Monday 27 March 2017

Restaurants: A sad - and perhaps unnecessary - story

A while ago we offered our services to this restaurant (simply because it was one of our staffer's local hostelry, and he wanted us to help them):

  Garnier - Sadly missed. But 10 Google reviews in four years?

And now, as you can see, it's closed. Which is sad, because we enjoyed our occasional Friday lunchtime sessions there.

Now, we are far from saying that being a member of HelpHound on its own could have saved Garnier, but let's look at the facts:
  • the food was excellent - everyone agreed on that (even the few - including some HelpHounders - who bothered to write a review on Google)
  • the staff had that great balance between 'welcoming and professional' and 'over-friendly' - and they knew the menu backwards
  • the room was great - it actually had space between the tables, unusual for central south-west London these days
  • the location was not 'prime prime', but it was right on the junction of the Old Brompton Road and the Earl's Court Road - and there are half-a-dozen restaurants within a hundred yards
What should they have done (and what should every other restaurant do)?
  1. Collect as many guest email addresses as possible. How? Simple - when you present the bill, give each guest a card and a pencil and ask them to fill in their email - no pressure, but a mention that the restaurant likes to keep regular diners up-to-date with speacial events never goes amiss. For every hundred covers you should be looking at collecting forty emails. 
  2. Email each guest inviting them to write a review to the restaurant's own website, where any issues can be addressed pre-publication by the restaurant's management. Reviews on the restaurant's own website will qualify it for a star rating in organic search and a link under 'Reviews from the web'.
  3. Ask those who have posted a review to copy that to Google. 
Let's look at the numbers per annum (working per 100 covers/day):
  • 35,000 covers - of which 25% provide an email address* - gives...
  • 8,750 email addresses - of which 10% write a review to the restaurant's website - gives...
  • 875 reviews - of which one in five go on to copy their review to Google - gives
  • 175 Google reviews
On top of that - the restaurant has garnered (no pun...) many thousands of contacts for its other marketing. 

*Harvesting email addresses: all that is needed is a card and a pencil - and a dose of charm. It works.

It doesn't stop there...

The restaurant - or its agents - should respond to those reviews, all of them. Why? First because it sends a very positive message to potential customers: if the restaurant cares about its online image then perhaps it cares about the quality of its food and customer service. Second, because responding to reviews keeps reviewers honest - it makes it much less likely that rogue reviewers will exaggerate any negative experiences that may have had.

Look at this review (of another restaurant):

 And then this one:

Both of these reviews have the ring of truth about them. But doesn't the first one - lacking a response from the business - reduce the likelihood that you're going to choose the restaurant for your next outing?

Point made? There's one more piece of advice: take reviews that criticise service much more seriously than those that criticise food. The late lamented A A Gill, when writing his Christmas 'review of reviews' a few years ago, stressed that he would be much more likely to forgive erratic cuisine if service was top-rate.

Can HelpHound help?

Besides giving you the mechanism to invite and display reviews, HelpHound also incorporates an optional response service: Feedback Manager. So, if you are too busy, or lack the capacity to respond to reviews, we are here to help.

Monday 20 March 2017

HelpHound made simple - for Estate Agents

There are now over 600 articles on this blog (it's the nature of blogs - just like newspapers, we have to repeat articles - updating as we go). Time to make things simple. 

We are going to limit ourselves to five points. For those who would like to mine deeper we will give relevant links below each point.

Here we go...

Point 1
  • Reviews are read and are believed. Scores do matter. Everyone searching on Google sees reviews - every time they search. Your business needs to properly engage with them. Good professional review management will earn your business money - we guarantee it.
Don't be one of the ever-reducing number of agencies that doesn't believe in the power of reviews. We'll hold your hand. And we promise you will never look back.

Understanding the consumer journey with reviews.

See what these HelpHound clients have to say. To be honest, if you read this you probably won't need to read much further!

Point 2
  • Negative reviews hurt. Just ask any of the agencies that first contacted us when they needed help with one.
Ouch! - the telephone stopped ringing. That's how powerful a single negative review can be. Read this from back in 2015 - still as valid today as the day it was written.

Our Resolution™ mechanism reduces the likelihood of an unfair, inaccurate or misleading review ever seeing the light of day.
Point 3
  •  You need reviews where your potential clients will see them. That means on...
    • your own site
    • Google
    • Facebook
This is what your agency should look like (scroll to the end of this article); just imagine your main competitor looks like this, that sometimes helps.

Point 4 
  • Review sites are over. Like dinosaurs, they won't die out overnight, but Google has been the nearest thing to a meteor strike - or was it an ice age - in the world of reviews. See point 3 above.
Look at what has happened to some agents who have adopted the review site solution.

Look at what's been happening to review sites' share prices. They tell the story.

Look at the plethora of review sites estate agents have been promised the earth by since 2010.

Point 5
  • Don't cut corners and attempt to do-it-yourselves. It may work for weeks, or even months, but it will end in pain.
And it won't even save you money. What could possibly go wrong? Read 'DIY, the biggest cause of ...injury'

In summary

We are sure you get our drift by now. Professional review management works. We are so confident of this that we are now offering a full money-back guarantee. 

So - finally - look what some of our clients said recently about our service. And see what we have done for them.

Take us up on it - become like them - now - guaranteed!

Sunday 19 March 2017

Never commit to a single review solution

Sometimes people are confused about HelpHound - and mistake us for a review site. We can see how that would happen - until you understand the crucial difference.

Try thinking of us as brokers. You come to us for the best review solution in the same way as you would go to an insurance broker for the right insurance. 

Let's use estate agency as an example - because it has gone through more evolutions than most businesses.  

In 2010 the 'go-to' review site for estate agents was... 

By 2012 it had become...

 In 2014 along came...

Then in 2015 PurpleBricks signed to...

 Then in 2016 Feefo took up the baton...

And all the while, the biggest review site in the world...

 - Note: before anyone says 'size matters' - Yelp retreated back to the USA at the end of 2016, closing its sales operations in London and the rest of Europe, sending a powerful message about review sites' ability to compete

Now - we have met more than one business that has been through every stage of this 'evolution' and many that have experienced at least two. And the questions they invariably ask us are...
  • how do I know if we are with the right site now?
  • if we move, can we take our reviews with us?
  • how do we know which site will be right for the future?

And our answers?

How do I know if we are with the right site?

There are two basic tests:
  • is it providing your business's reviews with maximum visibility in search?
  • if it drops off Google's radar, can you take your hard-won reviews with you?
There are others - does it show my competitors? Does it involve linking away from my site? Is it CMA compliant? But these two are the crucial ones.

Can we take our reviews with us if we leave?

We have not found a site that allows this - yet. Do tell us if you know of one (except HelpHound, but then, as we said at the beginning of this article, we are not a review site). 

Right for the future?

All of the above sites looked set to dominate when they were 'bought' by the business in question, in 2010, 2013, 2016...

That's why HelpHound's business model is different - we work for you

Our role is to deploy your reviews where they will make the maximum impact - for now and for the future. You own your reviews, whether or not you remain a client of HelpHound. All the while you are a client of ours we will ensure:
  • your business has great - independently verified - reviews on your own website
  • your business has great reviews on external sites that matter
  • your business is protected from unfair, misleading or inaccurate reviews - anywhere
And if this means advising you to get reviews to TrustPilot or AllAgents, then that's the advice we will give you. 

Currently, of course (we say 'of course', but not everyone reading this will be doing this) we are advising our clients in estate agency to focus on their own website, then Google, then Facebook, like this...

...and this

....and this

But if and when the landscape changes - for us or for you - we will be the first to advise. 

HelpHound: peace of mind - knowing your efforts will be paying dividends, now and for the future.

No better proof...

...than your own clients' opinions. How often do we say that? Well, this month Winkworth went live with their new website. Their head office asked for some comments on HelpHound for their internal newsletter.

We are proud to publish them here...

There is no reason why every single client of ours should not have exactly the same experience as these five. If you doubt this - please accept our challenge and try HelpHound for your business.

Additional notes:

  1.  We are gratified that the words 'support'and 'help' are used more than once in these comments. If you run a mass-market business - online retail, travel etc. - it is often enough to simply invite reviews by email and you are up and running; a very low response rate will soon give you enough reviews to look great. But if you have a low-volume high-value business such as estate agency or wealth management, or your business is B2B - professional services like accountancy, legal advice or advertising - you will need considerable support, both initial and ongoing, to achieve consistently good results. It is partly the quaility of that support that ensures we can guarantee such great results for all our clients.
  2. Winkworth's new site goes live - a detailed examination of everything HelpHound has incorporated into their website and into the Google searches for their branches.
  3. If you are considering any other reviews service you should first read this.

Friday 17 March 2017

Your reviews show - in every search

It is so important that your reviews are just that - YOUR reviews. So much value is lost if they link through to any other site than your own.

Here's an example of a common search result...

  Not only heading the 3-pack - but above it as well!

Now the 'business specific' search:

The initial impression is great - everywhere the customer looks - in natural search, the Google reviews, the 'Reviews from the web' and rich snippets

Now let's track the reviews:
  • From the link in the organic search results (top left):
  • From the Google reviews (in the knowledge box, top right)
  • From 'Reviews from the web' in the knowledge box

Organic search:

From this...

To this....

  Straight through to the business's own site - with the independently verified reviews right there, a glance away from the business's contact mechanisms

Google reviews:

From this...

To this....

Great reviews, a great score, and impressive responses from the business. A click and the potential client is back to the search results and contact details

Reviews from the web: 

From this (on the left)...

To this....

 Again: straight through to the business's website

HelpHound: always acting in our clients' best interests - see what they have to say here.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Reviews - 10 reasons not to engage

Why bother? Surely no-one takes any notice? After all, who in their right mind writes reviews?

In this article we will address all the reasons not to engage with reviews.

Note: there are ten, but we will not number them, because one is no more important than another.
  • no-one takes any notice of them
Partly correct - not everyone takes notice of reviews - in the same way as not everyone takes notice of advertising. But that never put any business off advertising. Reliable research estimates that well over half of all purchasing decisions - from books to household appliances to services like insurance and estate agency - are influenced by reviews.

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop. 

  • all review sites are flawed
Not a million miles off the mark. Most review sites suffer from drawbacks, either they allow fake reviews to be posted or they are invisible to the overwhelming majority of consumers. But reviews on your own website? And reviews on Google?

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop. 

  • we can do it ourselves
Absolutely - not! A self-published review has a name: it's called a testimonial. And that definition is enshrined in law. Consumers increasingly - and understandably - want to see evidence that opinions published on a business's own website have been independently audited.

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop. 

  • we come first in organic search anyway
Well done. You have a great web designer who gets SEO. But you may have noticed some changes at Google in the last eighteen months, namely the introduction of their Review Filter and 'Top Rated'. Now that consumers can choose to see the best reviewed business in their searches great SEO is simply not enough.

The answer: you need to be the best reviewed business of your kind in your area, or you risk dropping out of Google search results altogether.

  • review sites don't show in search
Absolutely right. Many review sites don't feature in search any more.

The answer: it is essential that you focus your business's efforts on the review sites that show and the review mechanisms that suit your own marketplace. 

  • we have done fine without them until now
Like most things on the web, reviews - especially Google reviews - started off as a slow burner. Still lots of businesses have no Google reviews at all. That exposes those businesses to a very high risk that the first review they do receive will be a potentially harmful negative one (nothing drives business to HelpHound like a business that had no reviews one day and a negative review the next).

The answer: The best insurance policy against a harmful negative reviews is to have reviews from your happy customers in place.

  • our customers know us
So they do. But they will see your reviews anyway, every time they search, even for your phone number, and if they are negative their confidence will be dented. Just Google your own business and imagine a negative review shows. 

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop.  

  • our customers find us by word-of-mouth
Wonderful, but think what your potential customer will do when you have been recommended: they'll search on Google

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop.  

  • it's extra work
 An email - that can easily be automated, is all it takes.

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop.  

  • it's an added expense
Good review management should pay for itself, from day one.

The answer: try it and see. If it makes no difference, then stop. 

Further reading:
  1. A case history - a business that started with no reviews
  2. Independent review sites - the unintended consequences
  3. Google reviews accelerate - an example of a business that had next no review reviews and awoke one day to find it had 77, mostly negative, and all its twelve branches were failing the Google Filter

A PR disaster - some lessons to learn

There's probably no way that this Range Rover dealership could have predicted that their customer's story would make the national press...

...but they could have done much more to make sure that it wasn't reinforced by the image that they have allowed their other dissatisfied customers to create online:

Whether it is ignorance or just plain laziness (or maybe even review denial), there's no excuse for allowing your dissatisfied customers to dominate your online reputation in 2017. 

At this point some of you will be thinking 'Maybe this business is just rubbish at customer service'. And you may be right - we don't know the business from Adam. But we do know that Range Rover have very strict customer service guidelines for their dealerships in place - and a product that Clarkson & co have consistently rated very highly, so is likely that they have simply fallen down on their review management.

What should they have done?

They should have adopted a professional review management strategy and engaged with their customers. They currently have eleven reviews on Google - a business like theirs should have a nought added to that figure by 2017, and look a lot more like this:

  ...a great score, great reviews and a headline number that cannot be argued with

The effect?

Would be...
  •  reassurance
...for their existing customers who read the article and then checked them out online and for prospective customers when this article is returned in search for the future.

Review management - it is all about protecting, and projecting, your hard-won reputation.