hotel selection decision"

"The close proximity (to the purchase) of consumer visitation to TripAdvisor perhaps indicates that user reviews are some of the final and potentially pivotal criteria in the hotel selection process."
"More generally, OTA reviews, their quality and numbers, lead to increased conversion rates and improved pricing power 

"Better reviews lead to higher prices, while lower reviews force prices lower at the OTA." 

"Hotel operators have suspected that the effect of social media and user generated content on hotel performance has been strengthening. This paper provides a numerical confirmation and estimate of those effects. Reviews and review sites continue to be in the forefront when consumers are planning a hotel room purchase." 

"...a 1-point increase in user review score (on an OTA’s 5-point scale) would allow a property
to increase price by 11.2 percent and maintain the same purchase probability or market share."
In Summary:
  • Rankings and scores are critical to increasing profitability
  • Negative reviews must be minimised
  • Positive reviews must be maximised
  • Pure volume of reviews is critical; more (positive) reviews = higher profitability 
  • The OTAs' capacity to influence GoPPAR continues to increase

For our clients:
  • You're doing everything right! But the more email addresses you can harvest, the more successful (and profitable) you will be


Friday 1 November 2013

London's No 1 Hotel joins HelpHound

Welcome to the Zetter, voted London's No 1 Hotel by the Good Hotel Guide.

To see Dynamic Display working away on their home page go here