Friday 7 July 2023

Please don't wait for this to happen

So often we get the call. And we had another this week. It invariably goes along lines very similar to this...

'Help! The phones have stopped ringing.' Swiftly followed by 'Our Google reviews were looking great until [recent date].'

What is our standard reaction? After an unspoken 'Oh dear!' we kick into emergency first aid mode with 'Give us twenty minutes to look at your image and reviews in search and we'll get straight back to you.'

And what do we always see? One* or more - very recent - one-star reviews. To understand the full effect, here is our latest case...

*One review alone can stop the phones ringing. However much readers of this blog might fight against this finding harsh experience dictates otherwise. So much so that we gave this kind of review a name - a 'killer review' - way back in 2012. Anyone doubting this will do well to read this case history.

Not so terribly bad? Read these reviews...


Now you understand just how damaging this is for the business. Note the lack of a question mark at the end of that sentence. It's a statement - not a question. Never mind the reviews - mine down a little deeper and there's some even more worrying evidence in the upvotes (28 in the last two weeks) - every single one representing at least one lost customer - ouch! And how many people have read the review in question and acted upon it (by not contacting the business) without voting? We usually estimate a ratio of between 1:10 and 1:100. 

So - what to do?

Our advice, in cases like these, breaks down into two parts:

  1. Immediate action
  2. Ongoing strategy

Immediate Action

As anyone can see by reading their reviews there is a CRM malfunction at the business's end. We have advised them to boost investment in customer service delivery. That's the easy part dealt with. Now for the reviews and the future...

    • Proper professional responses should be posted under each review. And by 'proper' and 'professional' we mean each point raised by the reviewer addressed head-on in each response - not a c&p 'Thank you for your comments, please call [number] or email [address] and we will address the issue you have raised.' Formulaic responses such as this don't help the reader understand the business's side of the story.

Ongoing Strategy

    • Implement a moderated review management system, to include...                    
      • module (see below) that invites and displays moderated reviews to be embedded into the business's own website
      • developing a standard template email inviting customers to post their review to the business's website
      • including an automated invitation for all reviews ultimately posted there (post-moderation) to be copied to Google by the reviewer
      • developing a campaign to invite all existing customers (new and historical) to write a review of their experience, on both the business's own website and subsequently to Google

This is an example of an API-generated review module that allows anyone visiting the business's website to see the business's overall score, read moderated reviews (as many as they wish), post their own review (which will be moderated), and also understand HelpHound's role in the process (by clicking on 'What is HelpHound' at top right). It also enables the business to take the moral high ground if and when someone posts a critical review direct to Google: 'But you always had the standing invitation to write your opinion to us by going to our website.'

The results

Over time (and we are talking weeks and months, not years here) the actions described above will result in the business's overall score rising back to at least 4.8 and maybe even  4.9.  The current damaging* negative reviews will remain (Google will not remove the genuinely held opinions of reviewers, however misguided they may be, unless they contravene its Terms of Service, which, on the face of it, none of the above do) but their impact will be diminished as the flow of 5* reviews picks up.

* All negative reviews are damaging because the score that attaches to them negatively impacts the business's overall Google score. On top of that most, if not just about all, savvy consumers do two things when searching for a business: they eliminate all but the top three or four by score alone (hence the vital importance of scoring 4.8 or better) and then they read the 'lowest' default. 

What should any business reading this article do?

Implement the strategy outlined above - before something like this happens. Remember: the business referred to above had 38 Google reviews rating it 5.0 until less than a month ago. It can happen to any company at any time. Even a company with 500 reviews is not impervious as potential customers invariably read a business's lowest-scoring reviews first.

Not only does this business look great in search - every kind of search - but its management and staff are able to sleep well at night in the sure knowledge that they are very unlikely to receive inaccurate or misleading (almost always negative) reviews. They also know that they have the most effective mechanism currently available to counter any such pile-on as has happened to the business at the head of this article


HelpHound cannot guarantee that the business will get no negative reviews in the future (even HelpHound can not - and should not - prevent genuinely held opinions, however erroneous, being published) but it will at least allow the business to have those reviews moderated to ensure that any that are factually incorrect or potentially misleading - or just plain 'unfair' - are much less likely to see the light of day.

Extremely important note

This business scored 5.0 before this flurry of negative reviews. Sitting pretty. Phones ringing and emails from prospective customers arriving in their inboxes. Appointments being made and orders - and cash - flowing in. And, as we say above, there is no guarantee whatsoever that HelpHound membership would have prevented those highly damaging reviews from being posted to Google. So why do businesses place such value upon HelpHound?

Here we go...

  1. Inviting, or just plain allowing, all of your customers to write a review - as the law dictates - is extremely high risk. There are plenty of people out there who are confused or unsure about the service businesses provide for them, especially businesses in the professions and the high-value service sector - legal, medical, financial, recruitment, accountancy, estate agency and suchlike. These kinds of business value the added security and compliance that HelpHound brings
  2. Inviting selected customers to post reviews - those the business knows to be satisfied - is illegal, in the UK and EU at least. We know: you think the chances of having the CMA turn up and confiscate your hard drives are vanishingly small, but cherry-picking (to give hand-picking customers to write reviews the name the regulators use) is always obvious to competitors and they'll be the first to alert your potential customers (and the first CMA 'reviews raid' will undoubtedly be prompted by just such a competitor)
  3. Our experience - covering a span of well over a decade now - shows that over 90% of customers with a grievance will contact the business before posting a negative review if given a mechanism to do so. They want to be taken seriously. That's all. And they want any misconceptions they may be about to publish to be corrected, they really do
  4. Our clients don't score 4.9 by accident - they use HelpHound in conjunction with their other CRM to head off inaccurate or misleading reviews. And it's not an add-on, it is integrated into all their staff training and practice
  5. Having a moderated system in place - such as the one HelpHound provides - in the event of one or more negative reviews being posted to Google means the business has a ready-made mechanism to immediately ramp up the flow of positive reviews to counter such a situation (the business at the head of this article is in the opposite situation, it is now doubtless even more frightened to invite its customers to post a review)

Further reading

Once a business is 'insured' by adopting a professionally moderated and legally compliant system to protect it from inaccurate, misleading, and just plain unfair reviews it can then begin to reap the positive benefits of hosting its own reviews on its website and getting a significant proportion of those over to Google. Read how this not only results in a great Google score, derived from a significant - and credible - number of reviews, but also drives instantly measurable calls and clicks, as well as an astonishing uplift in the quality of new business generated.

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