Monday 4 December 2023

Review Moderation - and why it is essential for all professional and service businesses

We were prompted to introduce moderation, way back in 2013, when a prospective client said...

"If my business gets 99 five-star reviews but one really well written but factually incorrect, or just plain unfair, review, all the wonderful impression made by the 99 may be undermined."

And they weren't wrong. If we look at the many thousands of reviews that have been corrected before publication by HelpHound's moderation process over the years, some were simply bad English, but so many were what we call 'call and click stoppers', the kind of 'factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair' review that will stop someone searching for a service from making that first vital contact with the business in question, even if it has been highly recommended by a friend or colleague.

How can we prove this? You would be right to ask. We have three answers to that key question...

1.  Why have many businesses still not engaged with Google reviews? Is it because they don't think scoring 4.8+ with 50 or more Google reviews will win them more new business? 

With the help of our clients, we have proved that doing so will win between 15 and 25 percent more than the equivalent business with a lower score or fewer reviews - and not only in numbers, but in quality as well. See those exact numbers here. So it's not that engaging with Google reviews is unproductive.
The reason for the lack of engagement is simple: the businesses are, just like the potential client back in 2013, very much afraid of the damage a single unfair or inaccurate review will have on their inbound enquiries. They are searching, still, for a solution that will enable them to engage with the absolute minimum of risk.


2.  Imagine your business receives a review like this... 

This is an actual review (the firm's name redacted by us) left on a well-known review site.  Luckily for the business the review did not appear on Google, where it would have been far more visible and done far more damage. As it is, the firm was awarded £25,000 in damages by the court. 



These two extracts from the Law Gazette reinforce our point; to the firm's undoubted chagrin the case was picked up by all the mainstream media, from the Mail to the Guardian to the TV news

The salient point here is that, unlike in US civil actions (where punitive damages may be awarded), the damage to the firm had to be proven beyond reasonable doubt to the judge. £25,000 is a lot of enquiries deflected by a single review, and the firm was able to prove its case. And can you imagine how much soul-searching took place before the firm went to court, with all the attendant publicity?

Again, had this firm adopted a moderated solution, it is possible that the client in question would have gone down that route - at least initially; allowing the business at least the opportunity to resolve the issues he had.


3.  Another salutary tale: We had a client - every business has one such - that, despite us reducing their fees by 50% throughout Covid, taking it from a handful of Google reviews when it joined to critical mass (well over 200 reviews on its own site and in excess of 100 on Google, advising it on constructing an appeal against two extremely damaging negative Google reviews aquired before it joined (both far more potentially damaging than the one above - they were both on Google and both written by someone who understood the power of social media very well indeed - we were, among other things, able to identify the author) and visiting it on multiple occasions to explain its options, still persisted in cancelling its membership in order to invite their clients to post their reviews direct to Google, thus 'saving' them less than £200 a month.  

And imagine what happened next? They received two more damaging - and demonstrably unfair and misconceived - Google reviews, but this time, instead of having a moderated HelpHound feed on their website, they had a feed straight from Google - so double the exposure for those 1* reviews and the only too predictable damage to the flow of inbound enquiries.

This kind of Google reviews feed is available from a number of third-party suppliers, mostly US-based, as it is legal in the US to manipulate the feed so only positive reviews are shown. It is not legal to do so in the UK (or EU)

We were called by its advisers and asked if we would be prepared to act on the business's behalf again in appealing both reviews to Google, a service we offer to all our clients. Our response was: of course, should they wish to rejoin. Instead it simply chose to delete the Google reviews feed from its website until such time as it had been able to muster sufficient new positive reviews to drive the damaging 1* reviews down the list. Cunning? Yes. Legal? No*. 

*It may be that the business in question is never sanctioned by the CMA, but it would be optimistic in the extreme to assume that none of their competitors had noticed the changes to their website. Playing fast and loose with reviews fatally undermines their value (by playing directly to the cynical consumer's 'You cant trust reviews' attitude), as well as calling the business's own ethics into question. 

Now follow this link and read about our charges. Some clients view them as an insurance premium -  their online reputation is, in their view, just as important and valuable and in need of protection as any other business asset; most, though, just like to be seen as offering their potential customers an effective and credible window onto the services they provide in a manner that is fully compliant with UK legislation.

And finally...

We frequently meet businesses that have perfect - 5.0 - Google scores. When we meet these 'perfect' businesses we sometimes have to remind them that not all their customers are as 'perfect' as they are. Then they invariably look at each other and name names...'What would happen if we asked that Mr Jones from Reading to write a review?'

The author of the 'A total waste of money...' review shown above was just such a case. Great businesses need great review management. Welcome to HelpHound.

Further reading

  1. Compliance with the law - and how non-compliance hands compliant competitors a big win
  2. Results - professional review management will bring more customers to your door, guaranteed
  3. Moderation - more on this key ingredient (and, by the way, HelpHound currently offers the only moderated review management service, globally)



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