Like a lot of decisions in business it boils down to 'Do we do it ourselves or do we retain professional help?'
So here we examine the alternatives - and their pros and cons:
Doing it yourselves
In the same way that some businesses do their own accounts or manage their own legal issues, it is possible to do your own review management. Here's how:
Strategy: Invite all your customers to write a review on Google
Pros: by inviting all of your customers to write a review you will avoid accusations of cherry-picking.
Cons: human nature being what it is, your dissatisfied customers are much more likely to write a review than your happy customers. If you hand-pick happy customers to write reviews it won't be long before you find your competitors are pointing that out.
This is the kind of value only professional review management can add (and see Paul Grover of Winkworth's comments below).
We have seen refinements of this approach. Some businesses have worked out that they can invite customers to write reviews to an independent review site and then invite those who have written positive reviews to copy them to Google. This strategy is simply a refinement of cherry-picking (and, as such, just as vulnerable to criticism).
Any business can look like this. But if you hand-pick the customers you ask to write reviews to Google you run the risk of being accused of cherry-picking, and that can do just as much harm to your brand and reputation as having no reviews at all (many would argue: even more so). To be credible, the system you adopt must enable all and any of your customers to write a review.
Adopting professional review management
Strategy: Invite all your customers to write a review to your own website. Then invite them to copy that review to Google.
Pros: you get independently verified reviews - as opposed to testimonials - to show on your own website; you get an opportunity to engage with reviewers who have posted inaccurate or misleading reviews pre-publication (although the reviewer must always retain the right to publish) and you get credible reviews on Google.
Cons: if you don't look after your customers properly this strategy will backfire - you will get negative reviews.
Remember: You need to be sure your own customer relationship management is in good shape before you embark on this strategy. Not perfect - no business is, and professional review management allows for this, but as good as you can make it.
What else will a review management consultancy do?
Like any other professional service, they make it their business to understand, and be up-to-date with, all areas of their expertise:
- understanding Google, G+, Google for Business and how they all relate to reviews
- knowing how all the independent reviews sites operate - from massive sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to specialist sites focusing on specific business niches
- knowing response and appeals mechanisms inside-out
- being constantly aware of the strengths and weaknesses of all the alternative solutions
- being ahead of the curve with new techniques and solutions
Ultimately, it is very simple:
Here are two examples of what can be achieved with professional review management. The first over a two-year period, the second in just over six months. Desktop on top, mobile underneath. But perhaps the most important added value is invisible: that both agencies can stress that all their clients are invited to post a review - and all that do so, on their own site, are automatically asked to copy them to Google - no fear of being accused of cherry-picking with HelpHound - and definitely no fear of being subject to the Google Filter.
We need to be able to reassure our clients that, month by month, year-on-year, that they are far better off employing a professional review management service. Our review management service.
We want you to feel like Paul Grover at Winkworth: