Unwise? More like positively suicidal from a business's point-of-view. Here's a case history.
What did the business do (wrong)?
The business in question knew that inviting selected customers to write a review is illegal so they took what they thought was the next logical - and most cost-effective - step: they put a button on their website inviting anyone to post a review direct to Google. Like this...
What is the impact of adopting this strategy?
1. It made the business compliant with UK law - which states that if a business invites reviews at all it must enable all of its customers to do so at a time of their own choosing. This is important, not just because a business doing otherwise risks a fine and other sanctions, but because the knowledge that a business is flouting the law is extremely effective in the hands of its competitors.
But that's just about the end of the positive outcomes. Now for the negatives:
2. Very few of the business's satisfied customers used this avenue: a much higher proportion of unhappy customers, perhaps even malicious reviewers with another agenda, made the effort to follow the link on the business's website straight to Google and write their - one-star - review there.
3. As a direct result of adopting this solution: the business's Google score immediately began to fall. In the last two months the business has received the following Google reviews:
That, in percentage terms, means sixty-eight percent of their reviews posted to Google since implementing the 'direct' policy now rate the business as one star. Any continuation of this trend - which will be inevitable without independent moderation (see this article) - will see the business's Google score fall until it is failing the filter.
Just as damaging (maybe even more so): this strategy increases the likelihood of one or more negative reviews leading the business's reviews - and negative reviews dominating overall:
A hard-won online reputation tarnished in a matter of weeks - down from the Holy Grail of 5.0 to 4.7 and with the direction of future travel obvious to anyone with the slimmest grasp of review management and basic maths.
Understanding the psychology
Having a button like this on your website:
...opens a communication channel between the business and its customers. The clear subliminal message conveyed is 'if you are hesitant about contacting us by phone or email, here is another channel you can use', it also tells every visitor to the business's website something about the business: that they welcome open feedback.
One like this, on the other hand:
...is an open invitation for all kinds of people* to post their 'opinions' straight to the most visible site on the planet: Google. It transmits an entirely different message: 'Don't tell us, tell the world' and invariably results in all kinds of unhelpful - to both business and consumer - reviews.
*it is now common knowledge amongst consumers that it is highly unlikely that any appeal a business will make to Google in respect of inaccurate or misleading negative reviews will succeed, therefore whatever they write is highly likely to stand. This has resulted in increasing abuses by reviewers that have the potential to cause extreme damage to businesses.
We commonly see businesses that have adopted this strategy with many hundreds of reviews. A 'good thing', you might reasonably think? No. The reason for those hundreds of reviews is that this strategy attracts a steady drip of critical 1* reviews that can only be countered by a high flow of 5* reviews.
Look at this example:
On the face of it a good score and lots of reviews. But the reality:
The first two of eighty-one, yes, eighty-one extremely damaging one-star reviews. And a monster to feed, with managers constantly demanding positive reviews from staff to counter these negative reviews and simply keep the review score above the vital 4.0 (below which experience dictates consumer confidence in a service or professional business will significantly suffer).
Reviews are important. Google reviews - and scores - are hugely influential. But negative reviews are extremely damaging, especially where high-value service businesses - medical, financial, legal, and the likes of the estate agents shown here - are concerned. Very few businesses continue to deny these three self-evident facts in 2020.
Independent moderation is not just 'nice to have', it is vital.
- Moderation: the only legal mechanism that will save your business from unfair, inaccurate and misleading reviews.
- Reviews in the new normal - why reviews are so much more influential post-COVID: a survival checklist