Monday 24 October 2022

How many more people lost their money thanks to Trustpilot?

The answer to the question posed in the headline is: we cannot know. But let's look at this dreadful saga and you can be the judge. The business was a member right up until the liquidators were called in, and only subsequent to that action, as far as we can see, did this warning appear on their listing:

Which, somewhat suprisingly, makes no mention of the fact that the business has ceased trading.

A disservice to the consumer

On the face of it, the Trustpilot 'quarantine' mechanism, which allows businesses to challenge reviews - and it's overwhelmingly negative reviews that businesses challenge - is attractive. To businesses. After all, what business wants their sales and enquiries adversely impacted by a low score and critical 1* reviews? 

And it wouldn't - in theory - harm costumers, except for one crucial consequence of the Trustpilot mechanism: it relies on consumers, who have already taken the trouble to write a review, providing 'proof of purchase' to Trustpilot. As you can see from the screenshot below, very few bother to respond to that request - well under 3 in a hundred. 211 mostly heavily critical reviews failed to remain on the Trustpilot site.

...and these figures are just for the last 12 months

Does this benefit the consumer? Do we need to answer that question? 

A disservice to good businesses

This takes more than one form. The first is that when the business is sold the Trustpilot package it distracts the business from concentrating on getting reviews where it really matters (and the reviews really drive clcks and calls): on Google. We see endless examples of businesses with hundreds of Trustpilot reviews - that are next to invisible in search - and a handful on Google. Here's just one example...

It beggars belief just how much better off this business would be if it hadn't focussed on Trustpilot but concentrated on Google reviews (free!) instead

The next is that as a result of businesses (ab)using its quarantine system it could be argued that Trustpilot enables 'not so great' businesses to look better than they really are. We would argue, and we think the CMA in the UK would agree, that denying the consumer the right to have their voice heard on the basis that they hadn't provided proof of purchase was borderline illegal.

We know that good review management practice will improve a business's score - our clients will see uplifts of between 0.2 and 0.5 in their Google score - but this should not involve any mechanism that denies the right of a customer to have their review published. Apart from being, in our opinion, in breach of the CMA regulations, it also has - in the case of review sites like Trustpilot - the effect of leaveing a disgruntled customer no option but to post their opinion staright to Google.

The bottom line

The company has been placed into administration. Reading many of the recent reviews it would appear that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of customers will lose the money they have paid. Just how many of those customers would have been saved from sending their hard-earned cash to Screen with Envy if some of those 211 reviews had been published by Trustpilot?

This is a question that we will never be able to answer, but if you read this review on Google, posted back in June of this year, would you have ordered?

Further reading...


Friday 21 October 2022

Google reviews: scoring 4.6 is not enough!

How often do we meet a business basking in the glory of what they consider a great Google score? Daily, probably.

To be fair, it's almost certainly taken a considerable effort to achieve that score, and no one wants to be told they need to do more when they reckon they've already done all they can. But that's why HelpHound exists: to enable businesses to successfully build - and improve - on their already great efforts.

To return to our headline: why is a Google score of 4.6 'not enough'? It's all in the numbers. Let's look at two examples.

The business with few Google reviews...

While no business would relish a review such as that written by 'Jack Forest' above, most sensible consumers will discount one or two such negative opinions. The business has, quite correctly, responded, thus neutralising, as far as possible, the impact of the original review. The impact on the business's score, however, bringing it down from a perfect 5.0 to 4.7 remains.

A note for those who, understandably, think the review above is 'unfair' (the business has made clear in its response that they have no record of any dealings with the reviewer): Google's conditions for removing reviews are very tightly drafted indeed. That does not mean the business should not appeal to Google to have the review taken down - we conduct such appeals on behalf of businesses and are sometimes gratified when they succeed when apparently not in contravention of Google's terms of service. If in any doubt whatsover, consult us.

The business with many Google reviews...

Now we have our score of 4.6. Including nine 1* reviews. Some are more damaging than others - read about 'killer' reviews, those that have the power to stop the phones ringing, here - but collectively they are undoubtedly off-putting for potential clients. 

We are sure that we can all agree on one thing: that the business would rather not have any of these reviews, not just because they reduce the business's overall Google score from a perfect 5.0 to 4.6 but chiefly because of the negative impression made when a prospective client reads them. They will result in a drop-off in inquiries, in the same way as scoring close as possible to 5.0 will result in an increase (see here for concrete examples of this).

What should the business do?

Take these three steps...

First: respond to each and every review. 

At least then the readers - potential customers - will see that the business takes their customers' reviews seriously. Don't argue - thank them for their feedback (albeit sometimes with teeth gritted) and sign off with a name, not 'customer services'. Remember who your core audience is: all those potential customers who will be reading that review.

Second: institute a proper review management programme. 

At first sight a hundred reviews may seem like a lot, but it's only two a month for four years. 

Businesses that build moderated reviews (see 'Third' below) into their CRM, by incorporating them into all their marketing, online and off, and their sales pitches, and then 'warn' their customers that writing a review is the norm, get very high response rates when they ask for the review.


Third: - and most important of all going forwards - adopt a moderated review management system. 

Over ten years of experience has led us to conclude that over eighty percent of inaccurate, misleading or just plain unfair reviews will be addressed by a properly moderated review management system. Simply inviting reviews - on your website, in your correspondence and face to face - means that the likelihood is that your unhappy customer/client/patient will post their review to you first, enabling an independent* moderator such as HelpHound to step in and enable such reviews to be corrected before they are published on your website or on Google.

And when a 1* review does find its way to Google, how much more powerful is the response that says 'Thank you for posting this review, here is our response to you....if, in future, you feel that we haven't performed to the best of our ability please don't hesitate to contact me directly or write your review via the button on our website, where you can be assured of a response on the very same day.'

The Golden Key...

Is this link on the business's website (the Write a review button)...

Leading to this box... 


Once the review is submitted it is automatically sent straight to a moderator where it is checked for accuracy and then either posted to the business's website or referred back to the reviewer for correction. All reviewers, whether their review has been corrected or not, are then invited to copy their review to Google. Simple, effective - in protecting the business's reputation from unfair and inaccurate comments - and compliant.

Moderation, besides aiding customer retention (a customer with an issue successfully addressed in private is a continuing customer, a customer that posts a one star review direct to Google is very unlikely to generate repeat business, or referrals for that matter) is estimated to add between 0.2 and 0.5 to a business's Google score.


Every business in the service/professional arena must have a moderated review management system; inviting reviews direct to Google or employing a review site are simply not options for high value fee-based or transactional businesses. They may be alright for online retail but they are simply not fit-for-purpose in the highly competitive world of finance, medicine, law or the likes of estate agency or recruitment, where a single client lost or gained is worth thousands to the business.

Further reading

  • Moderation - the 'Golden Key' to review management:  a detailed analysis and explanation
  • Compliance - many businesses are unaware that selecting customers to invite to write reviews is illegal. Moderation means that such selection - often done to protect the business - becomes redundant
  • Results - moderated review management doesn't only protect businesses from unfair and inaccurate reviews, it drives enquiries through Google and the business's own website

* Independent moderation: we are often asked 'If you work for/are paid by the business, how can you be truly independent when moderating their reviews?' A fair question. 

Our answer: if we were ever found to be favouring the business - or even more seriously, attempting to suppress a fairly-held negative opinion - all our credibility would simply vanish. Our name would be terminally tarnished and our moderation process, besides becoming questionable in the eyes of the regulator, would lose all value in the marketplace. 

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Trustpilot - so many businesses barking up the wrong tree

 One of us received this email marketing today...

As you can see, they proudly boast of their image on Trustpilot, which is, indeed, very positive indeed. Here's the detail...

Nearly a thousand reviews, almost all of them rating their business 5*.

So what has the business done wrong? Well, along with so many others they have chosen - or 'been sold' - the wrong solution.

Before we mine down into the reasons behind that choice, let's conduct a quick Google search on the business...

One Google review and one Google rating.

And it's not just Trustpilot. Review sites of any kind, and the aggregators that feed off them, are no longer viable solutions. Just look at this estate agency - they've tried them all...

And this is the impression everyone searching for them online is given...

Most potential customers won't get as far as their website - the 1* reviews on Google will be enough to deflect them.

So what should the Fine Art Warehouse - and any other business relying on a review website - be doing?

Cancelling Trustpilot and refocusing all its efforts on Google reviews. It's as simple as that. Think of yourself in the position of a customer - which reviews are going to impress you most 700+ Trustpilot reviews or 700+ Google reviews? And this advice goes for any other review site.

Google has more reach and far more credibility amongst consumers, their reviews appear far more often in any given search, and they will still be in business in 5 years' time (Trustpilot's share price has fallen from 450 p to 79 p in the last 14 months). 

Oh - and Google reviews are free!

Wednesday 12 October 2022

A single review can strangle a business

The catastrophic human cost of lack of moderation at social media sites such as Instagram has made front page headlines in recent days. Our view - that all social media platforms, including review sites, should be made legally responsible for the content they publish - is well-known to our members and regular readers of this blog. 

But what about businesses on the receiving end of fake, false, malicious or just plain inaccurate or misleading reviews? What is the real-world impact of these all too often seen reviews on businesses? 

Sometimes we hear businesses say 'As long as we score 4.5 we're happy'. It's a natural response to something most businesses feel they have little control over. But this attitude denies the power of a single review to halt a business in its tracks, to stop the phones ringing or to see the clicks dry up, never mind unsettle existing loyal consumers when they see them as they are googling your business to find your phone number.

Let's look at what over ten years of fielding calls from seriously concerned business owners and managers has taught us...

1.  A well-written 1* review will be read, and re-read, for months and years to come

This is what we call a 'killer review'; it is written by someone who is not disguising their identity, is a frequent Google reviewer and a trusted Google local guide; it makes  believable statements about the business and their interactions with their customer. It will have lost the business enquiries and future business


That feeling you get when you first see that review - or are sent it by Google? That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? It's the reflection of the reaction of your potential customer: 'Oh dear! I'm not sure I want to use a business that even one customer has had such a negative experience of.' 

Note the stress on well-written. You can discount rants - most consumers see through those these days. 


2.  Once a review is published the horse has bolted

A business's chances of getting Google remove a review are negligible (but see 'appeals' in 3. below and Google's own T&Cs here) unless the reviewer has contravened one of those T&Cs; such contravention does not cover criticism of the business, however misguided, unfair or just plain factually incorrect that may be. 

It is therefore essential to have some mechanism in place to enable the business to respond to such reviews before they are published.


3.  1* reviews are always read first, no matter the business's overall score

The business can be scoring 4.9, but if that one negative review is written convincingly it will lose the business significant amounts of enquiries.

What can the business do? It can appeal to Google to have it taken down, as long as it contravenes their terms of service (we draft appeals on behalf of clients all the time) and it must respond to the review. Not with a 'never heard of you...' but addressing all the points made in the review, however unfair or inaccurate they may be, calmly and coherently. And sign off with a name, not 'customer services'. You will never convince that kind of reviewer to change their review or take it down, so your response is aimed solely at readers of the review.


4.  1* reviews, providing they are not obvious rants, are believed by consumers 

It is tempting to say 'we run a great business and all our other reviews confirm that' but leave a well-written one-star review unaddressed and it will hurt your inbound enquiries - for the foreseeable future (a one star review written five years ago, if it is one of a few, will still be being read today).


5.  The higher-value the service the business is offering the more diligently the 1* reviews will be read.

We estimate that all the one star reviews - within reason, but certainly up to half-a-dozen - of the following services will be read by a potential customer/client/patient... 

  • financial services, investment management, accounting 

  • medical and healthcare 

  • legal 

  • business services - such as employment agencies, PR and marketing consultants 

  • high-value transactional businesses - such as estate agency  

all of which involve transactions with at least £4 zeros on the end, not to mention 5 or 6. 

Put yourself in the position of...

    • someone investing a sizeable lump sum
    • someone with a life threatening medical issue
    • someone looking for a family lawyer for the first time
    • someone considering moving from one advertising agency to another
    • someone looking for the best local estate agent to sell their major family asset

...and we're sure you will agree that spending a few minutes reading reviews is the very least they will do, even if the business has already been personally recommended or has the best marketing on the planet.


The solution 

All of the above are the reasons why our clients value our moderation so highly. By moderating every single review written through our clients' websites we can ensure that the accuracy and relevance of each and every review is of the highest order. Moderation cannot absolutely guarantee that no rogue reviews will ever be published - that would be against the CMA regulations which categorically protect the consumers' right to have their opinion published - but we estimate (and we have over ten years' experience to back up this contention) that our moderation resolves the issues contained in over 95 percent of such reviews before they see the light of day.

Of course consumers can always write a review direct to Google, but by inviting them to write a review through your website you will succeed, far more often than not, in channelling their review in that direction, and therefore benefitting from our moderation. You will also have the moral upper hand when responding to those reviews which still go direct to Google: 'We did invite you to post a review...and we would have been able to resolve [whatever issue the review raises] at that point if you had accepted our invitation.'

The fact that the overwhelming majority of such contentious reviews are, by definition and by their very nature, one or two-star also enables us to accurately estimate that HelpHound's moderation increases the average client's Google score by between 0.2 and 0.5 - so from, say, 4.3 to 4.7 or 4.8. That in itself will ensure the business rises up the rankings in local search.

Think of moderation as an insurance policy: it protects your business's hard-won reputation against damage - its as simple as that.

Further reading