Monday 8 July 2019

Persimmon Homes closes Facebook group - the unintended consequence

The Times reports that "Persimmon housebuilders acquired the admin rights to the 'Persimmon Homes Unhappy Customers' group, which had almost 14,000 members. It subsequently shut down the group, deleting years’ of customer posts sharing problems with their homes."

From the business's point-of-view, this may look like a good idea, but is it?

The unintended consequence of closing off any avenue of customer grievance

In 2019 customers have many avenues they can choose from in order to air dissatisfaction:

  • Facebook (their own page)
  • Facebook - a dedicated group
  • Twitter (their own feed)
  • Twitter (the business's feed)
  • Reviews sites - Trustpilot/Yelp etc.
and then the big daddy of them all...
  • Google
Close off any of these and customers won't just stop complaining, they will use another mechanism (or a combination).

Our prediction - for the 14,000 people whose comments on the Persimmon Facebook page have now vanished into thin air? A combination of all the above, but mostly...

Facebook again - anyone can set up a new group - here's one:


And by far the most visible in any given search - and therefore harmful to the business...our old friend Google.

If word gets around that critical Facebook groups can be 'acquired' by the business they have been set up to criticise (Persimmon deny that they bought the group from its administrator - which would be against Facebook T&Cs) then the obvious avenue for customers to adopt is Google reviews - if only because the business cannot 'silence' them.

We will be keeping close tabs on all the avenues listed above and will report back, meanwhile, let us look at what a business such as this should be doing:

Be proactive

The first step is to acknowledge that customers will vent - and these days that venting will take place online. Here's the kind of example we are all used to:

Relatively harmless on its own, but in combination with a Google panel like this:

Indicates that the business is either a) not very good at what it does or b) has simply adopted the wrong customer feedback/online reviews solution.

The wrong feedback/reviews solution?

So many businesses have been led down the wrong road to independent reviews sites like Feefo and Trustpilot. These solutions are fine for online retail, but they are simply too 'one size fits all' for complex transactional businesses. They also suffer from a marked lack of visibility in search; when you search for a business online, what do you - and more importantly for business people reading this - your potential customers see? They see Google reviews, and your business needs to look like this if you want to receive calls and see clicks through to your website:

If a business employs the right feedback solution all but its most fervent detractors will use it (the proof is in the image of a Google search for a similar business above). In the case of Purplebricks they employ Feefo. Feefo is a 'closed' solution; in other words, it only allows customers nominated by the business to write a review and it also allows the business to control the timing of the invitation to write a review. 

This kind of reviews solution, besides being in contravention of the UK CMA regulations, drives dissatisfied customers to write reviews on Google, as you can see above.

And Winkworth? What did/do they do differently?

When Winkworth decided to take reviews seriously, back in 2016, they invited every serious player to pitch. HelpHound won - and HelpHound has delivered. How?

We won because we placed the focus fairly and squarely on Google reviews (as opposed to the others who were pushing their own sites). Google reviews were not nearly as ubiquitous back in 2016 as they are now, nor did they show nearly as prominently in search, but that's not the only aspect of our pitch that won the day - we have always combined the simple process of 'getting reviews' with advanced CRM; we recognise that customers can get confused and that some people even post malicious reviews, so we devised a mechanism that reassured Winkworth that they would not have to worry about misleading or just plain wrong reviews. It's called Resolution™ and the wider world knows it as moderation.

Moderation is essential for complex transactional businesses

147 reviews - every one moderated, and every one of the reviewers invited to copy their review to Google

Moderation is simple but somewhat labour-intensive. It involves every review being read by a real-live moderator (computers cannot tell the difference between a compliment and an insult - just think of the word 'hot' applied to a hotel room) before it is posted anywhere - to the business's website or to Google. It benefits everyone involved:
  • few consumers want inaccurate reviews published for all to see
  • no business wants an inaccurate review of its services - anywhere
Everyone benefits.

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