Wednesday 27 May 2015

What a difference a year makes!

We keep close tabs on our clients and that includes records of how they look on their own websites and how they appear in search. This is one search (on the company name 'Greene & Co') exactly a year ago...

And here we are today (firstly, on the company's own website)...

Maida Vale has 117 reviews like this:

Belsize Park has 63 like this:

and West Hampstead has 144 like this:

Now on Google:




Even Better Still...


Well done Greene & Co. If you would like to know more go here.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Review Management: How does you business score?

Take this test -  those businesses that fail it risk failing in a much wider examination: under the critical gaze of their potential customers.

By the way - the test assumes your business has reviews - if it does not, you fail before even embarking; don't for a minute start congratulating yourself (as so many do): without reviews your business has no presence in the online court of consumer opinion.

Which business looks a) 'engaged' b) 'professional' and, most important of all: c) 'great in the eyes of its clients'?

So - ten questions for you:
  1. Has your business has been reviewed (anywhere) online?
  2. Has your business been reviewed on Google?
  3. Do you respond to all your reviews on a specialist site (e.g TripAdvisor, AllAgents)?
  4. Do you respond to all your reviews on Google?
  5. Do you host independently verified reviews on your own website?
  6. Do you have a formal mechanism for getting customers to post reviews to a specialist site?
  7. Do you have a formal mechanism for getting customers to post reviews to Google?
  8. Do you have a mechanism that enables you to manage negatives before customers post to an external site?
  9. Do you show your reviews to potential customers at point-of-sale?
  10. Do you use your reviews in your marketing (newsletters etc.)?
So - to follow the 'Cosmo' format...

Yes to:
  • Q. 1: You've been reviewed: you get a big pat on the back
  • Q. 2: You've been reviewed on Google: Another - bigger - pat on the back
  • Q. 3: You respond to reviews (on e.g TripAdvisor): 10 points
  • Q. 4: You respond to reviews (on Google): 10 points
  • Q. 5: You host verified reviews on your site: 10 points*
  • Q. 6: You have a formal mechanism to get your customers to post to a specialist site: 10 points*
  • Q. 7: You have a formal mechanism to get your customers to post to Google: 10 points*
  • Q. 8: You have a mechanism to manage negative comments: 10 points*
  • Q. 9: You show reviews at point-of-sale: 10 points
  • Q.10: You use reviews in your marketing: 10 points

Your score:

20-30: It's definitely a start, but there's still a long way to go
30-50: You are doing all you can without HelpHound
50+ You are definitely a client of ours!*

HelpHound Dialogue is currently the only integrated review management system that will enable you and your business to answer 'Yes' to all the questions above (and score a maximum 80 in this quiz). 

After reading reviews like this, do you think potential clients are a) 'more likely' or b) 'less likely' to use this business?

Simple to implement and to operate, Dialogue ensures our clients know with absolute certainty that they have a review management strategy in place that is comprehensive in its coverage as well as being as future-proof as possible.

*Points marked with an asterisk are (with very few exceptions) exclusive to HelpHound and our clients

Wednesday 20 May 2015

One bad review. Harmful? You bet!

A negative review is never a good thing; a negative review combined with social media (Twitter in this case) can cause massive damage.

Here's the post on TripAdvisor. It currently has more than 1100 'helpful' votes.

The solution: respond to the reviewer explaining the circumstances - do not start a fight with them.


We occasionally meet a business that does not fully understand the implications of a single negative review. So here's a real life example:

This is the full text of the review, but someone - a potential client - would need to click through to read it. So no major harm done then? Wrong! Below are the rich snippets that are fully visible for every search on the business's name.

These rich snippets - all three of them - are from one single review, the only Google review that business has, and they are being displayed in every single search. 

So, some rules:
  1. Even a single negative review can (and will) do damage to your business
  2. You cannot know how much damage (people are most unlikely to ring you and say 'I was going to use your business, but I have been put off by what I read on Google')
  3. If at all possible you need to engage with review management before you begin to get reviews on Google
  4. If you already have a negative review on Google, you need to engage now; every day that goes past means more lost business

Monday 18 May 2015

Restaurants - there's more than one way to benefit from looking good on TripAdvisor

Some restaurants say 'we don't do PR', and we know what they mean. But we think they do - every time they serve a customer. And that's when they ought to be thinking 'scores and rankings' on Google, on TripAdvisor, Zagat, Yelp, TopTable, Urbanspoon...

Any PR professional will tell you what this kind of publicity is worth, especially for a local restaurant in local media. All done for you by TripAdvisor; all you need to do is take reviews seriously, seriously enough to look great to a journalist looking to fill that crucial space.

With Dialogue working for you you will look great across the web, and then the review sites will pump out great publicity for you. You win both ways - great reviews on the web, great PR prompted by those great reviews.

Dialogue for Estate Agents - getting reviews: advice for managers

We've learned a lot about review management over the last eight years, and one of the most important things we have learned is just how to get reviews - both to your own websites and to Google.

So here we go - without pulling any punches:
  1. If you just send emails you will get some response, but it won't be earth-shattering
  2. If you follow-up the emails with a phone call, response will increase massively
  3. If you target your staff to produce a specific number of reviews a month, you will do even better
  4. If you incentivise your staff to ask for (and get) reviews, you will do even better still

 Do YOU want to look like this? Then do 2, 3 and 4!

If you are new to HelpHound you will soon know just how valuable each review is to you (see this article: 'Just How Much is a Single Review Worth'), and we can, of course, only advise. The final strategy you adopt is up to you.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Estate Agents - Don't risk asking your clients to post direct to Google

Focusing on the Web, for now, there are two arenas where you are able to influence a potential client: on your own website and on Google.

On your own website: 

You have invested time, money and resources in making this attractive (to potential fee earners). You know it is visited by hundreds (in some cases thousands) of people a month and, let's face it, most of those are actively looking to do business in one way or another (very few people visit an estate agent's website out of idle curiosity these days - they visit portals for that). 

So you need to show verified (and therefore credible) reviews there.

Independently verified reviews drive enquiries through your website

The benefits of hosting reviews on your own site will be hugely rewarding - read what happened to this client just days after joining.

On Google:

Let us tell you a story. Last month a new client joined. A great agency, with good management and hard-working and diligent staff. The MD decided they would contact their 'top 20' clients first (using Dialogue - thankfully), the clients who they knew, for certain, would write five star reviews.

He was right about the clients writing reviews; but, to his surprise, three of the clients' responses were less than glowing. Two were the result of misunderstandings caused by factors outside the agent's control; one was a client who had been 'got at' by friends and relations and decided that they had been advised ('forced' was the actual word used in the review) to sell 'at the wrong time.'

These potentially damaging reviews were able to be managed by the agent because they went through Dialogue first. The issues they had raised were dealt with calmly and effectively in private. Had they been posted direct to Google the effect would have been disastrous. None resulted in a published review - on Google or anywhere else.

You need to score as near to 5 out of 5 as possible:

Potential clients will contact agents that look great on Google

And that means no negative reviews. You need to reduce the chances of a review like this showing on Google to as close to nil as possible:

Like it or not - potential clients are influenced by negative reviews

The Dialogue™ effect

Dialogue allows you to...
  • Confidently invite reviews to your own website knowing that you will be able to address any issues raised in private
  • Go on to invite those who have reviews published on your website to post their reviews to Google
All safe in the knowledge that you are showing just how great your business is on your own site and on Google, without running the risk that one misunderstanding with one client becomes the negative review that harms your business for years to come.

Don't be tempted to take a short-cut

With Dialogue you will soon look great - on your site and on Google, and with the passing months and years you will look better still. Don't knee-jerk into inviting your clients to post direct to Google just because a competitor suddenly looks great there. You are in business for the long haul, you owe it to your business not to risk its reputation with a 'quick fix' solution.

Use Dialogue and you can rest easy that you have a review management solution that will serve your business well in the years to come. With HelpHound right behind you for help and advice on all matters review-related, all the time.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Agent sells in 'eye popping deal' - did Dialogue help?

Read on and make your own judgement...

Greene & Co became clients almost exactly two years ago, in April 2013. Their objectives, in common with most of our clients, were twofold...

To gather independently verified reviews to display on their website, like this:

And like this: 

 And be able to invite those reviewers to copy their reviews to Google, like this:

So they look like this when a prospective client searches for them on Google:

And, perhaps most important of all, this is what they look like against their competitors in any local search for 'estate agent' in their locality:

So - do we think we know the answer to the question posed in the title at the top of the page? We do - but more importantly, do you? If you do, and you would like to hear the full story, drop Karen Hutchings a line at or pop a message in the box at the top of this page.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Just how much is a single review worth?

We often ask our clients this question and we get a variety of responses, but no-one says 'Nothing'. Just last week an estate agent surprised us a little by saying £1000. When we said 'Really - one thousand pounds?' he said 'If I can get my business from nowhere on Google to a 4.5+ rating and, in so doing, look great against my competitors, that has to be worth at least £5000.'

Put like that, we had to agree. Now we examine the process by which this is achieved. Let's remind ourselves how Dialogue works...
  • An email is sent asking the client to write a review on your own website*
  • That email is followed up - within minutes - with a phone call. The sole purpose of that call is to stress to your client just how much you value their opinion
  • The client writes a review on your website
  • An email is sent, automatically, asking your client to copy their review to Google
  • The client copies their review to Google
So far, so very good. But - and this is a VERY BIG BUT - you need to invest some time and effort as well. Not a thousand pounds worth, you'll be glad to hear, but a minute or two on the phone.

This is how it goes (and if you stray from this process the results you get will suffer):
  1. Warn clients at every opportunity during your relationship that you will be asking for a review and just how important it is that they write one, to you and to Google
  2. Email clients asking for the review - one at a time
  3. Phone straight away, within five minutes
  4. Re-stress just how important both reviews are
  5. Phone back if the reviews are not written within 24 hours
That is all, but any short cuts and response rates will drop dramatically, both to your own website and to Google.

The key is to get inside the mind of your client: understand what will motivate them to write the review (you - and only you - know exactly what you did so well for them, and they may need a gentle reminder!) and they'll do it. Try and do it all by email and, unfortunately, yours will join that endless pile of 'emails I must get round to answering (but never do)' in your clients' in-boxes.

Advice for managers

The most successful businesses make review harvest a part of every member of staff's role. Staff are trained to:
  • Mention the fact that a review will be requested at point-of-sale: 'So we can be sure our high standards are maintained we ask all our clients to write a review when our job is complete.'
  • Recognise opportunities to invite the review: for example, when a client pays a compliment to the business, in person, by email or over the phone: 'Thank you so much for saying that, may I ask you to repeat it in your review?' 
  • Follow up the request by phone - this is key to getting the review to Google
If you are in a high value/low volume business (e.g. financial services, estate agency, legal) you may also consider rewarding staff for getting reviews. It focuses the mind wonderfully and it means your objectives are achieved in a timescale set by you (to repeat the title of this article: 'Just how much is a single review worth?').

HelpHound client services

Remember that Karen Hutchings and her team are here to help and guide. Just a call or an email away you will find years of experience and professional knowledge.

*Please don't underestimate the value of this review (the one posted to your own website); with hundreds of visitors to the average estate agents' website every month, those reviews produce results like these.  

And never succumb to the temptation to short-cut the process by asking them to post straight to Google; that way lies significant potential for disaster (more on that here).

Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Future for Reviews - Part 1

This is the first article in a new format; when we consider a subject is important enough to warrant detailed comment we will break the post into two. Part 1 will go straight for the jugular and you should be able to read it in less than a minute, Part 2 will contain more detail, should you wish to explore the subject further.

The Future - Part 1

Google is going to cripple some businesses, and it won't be Google's fault. We are not exaggerating, and the blame will lie fairly and squarely at the door of each failing business's managers.

All because their business will look poor by comparison with its direct competitors in every Google search.

Google wants businesses to encourage their customers to write reviews. Why does Google want those reviews (and give them such prominence)? Because it knows - for certain - that its users (your potential customers)  want them.

But many businesses are ignoring Google's appeal. Look at this search for 'estate agents' in 'Winchester'...

Five reviews and Google gives your business a star rating

One business is giving Google (and its potential clients) what it (and they) want. Just one business. Do some business people seriously think that today, in 2015, consumers are not influenced by what they see on Google?

A click away there are four reviews of three other businesses -  Here's just one of those reviews:

Four more like this and the business is looking at being rated 1.0 out of 5.0 by Google

Does the business think potential customers are not making that click? Well, here is a screenshot of an important part of the business in question's G+ page:
The figure on the right is the number of times the information contained in the page has been shown in searches. What information? The business's name, address and phone number and any reviews.

While three out of the four reviews for the other businesses are similar 'one stars', one is a glowing 'five stars'. Written five years ago, did it not occur to that business to ask some more of their customers to post a review?

One answer has to be that businesses are afraid to ask their customers to review them in case the review is negative. Well, Dialogue solves that one - it helps you 'manage out the fear'. Now let's get the reviews in!

For those who would like to read more on this subject, please go to The Future - Part 2 

The Future for Reviews - Part 2

If you have not already read Part 1 of this article, you may like to go here.

The world of reviews is in its infancy, and there's a long way to go. More, millions more, are being written every day; Google loves them and gives them massive prominence in search, lighting them up with star ratings (once they have 5, that is). 

Hotels, accountants, zoos - Google treats all businesses the same

Individual review sites have prospered: Yelp has moved from 20 million reviews four years ago to 71 million by the end of Q4 2014. That's at least a quarter of a million reviews being added every week. TripAdvisor claims four times as many (that's nearly 150,000 reviews a day). But to get to any of those sites your customers have to search on Google, which is hosting its own reviews of your business.

Some businesses (often just the kind where consumers would really benefit from helpful reviews) still have none.

So: reviews 5 years hence...

Those numbers will only carry on growing. Just about every business on the planet will have been reviewed by at least one customer (take note all those in 'review denial') and most by many.  

So what will the reviews landscape look like in five years' time?

First, let's look at current coverage; hotels are front-and-centre (TripAdvisor, Google and dozens of other sites) the smallest bed & breakfast has fifty reviews. Restaurants follow hard on their heels. But there are many areas as yet only touched on, and these areas are arguably those where the consumers need is greatest:
  • Financial services: A lump sum to invest or advice needed on a pension provider?
  • Legal services: Picking the right lawyer can be crucial
  • Estate agency: Buying or selling a house, as we are constantly told, is the biggest financial transaction most of us will make in our entire lives. How are we to choose the right agent/mortgage broker/surveyor/architect?
  • Medical services: Choosing an oncologist? How valuable would accurate reviews be?
  • Insurance: currently insurance companies are able to compete on price alone; that's because (with one or two notable exceptions) there is little information on their claims records. In the future the key information will be available through reviews: 'Will they pay out when I claim?'
The divide between those businesses which engage with reviews and those that don't will become ever wider - and ever more obvious to their potential customers. Long experience has taught us that reviews are not easy to come by, especially great reviews (some disgruntled customers/clients/patients will always take the time and make the effort to write negative reviews).

So businesses must build reviews into the core of their day-today strategies.*

Now for a glimpse into the future: we have taken today's search for 'insurance brokers' in 'Brighton':

...and put it into our Tardis and taken it five years down the track to 2020. Here's what the same search may look like then**...

  • Great businesses - that have actively engaged (Preston and Reason, in this example) - will look great
  • Great businesses - that have not engaged (Medical Insurance, perhaps?) - will punch well below their weight, and even look shoddy (because most of their reviews will be written by their unhappy customers)  
  • Bad businesses will look terrible - and they will have no hiding place
  • Small businesses will need to work especially hard - if they are not to look insignificant (like R T Williams)
Very few businesses will be able to fly under the radar (like Westminster) and those that do take the risk are more than likely to end up looking like R T Williams and Medical Insurance.

The bottom line...

Businesses that actively engage with reviews (and review management) today will see that strategy pay increasing dividends in years to come - and we are prepared to guarantee that, by offering you a no contact trial and a money back guarantee.

Part 1 of this article is here.

* Building reviews into your business's core strategy: means telling your customers that reviews are part-and-parcel of the way you operate your business; that they will be invited to write a review and you should stress just how much value you place on that review.

** For those that may be sceptical about the numbers (of reviews) shown here; we would remind them that the 583 reviews shown next to Brighton Insurance represent less than two reviews a week over the period in question. More than that - the star ratings and numbers are taken from real business's Google listings - today!

Monday 4 May 2015

TripAdvisor's Review Express - an update (and a cautionary tale)

TripAdvisor have improved compatibility on their review harvest widget (Review Express). Sounds great? Not when you analyse the impact this will have on your TripAdvisor ranking and score.

All the extensive research into reviewer behaviour (Harvard Business School and Cornell School of Hotel Administration are just two high profile examples) done in recent years shows that giving guests a simple mechanism to voice their dissatisfaction will result in proportionately more (many more - perhaps by a factor of up to 15x) negative reviews being posted.

It's common sense really - just ask colleagues or friends when you are next in a group "Are you more likely to post a review if you are happy or unhappy?" - you know the answer already!

We couldn't agree more with this statement by TripAdvisor, but any professionally managed establishment will want a safety mechanism between its guests and potentially damaging reviews - and we are not ashamed to say that's where Dialogue™ comes in.

Again - great advice from TripAdvisor (maybe No. 6 is a bit intrusive for some!). It is also interesting that TripAdvisor use a UK B&B owner's testimonial...


We did our homework on the Cleveland Guest House's listing. Here are the results:
  • Total reviews since opening in October 2013: 166
  • Total reviews collected via Review Express: 18
  • Last review collected via Review Express: 24 February 2015*
  • Last review collected via Review Express before that: 29 May 2014
We find it intriguing that TripAdvisor are using a single testimonial on the header page for Review Express from a client who appears to have dropped the service (just as intriguingly, the story seems to have been posted on TripAdvisor's website post-suspension of the Review Express service - either that or Review Express is remarkably ineffective; there's been only one review posted using RE in just under a year). Why? Well, we can only make an educated guess, but we reckon the story goes something like this...
  • A less than happy guest checks out (on or around 1 June 2014), having made their views clear to the hotel. The hotel realises the guest is about to go through the Review Express system and are almost certain to post a negative review. Review Express is suspended.
And that's the problem with any system that invites the reviewer to post directly to any site (be that TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp or any other). No business is going to risk their hard-won reputation in this way. And nor should they - when they have Dialogue as an effective alternative.

*We cannot be sure, but we think it likely that this is a 'late reviewer' who took some time to respond to the Review Express email.

Friday 1 May 2015

Asking for reviews can hurt your business

But isn't that just what HelpHound is always saying we should do, we hear you ask?

No - not exactly. Over time a strange pattern has emerged when we look at certain types of business (commonly restaurants and pubs). That pattern is as follows: businesses that actively invite reviews - usually by handing the customer a card - get proportionately more bad reviews than their competitors who don't. Inviting reviews is harming their business.

Why? It's plain human nature again: your guests are more likely to hang on to that card asking them to write a review if they had a poor experience. It's as simple as that.

A tale of two gastro-pubs

We know both of these (they're just around the corner), and they are both great pubs. Which one do you think is packed at lunchtime?

The solution

As ever: is Dialogue. Don't hand out cards for the diner to take home - ask the diner(s) for their email addresses at the table*. Then invite them to write their review direct to you. Dialogue enables you to manage any negatives in private and then get those great reviews to sites that matter. Job done.

*Some are initially reluctant to do this; it's simply a case of how you ask.  The best solution is to say 'We'd like to keep in touch with news and special offers' and then leave it to the guests to complete the card. The advantages of this strategy (besides review harvest) are too great to ignore: getting all guests' contact details (not just the host/booker) for future marketing being the main one.