Sunday 29 March 2015

Why are some corporates still not taking Google reviews seriously?

This was brought home to us by one of our staffers; his girlfriend wanted a new bicycle, so he went through all the possible solutions: specialist dealer, eBay, Gumtree but he (alongside millions of us) had seen Halfords latest TV ad:

So, just about to jump in the car on Saturday morning, he searches for the nearest branch. This is where it starts to go pear-shaped: the first thing he is immediately struck by is his local branch's Google score...

Then the rich snippets....

Then the reviews themselves...

Don't for a minute think that this branch (Wandsworth) is unrepresentative - check out your local branch

Now, he's a review management professional, so he knows from hard experience that Google reviews are inherently biased towards the negative, but he doesn't make it as far as the car (and his girlfriend still has no bicycle).

Funnily enough it's not so much the reviews themselves that put him off; it's the fact that Halfords don't appear to care about them. Not a single response from the business, and no discernible effort to encourage happy customers to write reviews (a pattern repeated country-wide). 

Now - if this were a little independent bike shop, with tight cash-flow and limited marketing resources, then maybe all would be forgiven - but we are talking about a company which (at last count) has committed £12 million a year to promoting itself. 

Surely a tiny percentage of this should be allocated to professional review management?

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Hotels and TripAdvisor - the bottom line

This post was prompted by a recent article (title above - no names...) that gave advice to hoteliers about how to manage their presence on TripAdvisor. It contained statements that we see repeated every day, statements that make sense until you know how people really behave in relation to reviews. 

That's what we do for a living: review management. And nothing else. So here are our comments on the points (somewhat bizarrely there were at least five) made.
  1. 'Get your guests to write reviews'. So far, so good. But...
  2. 'Approach your biggest fans first':  sounds sensible, until you realise two things. That you are not quite sure who your 'biggest fans' are and that this cherry-picking strategy will leave your less than happy guests to write to TripAdvisor on their own initiative
  3. 'Send an email inviting them to post directly to TripAdvisor': you may run the perfect hotel, but unless you have perfect guests as well you run the risk of actively inviting negative reviews, most of which you would not have received if you had not sent the invitation
  4. 'Add a TripAdvisor widget to your website': let's recap: invite reviews (including negatives) and then promote them with a widget on your site? We don't recommend it
  5. 'Put your TripAdvisor link in your email signature': you are keen to help your unhappy guests complain in public, aren't you?
There is a way, a much better way...

Invite all your guests to post through Dialogue: every single one. That way you will cover all the bases, your happy guests will tell you (and your future guests) just how happy they are. Then...

Manage any negatives in private: Your less than perfectly happy guests will respond in private, and you will be able to address whatever issues they raise (again, in private), leaving them reassured, very unlikely to post anything negative on a public site and much more likely to stay again.

Get great reviews to TripAdvisor (or Google): we will then be able to invite them to post their reviews to TripAdvisor (or anywhere else that matters), secure in the knowledge that just about everything they write will be helpful.

Further reading

Here is a selection of relevant articles (from amongst the 200-odd we've published in the last five years):

Results: Hosting reviews on your own website will increase direct bookings and dramatically reduce bounce to TripAdvisor and the other OTAs.
TripAdvisor: The simplest aspect of Dialogue: any hotel, in any location will get more great reviews and far less (at least 75% less, possibly nil) negative reviews. The impact of this on your rankings and scores will be immediate and sustained.
Google: It is a mistake to ignore Google, they are the 'gatekeeper' for anyone searching for a room, and their reviews are set to become more influential by the day.
And finally:  

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Winkworth go live with Dialogue

We are delighted to announce that Winkworth have chosen HelpHound as their dedicated review managers. Over the coming weeks you will see more and more modules appearing on their office microsites:

To see a live example go here

Over the past months we have worked very closely with Winkworth at both franchisor and office levels to ensure that Dialogue works both functionally and visually exactly as they wanted. 

This is just the start of what we are sure will be a very successful (and profitable) exercise for their offices, enabling them to promote their strengths and expertise through the voices of those best placed to comment: their clients.

Monday 2 March 2015

You Must Score 4

Far too many businesses are running a massive risk with their reputations by ignoring Google. Here we look into the issues raised by Google scores and our suggested solutions.

We should say straight away that we are fully aware why businesses are adopting this 'denial': it is because they are rightly fearful of unwittingly inviting harmful negative reviews. With Dialogue that 'fear' is taken away, so we can now relax and look at the implications of scoring less than 4.0 on Google. 

But before we do that, look at your business's G+ page and see how many people would have seen your reviews - assuming, of course, that you have any:

The number circled shows how many times the information contained in the business's G+ ('Google My Business') listing has been seen in search. Look at yours and then ask yourself 'Wouldn't it have been great if all those people had seen great reviews of our business?' and, if you already have a negative review, do you want that number of people seeing it?

Scoring 4 (strictly: Scoring 4.0 or higher)

For a multitude of reasons your business must score 4.0 or more on Google. Anything less means that your business will look unattractive to potential customers (would you do business with a business that was scored 3.9 out of 5 or less by its own customers?). Even a score averaging 4.0 will almost certainly contain some off-putting reviews (if you have 20 reviews averaging 4.0 it is unlikely that they all score 4, and before you say 'the odd negative adds credibility' - read this).

What happens if:
  • You do nothing
First and foremost: your business will look less and less engaged as your competitors garner more and more reviews. You run a significant risk of dropping out of Google's local seven results. Look at the big screenshot below: what does the business without reviews look like to you? A business without customers?
  • You get a one star review
It will not make that much difference initially (bear in mind that Google only gives - and shows - a star rating and average score when five reviews have been written), but it will mean that your maximum score when you are eligible for a star rating will be 4.0 (one 1* and four 5*s). Anything less and you will immediately be looking at a score starting with a 3 (at best). On top of that a negative review validates other negative opinions: someone just thinking about writing a negative review can be given the confidence to do so by seeing another negative has already been posted.
  • You get more than one one/two star reviews
This means a real uphill struggle (best score with two 1*s is 3.4 - two 1*s and three 5*s). To put this in perspective, to climb back to just 4.0 from there will take three more 5 star reviews but no number of 4* reviews will ever get you there.

Let's take a reasonable supposition: you embark on positive review management and twenty customers write reviews, two thirds 4* and a third 5* - what is you score now? Just 4.1.

In this example the business needs to take immediate and sustained remedial action. They have seven 1* and two 2* reviews. It will take nearly thirty 5* reviews to take their score over the critical 4.0.

Put simply: bad reviews hurt your score, and bad scores can really hurt your business (after all, the reason Google puts them there in the first place is to help its users choose the right business). And once you have a number of 1 and 2* reviews you don't just have to stop getting those, you have to start getting 5* reviews in serious volume.

Here's a good example of varying Google results (we have used the search [hotel] in [Penzance]):

From the top:
  • Hotel Penzance: thirty-seven reviews, mostly 5*, written at the rate of eight a year over the last four years. With twenty-four rooms we suspect this is simply a trickle of unprompted reviews. How much more secure would they be if they had a planned approach - just one review a fortnight and they would have been looking at over a hundred - and a pretty unassailable position at the top of the table in Penzance.
  • The Abbey Hotel: All but one of their eight reviews written in April 2013. We suspect that someone decided to have a blitz, but with no mechanism to regularise review management the Abbey's guests have reverted to their previous online silence - fine while few other hotels in Penzance make the effort.
  • Lugger Inn Hotel: Two reviews: One 5* and one 3*, both written in the last twelve months. Why, when they saw their first great review did someone in management not realise the potential?
  • Beachfield Hotel: No reviews. With eighteen rooms, surely they could find at least one happy guest a week/a month/ever?
  • The Longboat Inn: Reviews written in the last two years, one very damaging. Needs to be countered with many more great reviews which will bring their current score of 3.8 up over the crucial 4.0.
  • Armeria House: One lovely 5* review. They just need four more to look great and with five rooms that's upwards of a thousand people a year who might just write them with a little encouragement.
  • Blue Seas Hotel: A 4* hotel with three 5* reviews - so near and yet so far. But with those three reviews being a minimum of a year old, why has the Blue Seas done nothing to get a great star rating? Two more 5* reviews and they would be the best rated hotel in Penzance.
We suspect that part of the answer to this is that they have been blinded by TripAdvisor. But with Google reviews being shown first in every search, don't they warrant that minimal effort?

We strongly advise all our clients to respond to every review, positive or negative - but use the mechanism Google provides - in a timely fashion - rather than giving their own business a 5* review to rebalance its score!

To summarise:
  • Use Dialogue to get great reviews to your own website
  • Then use Dialogue to get those reviews to Google
  • Get a great Google score that will be seen by everyone - every time they search for your business, for whatever reason
  • Maintain and improve that score over time with proper professional ongoing review management

'Professional fouls'

No - not Diego Costa - yesterday's Sunday Times:

What do estate agents need to do to rise above this kind of article? Given that the profession as a whole does not look like it will be taking action any time soon, it has to be down to each agency to find its own solution. 


It's that world again! And for good reason. If your business is a 'good apple' and finds itself constantly tainted by the practices of the 'bad apples' it is no good ploughing ahead as if nothing was happening. Action needs to be taken. 

And Dialogue is here to do just that. Dialogue does not work for bad apples. There are features built in to Dialogue they don't like: the open invitation for any client to write a review at any time and especially the 'promise to publish' at the end of the review process are just two. 

And it's those very same features that make Dialogue work so well for great agents. Their clients love them and feel reassured by them. More important than that: their prospective clients can see that they're not 'bad apples' straight away, and in a way that even the slickest website or cleverest salesperson cannot imitate.

Foul No 10


For 'testimonials' that are what they seem: Dialogue. Enabling great agencies to differentiate themselves, first, last and every time.