Reviews sites - are for 'product' businesses
They give (rent) the business some software - this software enables the business to invite and display reviews. It's as simple as that. And it works very effectively for high-volume online retailers: they get stars next to their products that encourage purchasers to buy. They don't need to be moderated - the occasional one star review of a pair of shoes or a shirt won't put purchasers off...here's an example:
The key here is that the software is cheap because the review site doesn't need to support the business that has bought it, it just sits on the website and does its job. The numbers take care of themselves - when you sell hundreds or even thousands of a certain product you only need a tiny percentage of customers to write a review.
But for 'service' businesses? It's review management all the way
These two issues come right to the fore - high-value service businesses need a very high percentage of their customers to write a review, and they need to be as sure as they possibly can be that those reviews don't contain errors of fact or misleading comments.
Let's take the example of estate agency - after all, we've all had experience of it (we could be talking legal, medical, financial or any other high-value service or profession) - point by point.
1. Doing nothing is simply not an option any more - five years ago few consumers had discovered Google reviews, but now just about everyone has, and they know exactly how to write a negative review there if they are unhappy. Businesses that adopt a 'head in the sand' policy where reviews are concerned leave the field clear for their unhappy customers to dominate their reputations.
2. Moderation is essential. A single well-written but factually inaccurate or misguided review can stop the phones ringing overnight. Moderators read reviews and revert to the reviewer if the review - or any of its content - gives cause for concern.
3. Then the business needs to get its customers (clients/patients) writing reviews in significant numbers. This requires a certain mindset on the part of the business: a determination to get its staff engaged in the process. Let's look at what won't work first...
- simply sending an email asking for a review. The response rates for this hover around one per cent, and that is simply not enough for most (all?) low-volume high-value businesses. For example: an estate agency branch processing a dozen sales or lettings a month might have to wait a year to get its first review!
Getting the volumes of reviews your business needs...
At HelpHound we call it the 'rule of 50 per cent'. What we mean by that is that we advise our client businesses to set targets for management and staff as follows...
- encourage at least half of all your clients to write a review to the HelpHound module on your own website, and then...
- aim to have half of them copy their review to Google
That's only one in four, so that leaves plenty of room for the 'I never write reviews' and 'I haven't got a Google account' brigade to drop out (by the way, it is estimated that over twenty-five million people in the UK can write a Google review by now - not just because they have a Gmail address - although that's a useful pointer, but because Google owns so many platforms that require Google registration: Youtube and Blogger being two of the more high-profile examples).
When your business first joins this is going to look like a mountain to climb - and it is, for the simple reason that your clients will not have been 'primed'. What do we mean by priming?
Priming is where you, and all your customer-facing staff, reinforce the fact that your client will be required (note the use of the word 'required') to write a review at the end of whatever process you are involved in. If your client knows they will be expected, as a matter of professional courtesy, to write a review, your success rate will soar. What follows are extracts from a memo we give all our clients on joining...
And so will we (know it's not the email), so we will be able to provide you with advice on improving response.
Now comes the most important step of all - step 3 - the call.
There you go - in the second tip - the 'rule of 50 per cent' again. Miss out the call and results will plummet.
It's not easy - but it is simple
When this client joined HelpHound they had just two reviews on Google and none on their own website, With our ongoing support and advice they have now achieved 108 on Google and 171 on their own website: proof that the 50% rule can not only be achieved but exceeded
It's not easy, and we're the first to admit that, but if you look at our clients - on their own websites and on Google - you will see that it is possible to succeed. If you speak to any of those clients - and we're sure that they will be happy to speak to you - one of the things almost all of them will stress is just how they leaned on HelpHound from day one - on our experience of dealing with hundreds of businesses in very similar situations and the professional advice we give, the quality of which we are proud to stand by.
It's also why we don't promote our service with discounts and free trials - have you ever known a solicitor or an accountant do that? No, of course you haven't; professional advice doesn't come free or with 'trial periods'. But it works, and we have the experience and resources to ensure that our professional advice will produce results for your business. How can you tell? Well, aside from speaking to an existing client you can do two things: look at the results we have achieved for them (here's just one case history - and here is what some of our clients have said) and then try HelpHound for your own business (and just like other professionals, we never ask our clients to sign time-constrained contracts either).
And our last tip?
Get all your management and staff to write just one Google review themselves - not of your business, obviously - but of a business that they have recently used, then they will be able to empathise with (and guide) your customers when they are asking them to write their review of your business.