Tuesday 28 January 2014

Review Management - how does your business score? [Hotels]

We use this as a 'quick and easy' benchmarking tool before we meet new clients. See how you fare:

Needless to say, once you become a client, we won't relax until you're scoring a perfect 10!

Monday 27 January 2014

Five questions estate agents ask

Here are the five core questions asked by almost every estate agent before they join:

Question 1: Will we get more enquiries? 

Answer: Yes. Your prospective clients are actively looking for reviews, give them those reviews in a verified and credible format and they will make that crucial initial contact.

Question 2: Will we get more conversions?

Answer: Yes. Show reviews to potential clients and they are more likely to convert.

Question 3: Will Dialogue aid client retention?

Answer: Yes. Send the invitation to review to your ongoing clients (landlords, for instance) on a regular basis and the response will help you identify those who might be thinking of moving agents. Dialogue is a great early warning system.

Question 4: Will we look better online (Google/AllAgents/AllinLondon etc.)?

Answer: Yes.
Dialogue will channel negatives away from public sites whilst at the same time enabling you to invite your happy clients to post there.

Question 5: Will Dialogue make us money?

Answer: Yes.
More enquiries + more conversions + better client retention + a great image online = more profit.


We don't ask our new clients to sign a contract for six months. That gives them plenty of time to prove Dialogue's value.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Five questions hoteliers ask

There's an awful lot to Dialogue, but the core can be boiled down into the answers to five basic questions that we always asked when we first meet a client:

The Five Questions:

Question 1: Will our rankings and scores improve? 

A: Yes: Dialogue will get you more positive reviews and less negative reviews to TripAdvisor (and/or Google), less negative comments to Booking.com and the other OTAs. This will begin to impact your rankings and scores immediately you join.

Question 2: Will we get more repeat guests?

A: Yes: Guests return to your hotel either because (a) they enjoyed their stay or (b) because you were able to address whatever issue they had when they last stayed. Resolution™ enables you to address those issues.

Question 3: Will we get more direct bookings

A: Yes: Guests book direct because they feel confident; Dialogue gives them that confidence.

Question 4: Will we be able to negotiate better rates with our corporate clients? 

A: Yes: Your corporate clients want to know that their employees or clients will be happy with their choice of hotel. How your hotel is ranked and scored is a big part of that.

Question 5: Will Dialogue make us money?

A: Yes: Better rankings and scores + more repeat guests + more direct bookings + better corporate rates = more profit

The answers to these five questions, especially number 5, explain why our client retention is so very high. How high? We'll tell you when we meet (to publish the number here might be to tempt fate, and our CEO is mildly superstitious).

Thursday 23 January 2014

Learning from TripAdvisor award winners

It's awards season again - from the Oscars to TripAdvisor awards. It's a topic that always gets raised when we meet clients in January and February, so we thought it worthy of a post here.

Lessons to be learned from award winners

Here's a great article by Fiona Duncan, the Telegraph's travel expert (as many of you will know Fiona also edits the acclaimed Charming Small Hotels guides - here's a link to all the hotels she's reviewed for her regular column in the Sunday Telegraph) which chimes absolutely with our own thoughts, and long may respected travel writers continue to plead with TripAdvisor to make their awards, and, just a importantly, their ranking system, more accurately reflect the experience travelers can expect.

But for now, you, our clients, must make the very best of the status quo, and it's our job to make that as easy and painless as possible. So what can you do that the award winners are already doing? What habits do they have that you can easily adopt?

Playing the system

There's now doubt that the award winners run great establishments, even if (as Fiona points out) they may not be to everyone's taste. But so do the overwhelming majority of hoteliers we meet in our day-to-day working lives. There has to be something else, and there is: they are 'playing the TripAdvisor game'. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are giving TripAdvisor what they want.

The numbers game

Let's look at TripAdvisor's No1 B&B in the whole wide world, Bindon Bottom in Dorset:

With 5 bedrooms and only opened in 2010, they have 459 reviews.

They get over 2.5 reviews a week. That's nearly a third as many as the Savoy (which reopened just after them) which has 268 rooms!

But more important than that, we have a very good idea that they ask their guests to write reviews, or at the very least they discuss reviews with their guests. How do we know that? We don't for certain, but there are clues in today's Times article. Lisa, who owns the Bindon Bottom with her husband Clive, says, when questioned about the four star reviews: "One guest said that 'He never gives 5* reviews' and another 'wanted a bigger guest lounge' and the third 'that there wasn't enough drawer space.'" The 'bigger guest lounge' is mentioned in one of the reviews, but there is nothing in the other two to link the guest with the review. It was a habit they probably formed as soon as they opened in competition with the other 17 B&Bs in the village, as they had quite a bit of catching up to do, and hasn't it paid off handsomely?

The other reason we think they actively canvas reviews is the sheer number they get - the next B&B in West Lulworth has 118 reviews (111 excellent and 7 very good, since you ask), but over 7 years. Less than one-and-a-half reviews a month. 

Bigger Hotels

Now, some of you are already starting to murmer along the lines of 'that's all very well, but we run an 50/100/800 bedroom hotel, how can we be expected to get reviews in volume?'

Well, our first response to that is that you are streets ahead of the Bindon Bottom in terms of your potential to get reviews, with over 10/20/160 times as many guests staying. It's simply a matter of front-of-house engaging with your guests. Look at what London's No 1 Hotel on TripAdvisor has achieved with 'only' 28 rooms:

And the first 'biggie' in the list, The Corinthia at 7th with 298 rooms:

So, given that ranking = revenue...

  • Ask for reviews - using Dialogue™, of course!
  • Engage front-of-house - we'll help with training
  • Respond to reviews - using Feedback Manager™, if you don't have the resources

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Estate agents - what will happen when you join?

All our clients in estate agency have one main objective: to gain more business. Added to that, letting agents need to ensure that landlords and tenants are kept happy (just as selling agents will have an eye on repeat business). 

The following is a good guide (and a useful checklist once your membership is underway):
  1. You will be able to show great credible reviews to your prospective clients
  2. You will be able to manage negative client issues in private
  3. You will get great feedback, negotiator by negotiator, branch by branch 

All of which will lead to...
  • An increase in the number of enquiries through your website
  • An increase in conversion rates
  • Increased client retention
  • More positive reviews posted where you need them most
  • Less negative comment across the web (Google, AllAgents etc.)


Dialogue is so much more than just a very effective review management system; we will support you throughout your membership to ensure that you make the very best of the opportunities it presents; from initial design and implementation, through staff training on onwards from day-to-day. You will have your own dedicated business member adviser to help and advise

In summary:

You will be employing the most effective review management system available, backed up by a dedicated team of professionals who will ensure you get the very best results from you membership.

Great reviews - and (great) responses - make for more great reviews

All our working lives we are faced with two key questions:

1. Do reviews really matter that much?


2. Does responding to those reviews make that much of a difference?

Well, thanks to Cornell and Harvard universities, we now have hard evidence to back up what we have been saying all along: a resounding 'Yes!'

Here's a synopsis of over 200 pages of detailed academic work...

Do reviews matter?

Reviews matter in many ways:
  • Positive reviews drive business and enable the business to charge more
  • Negative reviews drive business away and impact on prices and rates
  • A single negative review can result in a fall in revenue of up to 20%
  • The ratings (Google, Booking.com etc.) and rankings (TripAdvisor) are an amalgam of the individual review scores and these, in turn, increasingly dictate charges


Does responding to reviews make a difference?

This was one of the most interesting findings of the Harvard study: reviewers are influenced by what they see before they write their own review, and on top of that finding...
  • Reviewers who receive responses are more likely to use the business again
  • Reviewers who write a positive review and don't receive a response are less likely to use the business again
  • Reviewers who write a negative review and don't receive a response are more likely to post that review elsewhere - increasing the damage it causes
  • Reviewers who see that the business responds to reviews are less likely to post negative reviews (and certainly less likely to exaggerate their complaints)
  • Reviewers who see that the business responds are more likely to post a positive review
  • Reviewers who see that the business has overwhelmingly great (5*) reviews are more likely to post a 5* review themselves
  • Reviewers who see that the business has mainly negative reviews are less likely to score the business at 5* (or equivalent) even if entirely happy with the service they received

It's all common sense really, but it's nice to have it backed up by academic research!

Monday 20 January 2014

Reviews - 2014

2014 is going to be the year that engaging with reviews ceased to be an option. 


Because of the changes to Google for Business*

Businesses will have an option - but it will look like this:
  • Either: Allow the review sites to control your reputation  
  • Or: Take control of reviews (and therefore your reputation) yourself

*And Yelp and TripAdvisor and AllAgents and every other review site out there

What strategy should you adopt?

As with everything in business: be proactive and seek out the best solution for your business. If that's our Dialogue system we'll be delighted, but simply sitting on your hands will be too great a risk.


Because simply 'doing nothing' will run the risk of enabling a tiny minority of dissatisfied customers to control what other potential customers see about your business on the web.

If your Google Business page looks like this...

Resulting in the business looking like this in Google search...

Or this...

Looking like this in Google...

Just one or two negative reviews will have the potential to set a trend that will be hard to reverse.

So - back to your strategy:

If you decide to 'own your reputation' then you can ask your customers to post reviews direct to Google or you can get us to do it for you.

The advantage of using Dialogue 

If you ask customers to post direct you run the risk negatives being posted (remember that an unhappy customer is much more likely to post). If you use Dialogue you will be able to address negatives in private. And you will have lots of lovely verified reviews to show on your own website as well.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

For new clients: Hotels - what will happen when you join?

Every client is different and the results they (and you) will want to achieve will be subtly different, but the following is a good guide (and a useful checklist):
  1. Your relative ranking on TripAdvisor will improve
  2. Your Google score will improve
  3. Your scores on sites like Booking.com and Hotels.com will improve
  4. You will get lots of great reviews to show on your own website
  5. You will get less (far less) negatives on TripAdvisor, Google and the other sites
  6. We will get you more great reviews on TripAdvisor (unless you'd rather they went to Google)
  7. Your guest retention rates will rise
  8. You will get really valuable detailed feedback from your guests

All of which should lead to...

  • A positive impact on rates - and an increase in GoPPAR
  • An increase in occupancy
  • An increase in direct bookings
  • An increase in staff satisfaction

If you add Feedback Manager (and Feedback Manager Plus)...

  • All your guest reviews will be responded to immediately and professionally
  • Any 'unfair' or 'misleading' reviews to TripAdvisor and Google will be appealed


Dialogue is so much more than just a very effective review management system; we will support you throughout your membership to ensure that you make the very best of the opportunities it presents; from initial design and implementation, through staff training on implementation. You will have your own dedicated business member adviser to help and advise

In summary:

You will be employing the most effective review management system available, backed up by a dedicated team of professionals who will ensure you get the very best results from you membership.

Boring but important

The BBC reports that a US court has ruled that Yelp must disclose the identities of those posting negative reviews.

Why is this important?

Because it's the first time a US court has ruled against a review site. In previous cases (and there have been many) courts have consistently ruled in favour of the sites, basing their decisions on the defense of the First Amendment rights of the individual. Here's the critical passage:

"In a statement, the judge said: "Generally, a Yelp review is entitled to First Amendment protection because it is a person's opinion about a business that they patronised."

He added that users had the right to express themselves anonymously without fear of being identified just because another person disagreed with them.

However, the statement went on to say: "If the reviewer was never a customer of the business, then the review is not an opinion; instead the review is based on a false statement."

In these circumstances the reviewer would not be entitled to anonymity, he said."

We don't think Yelp's case will have been helped by their own admission, back in September 2013, that "a quarter of their reviews are fake."

This ruling has significant implications for any 'open' site (a site where any reviewer can post any review of any business without having to prove they actually used the business). This type of site includes TripAdvisor and many other big review sites.

The future

Unverified (anonymous) reviews can do untold harm to businesses (especially small and medium sized businesses). Whereas a malicious review of a Hilton hotel, for instance, has the power to be a pain (both financially and emotionally) it will not close the hotel, but such a review of an independent can and has. We met an estate agent last month whose business has suffered financially for the last four years from one malicious review (by an ex-member of staff) on Google.

Verified reviews have to be the way ahead.