First: let's take a look at why reviews exist and then look at the current situation.
Why reviews matter
Reviews exist for two reasons...
- to enable consumers to make the right choice of product or service
- to enable businesses to demonstrate that their product or service is the one for the consumer to choose
The current situation...
Consumers are faced with an array of reviews whenever they search the web, and businesses are faced with multiple so-called solutions...
- the reviews sites - Yelp, Trustpilot, Feefo - and the list goes on
- the sites that incorporate reviews as major part of their offering - for example TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Trivago and all the other travel sites
And what businesses are doing to address it...
Aside from those that are ignoring reviews altogether (a sizeable minority) businesses are adopting one of the following three strategies...
- They are inviting customers to post reviews to Google
- They are inviting customers to post reviews to one of the many independent reviews sites, some of which we have mentioned above
- They are doing a combination of the above
...and there are serious issues with each of these.
1. Posting reviews direct to Google
Issue: if a business invites a single customer to post a review to Google it must, by law, enable all its customers to do so. We meet or speak to dozens of businesses each week, and almost all are ignorant of this aspect of the law or, if they are aware of it, are consciously flouting it. There's more on the law here.
2. Using a reviews site
Issue: most businesses join a reviews site for one of to reasons: they are sold it (most reviews sites have abundant venture capital, much of which is expended on their sales-forces as well as 'free trials') or they see their competitors using it. Reviews sites invariably have an unintended consequence that harms their businesses - they drive the business's unhappy customers to post to Google instead . This inevitably results in the business looking great - or at least OK - on the reviews site (that is then seen by few of its potential customers) and bad on Google (which is seen by all of them). We call this 'deflection' and there's an article showing its impact - with examples - here.
Note: here we stress that at HelpHound are concerned with service reviews only. Many of the reviews sites focus on products, from clothes to cameras, and they may have a role (the businesses certainly seem to like them) but the more we see of them the more we are inclined to rely on professional reviews - the likes of Which? and the multitude of qualified bloggers a simple web-search away if you want a properly qualified opinion on a toaster or a bicycles (seriously - would you take your in-law's advice on which laptop to buy, because that's what your are effectively doing by trusting product reviews: relying on thousands of other people's in-law's to be qualified to judge, and that's when they are reviewing the actual product not the delivery!).
3. Combining the two
Issue: We occasionally come across 'clever' businesses that invite reviews to a reviews site first and then invite [happy] customers to post to Google afterwards. This would be fine if all their customers were invited to post in both places, but we have yet to see a business where this is the case. Google hate business manipulating their reviews - more on that here - and the CMA will take an equally dim view.
Where all businesses need to be by the end of 2019
There is only one solution - we are assuming that your business a) wishes to comply with the law* and b) protect its reputation against unfair or inaccurate reviews - by engaging in proper professional review management. This involves...
- inviting, moderating and displaying reviews on your own website
- inviting customers that have posted there to copy their review to Google
For some businesses, this will involve exposing themselves to fair criticism, so they won't be able to do it - until they have addressed whatever internal issues are causing their CRM to break. They will doubtless remain in denial about reviews (leaving the field clear for their unhappy customers to post damaging reviews to Google) or with the reviews site, flouting the CMA regulations and 'hoping they get away with it'.
On the other hand, if you provide a great service for you customers you need to get on board the review management train. Your business can only benefit.
*A business can comply with the law - for free - by embedding a Google widget on its website. This appears an elegant solution at first, until the business is subject to its first factually inaccurate or misleading review. Moderation is a core function of professional review management - and benefits both the business (by protecting it, as far as is possible, from such reviews) and the business's potential customers, who may otherwise have been misled.
The downside to adopting professional review management
There's only one: cost. Proper professional review management doesn't come free, or with a 'free trial', or for next to nothing - and that's because it is - and does - what it says on the tin, it's full-time and proactive, it will involve interaction between your business and the review manager, in the same way that you interact with your other professional advisers, and it will expect to be judged on results, just as they all do.
But those fees can be as low as £30 a month - depending on your business model and the amount of input needed at our end. One thing is for sure: it will pay for itself. You can see that by looking at case histories, like this one...
see how Curchods saw clicks and calls jump as soon as they joined
..or by speaking to any of our clients. Proper professional review management will drive business your way.
Oh - and by the way - again, just like your other professional advisers, we won't be asking you to sign a contract, so, if by some freak of circumstance HelpHound doesn't work for you, you can walk away at any time.