Monday 11 July 2022


That's how we were described by a client's head office - writing to one of their branch offices - just last week.

It's an interesting adjective. Here's the dictionary definition of its meaning...

So: how does something that many consider just a 'useful addition' become 'indispensable'?

Here's precisely how...

1.  Google reviews are everyone's holy grail these days, and rightly so, but inviting customers to post a review direct to Google involves a distinct element of risk. That risk is that a customer may post an inaccurate or otherwise misleading review. All businesses understand that negative reviews have the potential to cause significant harm - just read this horror story if you have any lingering doubts - and no compliant system can (or should) stop a purely negative review, but moderation is extremely effective at ensuring that reviews accurately reflect the customers' experience of any given business or transaction. 

2.  Moderation - the act of engaging with the customer after the review has been written but before it is posted publicly anywhere - is the only compliant way of ensuring that unfairly damaging reviews are posted, on a business's website or on Google. For moderation to work effectively - and have credibility - the business must employ a third-party. 

3.  An important side effect of moderation is that it enables the business to be compliant with the CMA rules - the law. CMA rules clearly state that a business, if it is to invite reviews at all, must...

    • allow every single customer to write a review...
    • a time of their choosing 

Now, a business can be fully compliant with the CMA rules by importing Google reviews into its website and inviting them to be written from there. The issue then arises when the latest Google review is factually inaccurate or misleading - in other words: capable of unfairly influencing consumers against the business. Then the business realises it needed a moderated system.

It works!

HelpHound cannot provide an absolute guarantee against factually inaccurate or misleading reviews (aside from anything else that would flout the CMA regulations), but many years of results for our clients show that our moderation is over 97 percent effective in managing such reviews. Here are the statistics for just one multi-location client... 

Just to be crystal clear: over the period under consideration, many thousands of reviews went through the moderation process (every review submitted is moderated - read for factual errors or potentially misleading statements). Of those thousands, 173 were identified as containing wording that might be contentious in any of the following ways:

  • Personally abusive. Abuse helps no one, not the reader of the review, not the business under review, and almost certainly not the reviewer (who will often be writing the review in order to have their grievance addressed). In these cases, HelpHound will simply message the reviewer and ask them to rewrite their review.
  • Legally contentious. A review is not the arena to make threats of legal action. That should be done through the proper legal channels.
  • Factually incorrect. This covers the overwhelming majority of moderated reviews: the review simply contained a factually incorrect statement. In these instances HelpHound will refer the review to the business for comment and then relay that comment to the reviewer, in private. As you can see from the 'Not published as a result of moderation' and 'Modified...' numbers above this action works for the overwhelming majority of such reviews. What is interesting is just how grateful the great majority of reviewers are when they realise that their review had 'got the wrong end of what is often quite a complex stick'. As many readers will know, HelpHound's clients are, in the majority of cases, professional businesses dealing with complicated matters - often legal, financial and/or medical - and it is understandable that some reviews will initially reflect misunderstandings of such transactions.
  • Potentially misleading. In the most basic of senses: not all our client business's customers speak - or write - English as a first language. A review that simply doesn't make sense will be spotted by our moderators and they will engage with the reviewer in order to correct the use of language so everyone - again: the reader of the review and the business under review - benefits. Other examples include...
    • misunderstanding of contract terms/terms of business
    • misunderstanding of billing
    • misunderstanding of legal responsibilities
    • misunderstanding of tax implications
  • False or plain fake reviews*: these don't happen that often, but when they do it is essential that they are identified pre-publication; they may be written by competitors or ex-exployees or just by someone who has nothing better to do (here's an example of a viewer adversely reviewing accommodation that he had seen on TV; joking aside, the hotel's booking slumped as a direct consequence of that one review - until an appeal managed by HelpHound got it taken down).
*On that last subject - malicious (fake) reviews: while HelpHound will almost certainly identify and therefore challenge any such review written to the business's own website we cannot, for obvious reasons, do anything about such a review being written direct to Google. What we can do, as we did in the case of the hotel cited above, is draft an appeal to Google in a way that is most likely to have a chance of success.

The impact - in numbers

The difference between a business - that complies with the law - and a business employing professional review management:

Typical well-run business inviting reviews direct to Google...

Typical HelpHound client...

Important note: there are plenty of businesses out there that score well on Google, but when we meet them we inevitably discover that they are - inadvertently, in the main - flouting one or more of the CMA's core rules: they either cherry-pick happy customers to invite to write Google reviews or they 'gate' (gating being the act of pre-qualifying customers to identify those most likely to write a positive review). Not only are both these 'strategies' illegal, they will be obvious to competing businesses and therefore used against the non-compliant business in pitches.

To summarise...

  • All other factors being equal a business that employs independent review management will have a higher Google score than the equivalent - CMA compliant - business that does not
  • The business will be in full compliance with the CMA regulations - the law
  • Its potential customers will have accurate reviews - on the business's own website and on Google - to rely on
  • Enquiries, through both Google search and through its own website, will increase by a measurable amount (see the link directly below)

Further reading...

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