Tuesday 27 April 2021

Reviews: never too late to adopt the right strategy

This article recently appeared in a trade publication...

Wow! 2,000 reviews. But where? To Google, where they would all be seen by everyone?

No - as the headline makes clear - to Trustpilot...

The core point is 'why Trustpilot?' or, even more pertinently 'why not Google?' It's the $64,000 dollar question that all Trustpilot's 20,000 paying subscribers should be asking themselves: 'what are we trying to achieve with reviews'?

Here are the questions all businesses should be asking when looking for a reviews solution...

  • Will our reviews be visible to the most potential customers?
  • Will our reviews be credible - and therefore trusted?
  • Will our chosen reviews solution still be around in five/ten year's time?
  • Will our solution incorporate a mechanism to enable us to avoid, as far as is legally possible, reputational damage?
  • Will our solution, and its operation, be compliant with UK law?
  • Will we own our own reviews?
  • Will our solution be compliant with Google's terms of service?
  • What will we be paying for, over and above Google's - free - offering?

Regular readers will know that we have, for many years now, recommeded that our clients focus on Google reviews alongside hosting their own reviews on their own website, whilst incorporating HelpHound's moderation. Simply put, that enables them to 'tick all the boxes' listed above. 

So why do websites like Trustpilot and Feefo exist? 

Again, the simple answer: they were around before Google became a major player in the reviews sphere; we sometimes use the 'railways and canals' analogy: just because railways came along didn't mean some people didn't still continue to use canals, even though they were demonstrably less efficient.

There is another reason: Google haven't monetised their reviews; they don't market a reviews solution. That leaves the way clear for the review sites' considerable salesforces. 

So let's conduct a test against the 'ideal' criteria listed above:

  • Will our reviews be visible to the widest possible range of potential customers?
With Google? Yes. With any other solution - demostrably less so.
  • Will our reviews be credible - and therefore trusted?
Google? Reviewers have an identity known to Google, and all their reviews are written under that identity, so the likelihood of a 'fake' review or reviewer is far lower with Google than with aany other solution.
  • Will our chosen reviews solution still be around in five/ten year's time?
This question must be taken seriously. We have lost count of the review sites and aggregators that have come and gone from the UK - from the massive Yelp to tiny 'industry specific' sites such as RaterAgent. We reckon that Google reviews, being a core part of Google's current strategy, will pass the test of time.
  • Will our solution incorporate a mechanism to enable us to avoid, as far as is legally possible, reputational damage?
Moderation, while 'nice to have' if your business sells products, is essential for service and professional businesses. A single inaccurate or misleading review has the power to stop the phones ringing for those in the latter category. Here is a case history.
  • Will our solution, and its operation, be compliant with UK law?
Under UK law you have to demonstrate that you enable all of your customers to write a review. To be clear: 'cherry-picking' (as the regulators call the practise) happy customers to write reviews is illegal. This is the single most frequently quoted rason for not engaging with reviews.
  • Will we own our own reviews?
By inviting your customers to post reviews to your own website you will own their reviews. Not so with review sites: they will own the reviews and the associated - very valuable -data.
  • Will our solution be compliant with Google's terms of service?
Google specifically prohibit gating (the practice of filtering reviews via another review site or through a customer feedback mechanism). Businesses caught gating have all their reviews deleted.
  • What will we be paying for, over and above Google's - free - offering?
With HelpHound? Almost certainly less than £200 a month.


So what should Brightstar have done?

How much more powerful if those stars were gold (Google)?

They should have focussed their strategy on Google and their own website. Just imagine if they had nearly 2,000 reviews in those two locations?

What should Brightstar - and any business in a similar postion today - do now?

Refocus towards Google; they have nothing to lose - they will retain their 2,000 reviews on Trustpilot - and can immediately begin building on their Google reviews whilst owning their own reviews on their own website into the bargain.

Monday 12 April 2021

Trustpilot - what really makes it so attractive to businesses?


This infographic is the tip of a much larger - and, dare we say, more important - reviews iceberg. Spending on holidays, electronics and even male grooming may be important, but in terms of significance, we would suggest sectors such as health, finance, legal and property are far more likely to be injurious to consumers' health and wealth than most of those listed above. 

The essential truth, though, remains the same: consumers are influenced by reviews, so the CMA is dedicated to ensuring that reviews project a fair picture of the business under consideration and are not manipulated in the business's favour.

Regular readers will know that we have consistently recommended that businesses use Google as their destination of choice for customer reviews.

After all, if the businesses have reviews there they will...

  • be seen by everyone
  • have greater credibility 
  • be visible there for the foreseeable future
And, above all, their impact will be measurable. Google reports on calls and clicks every month.

So - why would a business use any other system? We have covered this before, but since we last visited the subject evidence has been piling up.

Have a look at this screenshot...

What do we see? We see Trustpilot's much-vaunted 'quarantine' in action. The business in question has 'flagged' thirteen 1* reviews, we don't know the content of the reviews, but what we do know is that none of the thirteen reviewers couldn't be bothered to respond to Trustpilot when they were emailed requiring them to substantiate their review. 

What is unarguable is that thirteen 1* reviews have not seen the light of day.

This, on the face of it, would seem to be great for the business. Negative reviews harm businesses by reducing the number of potential customers who will click through to their website. But there is a major issue here. 

What issue?

The CMA regulations specifically state that businesses should 'Publish all reviews, including negative ones, provided they are genuine, relevant and lawful.'

The problem review sites have with this is that businesses resent paying review sites that then publish negative reviews. 

So? So they bend over backwards to allow businesses to challenge what they consider to be 'unfair' reviews. Trustpilot is not unique in this, but it does employ a unique mechanism: 'quarantine'.

Trustpilot's quarantine system

As you can see in the panel above, business members of Trustpilot have the ability to flag reviews. When a review is flagged Trustpilot will then contact the reviewer and require 'proof of purchase'. 

So far, so reasonable. But here is where the system plays in the business's favour. First of all, even genuine customers can either a) find it tiresome to hunt our proof of purchase and then send it to Trustpilot and/or b) have no 'proof of purchase' as their involvement with the business did not include such a thing (think 'customer who visited an estate agent/doctor/financial adviser/lawyer with a view to instructing/retaining them but did not do so as a result of an unsatisfactory experience at that first meeting').

In the real world, there is now overwhelming evidence that putting even this obstruction in the way of a reviewer will result in no review being posted. The CMA recognises this and directly addresses this in its open letter to businesses ...

Whilst we would be the first to accept that all of the above statements are open to interpretation we would urge businesses to ask themselves this one simple question...

"If we adopt this review solution will it enable us to deflect honestly held negative opinions of our business?"

And if the answer to that question is 'Yes' then we would respectfully suggest that the solution in question is non-compliant with the intent if not the letter of the regulations - the law.

This is not to say that no moderation whatsoever should be employed. One of the core aspects of our service to our clients here at HelpHound is moderation. But there is a key - and compliant - difference...

  • with HelpHound, the reviewer always retains the right to have their review posted
This does not mean that the business has no opportunity to correct errors of fact or potentially misleading statements. HelpHound's moderation process is specifically designed to allow that to happen. What it does mean is that the reviewer can never be stopped from having their say - even if it is factually incorrect or has the potential to mislead readers.

The response function exists specifically to allow the business to correct both of those if the reviewer does not do so during the moderation process. 

It is this function that makes HelpHound watertight from a compliance point of view - and, just as importantly, credible to users of our system and our clients' customers.

To summarise

Here is Trustpilot's own entry on its own website; 1,840 reviews have been removed from the site simply because the reviewer 'didn't respond to Trustpilot's request to resolve the breach of Trustpilot's guidelines' without any further clarification from Trustpilot as to the content of the review and the issues it found contentious.

The Trustpilot system is open to abuse. For the simple reason that businesses soon understand that few flagged reviews ever return to the site.

If a review system is open to abuse it fails the core test as far as consumers are concerned: credibility. This, in turn, causes unease amongst the regulators. And anyone who doubts this contention can easily search 'Trustpilot reviews' and see that consumers - even those commenting on Trustpilot itself - have severe questions about this (currently 18% of reviews of Trustpilot on Trustpilot rate them 'poor' or 'bad').

On top of this, Google reviews are free! So, added to the advantages of credibility and visibility, Google wins hands down on price as well. All a business needs to add is an independent moderator such as HelpHound.