Not a HelpHound client!
Most businesses, if they are honest, approach the subject of reviews with some trepidation - if they approach it at all - and with good reason.
Let's look at some of the barriers to actively engaging with reviews online:
The policy of most review sites, including Google, is predicated on the assumption that the 'reviewer is always right'. This means that anyone can voice their opinion, even if that 'opinion' contains factually incorrect or misleading statements. The fact that any negative opinion of a business in the UK is prima facie libel does not matter as the libel is imputed to the reviewer not the review site - and what business wants to find itself embroiled in a libel suit with one of its own customers?
Dissatisfaction with a business is so much more of a motivation to write a review. And negative reviews do harm businesses - just ask any hotelier. We often meet businesses that have customers running into multiple thousands who have nothing but a handful of negative reviews on Google
3. The harm a single negative review can do
We often hear those who have yet to engage with reviews say things like "Surely the odd negative just adds credibility?" Our response: "Ask any business that has been the subject of a well written negative review". Read the sorry tale of Nearwater in St Mawes - just one negative review on Google stopped their business in its tracks. The fact that it was written by someone who had never used the business - and HelpHound proved that to Google - saved the business.
4. Fake reviews
It is a source of ongoing frustration that most review sites continue to publish reviews from fake reviewers (as distinct from fraudulent - covered below). Google is tightening up its act - and gaining credibility by so doing, but the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp continue to allow the 'MickieMouse123's of the virtual world to post reviews without providing any more than a Hotmail address when they register.
5. Fraudulent reviews
Thanks to the above it is still relatively easy for someone with an impure motive - a competitor, the business itself, or a disgruntled ex-employee - to write fake reviews, both positive and negative.
6. Regulations - the Competition and Markets Authority
We constantly encounter businesses that selectively invite 'happy' customers to write reviews (this practice goes against both the spirit and the content of the CMA regulations) because they are afraid of allowing all of their customers to comment.
And now for the reasons to engage:
1. Having good reviews is proven to influence consumers
Looking like this is proven to give a business an edge - in the marketplace in general and specifically against local competitors with no, few or negative reviews
Countless surveys and reports, from the likes of Microsoft and Harvard Business School as well as Google itself put that contention beyond doubt.
2. Businesses with reviews look more established
Two all-but identical businesses in the same location - which one looks the more attractive?
3. Businesses with more reviews look more engaged
There's no longer any doubt that the business on the left will get more calls than the business on the right
We often encounter businesses that achieve a Google star rating (that's 5+ reviews) and then heave a sigh of relief. In the not-too-distant future there will be businesses of all kinds - not just hotels and restaurants - out there with thousands of reviews.
4. Businesses with reviews are more trusted by consumers
Google reviews are now commonly attached to a G+ account: this gives them considerably more credibility than anonymous reviews
5. Businesses that invite reviews to their own websites prosper
There is a massive difference between independently verified reviews and testimonials - and consumers are increasingly wise to that. The three lines above the reviews on this client's website are crucial in establishing that credibility - as is the 'promise to publish'.
The most powerful incentive to use a business - fellow consumers' opinions? Then why not incorporate these into your website - the very vehicle where first impressions of your business are created. The 'promise to publish' and the 'Write your review' button make this mechanism CMA compliant.
6. There is no reason not to comply with the CMA rules
All our clients' websites incorporate this mechanism. It actively enables them to invite anyone - and they need not necessarily be a customer of the business in the strictest sense - to write a review whenever they want. How impressive is that?
Concerned that such a policy might do harm? This single branch of one of our clients has nearly 500 reviews on their own website and looks like this on Google:
To save you the trouble, their reviews break down as follows: 5 stars: 269, 4 stars: 8, 3 stars: 1, 2 stars: 1, 1 star: 2. Remember: every client can write a review, whenever they like, and when they do HelpHound always invites them to copy that final review to Google (for a full explanation of the process see the link to Resolution™ below). A bonus is the star rating under the business's main listing in organic search (top left) and the 'Reviews' link there that takes the potential customer straight to that branch's reviews on its own website, as well as the great rich snippets in the Google knowledge panel
Resolution has another major benefit: it weeds out fake reviews. How? If HelpHound - or our client business - think a review is suspect in any way we will always go back to the reviewer for 'further particulars' of the transaction under review - the address of the property for an estate agent, the number of the room and the date of stay for a hotel.
Businesses want to engage with reviews, but are rightly concerned that doing so will expose them to unfair criticism. We hope that this explains how and why professional review management - and HelpHound - are able to allay that fear and allow businesses to make the most of this great opportunity.