Monday 24 October 2016

Closed review sites - driving negative comment to Google

As regular readers will know, we have always had issues with 'closed' review sites. 

What is a closed review site?

It is a site where the reviewer must be invited, by the business or the review site, to write a review. On the face of it this logic is flawless: only a verified customer of the business can write a review. If we all lived in a vacuum, where that kind of site was the only option, they would - and still can - have many advantages:
  • those reading the reviews know that they are reading genuine reviews, written by real customers
  • the business can rest easy in the knowledge that unscrupulous reviewers - competitors or disgruntled ex-employees - cannot write a review and do it harm

The problem, though, is that we don't live in that ideal vacuum, and our customers, whatever the nature of our business, have myriad options if they want to write a review, invited or uninvited.

Perhaps it would help if we looked at two examples: first for hotels:

Two (or more) of you stay in a hotel that you have booked through an online travel agency. On checkout you receive an email inviting a review of your stay. But who, in this example, is 'you'? 'You' is the person who made the booking. Suppose one of you loved the hotel and the other hated it - it does happen - the hotel now has a 50/50 chance of getting a great/awful review. And, more importantly, the second guest must look elsewhere to voice their opinion.

So they go to TripAdvisor or Google.

Next: an estate agent sends a closed invitation to its client. In this case the situation is a little more complex. Just like the hotel, there may be more than one client - but an efficient estate agent will know that and send two invitations. Job done - or is it? 

Unlike staying in a hotel, the relationship an estate agent has with their clients is often - especially in the case of lettings, ongoing. A landlord or tenant who is happy when they receive the closed invitation may not be happy a month - or a year - later. 

We have many examples of sellers who have written glowing reviews on exchange who have come back again to post a negative review. We have reviews from purchasers who have raised issues many months post-purchase. Some of you will be thinking - isn't that a case for a closed system?

 This Google score is for a business that has hundreds of 5 star reviews on a closed site. The have unwittingly driven dissatisfied customers to Google to comment, driving their score down and exposing some really harmful negative reviews to the public gaze on the most high profile and visible of all platforms.

No! Just because the client cannot write a review without being invited does not mean that they won't write a review somewhere else. A decent percentage will - perhaps to one of the specialist open sites - AllAgents for example, but much more likely to Google. We recently audited a great firm of agents who had overwhelmingly positive reviews on a closed review site. But nearly one in six of their reviews on Google were negative. What was happening? By using a closed site they were unconsciously forcing their less than happy clients to resort to posting a Google review.

HelpHound to the rescue:

It is so important to allow everyone to write a review:
  • both guests in a hotel
  • people who used your spa, restaurant or bar - but did not stay
  • every guest in a restaurant
  • every tenant in a property
  • people who, for whatever reason, considered using your business, but decided not to

But - we hear those of you who are reading this but are yet to be HelpHound clients say - "what about bogus/inaccurate/unfair reviews?" 

That's where HelpHound's Resolution™ comes in: every review is moderated, and all those containing negative scores or comments are first asked to verify their connection with your business. This might, for a hotel, be to identify the precise date of stay and their room number, for an estate agent: the member of staff they were dealing with and the address of the property concerned. If and when the reviewer does verify - and 'fake' reviewers never do, for obvious reasons - their review will then be forwarded to the business so it can engage and respond. It gives both the customer and the business an opportunity to resolve (hence the name 'Resolution') any misunderstandings and to put wrongs right pre-publication - and is extremely popular with consumers and businesses alike

This client welcomes reviews from anyone and everyone - whatever the time or day of the week, whether they have done business or not. And the result on Google:

So - fear of unfair criticism is not a reason to choose a 'closed' review site. Fear of driving aggrieved customers into the arms of Google is a definite reason to choose review management. Welcome to HelpHound!

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