Friday 9 February 2024

Why, oh why, not Google?

It's a question we ask all the time. Why would any business invite its customers to write a review to a review website rather than to Google?

There's currently a very high-profile example displaying on three e-billboards on the M4/A4 'Gateway to London'. Here is a similar, but far smaller one...



Now, given that this kind of advertising is designed expressly to drive people to their mobile/tablet/laptop to check out the brand and then switch suppliers, what do we see when we do just that?

We see this...


And this...




And then these, over 50 of them...




And on and on they go - 56 one-star reviews (and, unlike their 5* reviews, many of which are simple ratings, their unhappy customers tend to go into quite a lot of detail about their experience with Octopus - which does not use Google's free review response facility, but that's another story).

And that's about as far as most potential customers will get, they won't mine down into Google for more reviews, why should they? But we persevered on your behalf and found this...





So - again -  the question: 'Why do businesses like this use a review site in preference to Google reviews?' Why not simply ask customers to post to Google (which, apart from all the other advantages outlined below, is free)? 

We put these questions to Octopus Energy, and this is what they said...


NOTHING!


Despite three telephone conversations with their PR department and two separate emails - both containing a draft of this article. So, like any responsible journalist facing a brick wall, we began to mine further down into Octopus Energy's use of reviews, and Trustpilot in particular. 

What did we find?

1.  That out of its 230,000 plus, mostly glowing, Trustpilot reviews, it has over 7,000 one-star reviews.

2.  That these one-star reviews are not just tales of minor dissatisfaction, they often contain a litany of non-communication by the company, much like our own experience. Call after email after call without response, mostly about money - serious amounts, often in the £hundreds and £thousands. You can read them here.

3.  Octopus tends to be quite slow in responding to these, sometimes quite urgent ('we've been cut off', 'I've gone overdrawn') reviews. As regular readers will know, our own benchmark Is 'same working day'.

4.  Its responses are mostly generic 'Thank you for your review, please email us...' and rarely address the issue raised.


Our conclusion

This is, admittedly, going to be very one-sided, due entirely to the Octopus Energy PR department's unwillingness to answer even the most basic of questions. Here goes...

We think Octopus, and companies like it, are choosing independent review sites over Google for one very simple reason...

...that no one will find, and therefore read, their negative reviews.




Their prospective customers might read the individual reviews - that is, if this, on Octopus's home page, were hyperlinked to their Trustpilot listing. But it's not - strange, no?

When we say 'no one' we exaggerate, of course. Those who go to Trustpilot to write negative reviews obviously do read the other reviews - because they often quote them in their own ('Just like John X, I had the same issue.'). But just how many people looking for an energy supplier and seeing Octopus's review-driven advertising (see top of the page and any local billboard or radio station) find their way to Trustpilot? Very few, is our educated guess.

One final point - Octopus are proactively inviting customers to write reviews; so far so fine, but one of the questions we were going to ask them was 'You send out a customer survey by text before you invite the customer to write a review to Trustpilot. Do all respondents to the survey get asked to write a Trustpilot review, or only those that rate their experience business highly?' If, as we have seen with many businesses over the years, the latter is the case, it is in breach of the CMA's core regulations.

And this is what we think about the independent review site v. Google argument...

  1. Google reviews carry far more credibility - due to being attached to a 'real' person's Google account (as opposed to 'MickeyMouse123' on a review site).
  2. Google reviews are far more visible. By a huge factor; your prospective client/patient searches and what do they see? Google reviews, every time.
  3. Google has far greater reach - many consumers head directly for Google reviews every time they are considering using a new business - especially if that business is in the professions or is a service industry. When was the last time you considered such a business and thought 'I must check how their customers view them on [Feefo/Yelp/Trustpilot...]'? Google dominate search in the UK to a vast extent  - at last count, 95.53% of internet searches in the UK were made on Google.
  4. Anyone can write a Google review. Until recently, it was a common misconception amongst many businesses that the reviewer 'needed a Gmail address'. They don't, they just need to have used one of Google's plethora of services over the last two decades, and few people have not.
  5. Google reviews are location-specific. If your business has multiple locations it will receive Google reviews for those specific locations (what consumer, considering using a business in Durham, wants to read reviews of HQ in Reading?).
  6. Google is free. Google doesn't charge for hosting and prominently displaying your business's reviews. Why should they? Considering that you are donating your customers' valuable data to Google, that's added value enough for them.


Our advice - to any professional or service business

  1. Invite your customers - clients/patients - to write reviews on Google
  2. Use a moderated system so those reviews can be checked for factual accuracy and/or misleading statements before they are published for all to read
  3. Publish those reviews on your own website - don't hide them
  4. Think long term (a) - in five years from now Octopus will look far, far worse on Google than it does now
  5. Think long term (b) - Google will still be around in five years' time. Review sites? Maybe not. Imagine your chosen review site folds and with it, all your hard-won reviews end up in the ether (remember Yelp quitting the UK and EU?)?
But if your business is selling shirts or headphones - stick with the review site; you only need the star rating, very few people read reviews of products (as opposed to services) as long as the headline score is 4.8+. And if the review site goes under? You are selling hundreds or even thousands of units a week, so you'll soon reach critical mass on your new review site, and all you will have to do is plaster their stars all over your marketing.

And finally, if anyone - anyone at all - at Octopus Energy reads this article and would like to comment: they know how to contact us.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

A New Year's guarantee

To be of any value a guarantee must deliver measurable positive benefits for your business. Because HelpHound is many things, depending on the position our clients find themselves in on joining, our guarantees vary depending upon that position. This post will identify those starting points and apply the relevant guarantee.

Note: we have used real Google business listings to illustrate this article. We make no comment on the individual businesses or the appropriateness or otherwise of their individual Google reviews and/or Google scores.


Starting point: Less than thirty Google reviews


The business in this example finds itself in the same position as many professional practices: it has yet to find a safe way to invite reviews to Google and it may even be cognisant of the CMA regulations that expressly forbid hand-picking clients to post reviews; it has just about kept its head above water, Google score-wise, by inviting two or three clients to write a Google review as and when it is subject to a 1* negative. It has at least one review that contravenes Google's own ToS and would undoubtedly be removed by Google were the business to submit a correctly worded appeal.

 

Guarantee

  • 100 Google reviews in 6 months

  •  A Google score of at least 4.8 within 3 months of joining

  • a 10% upift in enquiries at that point

  •  Full compliance with the CMA regulations 


Starting point: More than thirty but less than 100 Google reviews



This firm of lawyers has yet to find a compliant and effective way to invite their stakeholders to write reviews to Google; it is not as if they don't invite reviews, just that they are being invited to a site that is next to invisible in search. Can you see it in this screengrab of their Google knowledge panel in a standard Google search?




But how many potential clients never get past their Google headline of 3.9 from 50 reviews?

 

Guarantee

  • 100 Google reviews in 6 months 
  • A Google score of at least 4.8 within 3 months of joining

  • a 5% upift in enquiries at that point

  • Full compliance with the CMA regulations 

 

Starting point: 100+ Google reviews

 

 


A respectable headline score - 4.6 - is only partially masking a steady drip of 1* reviews. A moderated review management system would undoubtedly enable this business to address some of the issues raised before the reviewer felt the need to commit to a potentially misleading or just plain inaccurate - or indeed unfair - Google review. 

 

Guarantee

  • 10 new Google reviews per month
  • A Google score of at least 4.8 within 6 months of joining

  • Full compliance with the CMA regulations - from the date of joining 
  • More enquiries through Google searches


Conclusion

There you have it: a 'no lose' situation for those joining HelpHound in 2024. All the business has to do is implement HelpHound's recommendations in full* and we will guarantee your money back if the agreed results are not achieved. 

*At the outset HelpHound will conduct a full audit of the business's exposure to reviews, Google as well as others; this will form the statistical base for our recommended strategy. This strategy will be agreed and signed off by both HelpHound and our client at inception and before implementation.


Further reading



Saturday 6 January 2024

Trustpilot - big business's 'useful idiot'?

We get it, we really do, if you are in retail - especially online retail - all you need is this...





As a matter of fact, all your business probably needs is this...




But, before you rush to add to Trustpilot's cash mountain, you might like to consider the following points:

Why would a business want to use Trustpilot - and pay them - when Google reviews...




...are free and unarguably trump Trustpilot for credibility* and, most important of all, visibility. Strange as it may seem, the answer would seem to be just that - visibility. Trustpilot reviews - and the business's headline score, rarely appear in search. This leaves the business free to use them both as, when and where it suits them best.

After all, if you were Yodel, you wouldn't be promoting your Google score...




...would you? But that's exactly what searchers are going to see - every single time they conduct a Google search. Like this...




Another possible use of review sites

Suppose a business came to us, or any other agency, and said 'We want to bury negative reviews of our business as far away from the eyes of our potential customers as possible whilst being simultaneously open and welcoming to comments.' Let's look at a real-life business that would appear - we stress 'appear' - to have done just this (no names):




Best in the world? How does this business look on Trustpilot?






Now, we know the 'Best in the world' bar is set pretty low when it comes to retail banking, but even Trustpilot, with its notoriously generous (some might say 'business-friendly') descriptors can only bring itself to call it 'Average'. That 28 percent represents nearly a third of all reviewers and more than 10,000 1* reviews


But does it really matter when those reviews, and that distinctly 'average' score, are not returned in the first fifty search results when the business's name is googled? Cynical observers might say 'Job done: reviews welcomed but invisible to all but the most diligent searcher.'


Conclusion

All professional or service businesses - as opposed to online retail - should focus on Google reviews. But wait, we hear some of you say, that would mean that all our potential customers will see all our Google reviews in every search they make. But they already do! So get HelpHound's moderation working for you to ensure that those reviews are as accurate as they possibly can be - no factual inaccuracies or misleading statements (and with any errors in English corrected).


*Google's credibility derives, in the main, from the fact that almost all of us know that we can write one whenever we like and that there is no Google mechanism for preventing us (Trustpilot allow businesses to appeal negative reviews - actually any review, but we'd be surprised if a business appealed a 5* review). It also derives from familiarity - we all consume Google reviews, consciously or unconsciously, because we see them and their attendant headline score in every single Google search on a business we make.


Further reading

  • Getting your business's Google reviews strategy right will not only protect its online reputation - it will boost it so inbound clicks and calls rise to a higher level and remain there. Read all about the results you can expect here
  • In case you missed the link to the advantages of a moderated review system above, here is an article that explains just why it is the key to successful long-term review management


 

Friday 5 January 2024

Education - the one professional sector lagging behind with reviews

 


In the metaphorical 'race to succeed with reviews' education is the runner in white at the top of this photo finish. Luckily the analogy is flawed: in the world of reviews the race is never-ending. The white-shirted runner (who is actually a lap behind the rest in 2024) can still catch the field, and even win the race.

But first, let us examine why entering and then running in the race is so important: according to a recent article entitled 'How to choose the right school for your child' in Independent School Parent magazine (note: this post relates to all types of educational establishments, not simply independent schools) the first thing any parent should do is 'Research your options'. 

And what is almost every parent's first 'research' move? Often even before speaking to friends, before looking at individual schools' websites, before consulting Ofsted, even if looking for a specific school? A Google search of course.

But what do they currently find? 



An almost universal lack of engagement. From zero reviews to very few, few schools have yet to find a way to successfully harness the opinions of their stakeholders and turn them into a credible presence online.

How is this?

It is simple really: they have not found a safe way to do so. Safe? Exactly. Simply inviting stakeholders to post a review directly to Google can be a high-risk strategy: no educator needs us to tell them how often misunderstandings arise and having those misunderstandings aired for evermore, for everyone to see, in a Google review, can risk unfair - and difficult to repair - damage to any organisation's long-term reputation (if any readers doubt the harm a single online review can cause we would suggest reading what happened to this firm of solicitors).

HelpHound to the rescue

Of course, we have a solution - actually, the only solution - why else would we be writing this article? For over ten years now we have operated our moderated review management system on behalf of clients in the professional services sector. The key word is 'moderation': we define moderation, in the context of reviews, as the practice of engaging with the review and the reviewer pre-publication. 

At least eighty per cent of reviews are what we term 'clean'; in other words, they are the genuinely held opinion of the reviewer (client/customer/patient/parent) and they 'pass' moderation straight away and are published on the business's website and the reviewer is invited to copy their review to Google. 

Of the remaining reviews - still in moderation - some will simply be written in English that is poor enough to mislead a reader. Our moderator will correct them with the reviewer's permission. Others, more seriously for the business and unhelpfully for readers, will contain errors of fact or statements with the potential to mislead those who in future may come to rely on the review. 

In these cases, a three-way dialogue will often ensue, between the reviewer, the business (in the context of this article: the school or other educational establishment) and our moderator. The object of this dialogue is solely to ensure that the final published review is as factually accurate as possible and to allow the business and the reviewer to understand each other's position to that end.

Results

When we first introduced moderation we held our corporate breath. Would reviewers allow us to engage with them and would they be happy to engage with the business under review? The answer, to our relief and that of our client businesses, was a resounding 'Yes'. That is except for two categories of reviewer: the troll (to use current internet parlance) - someone who was simply airing an unfounded opinion of a business of which they had no first-hand experience, and the 'five-thumbed typist' who had reviewed the business in error (company names can be very similar).

Everyone else, with very few exceptions, reacts positively: from grudging acceptance - 'OK, I exaggerated...' - to sheer relief - 'I hadn't realised I was wrong in what I had written, thank goodness you stepped in.' 

There you have it: a safe way to engage with Google reviews, guaranteed. With the added bonus of independently verified reviews to host on your own website.

A note for 'perfect' establishments

We sometimes encounter businesses, of all kinds, that say 'We are so great at what we do we won't need moderation, we'll simply invite our stakeholders to post reviews direct to Google.' Those businesses should remember that they may be perfect, or as close as makes no difference, but it's their customers and other stakeholders that may not be quite as 100% on the ball. Moderation is expressly designed for great businesses - under the CMA regulations we cannot aid or abet any filtering or deflecting of any genuinely held negative opinions - but one misconceived negative review has the potential to do untold harm, and it is just that review that moderation is expressly designed to address. We refer you to the case history already mentioned above.


Conclusion

Educational establishments have nothing to lose and everything to gain...
  • shining in every Google search
  • wonderful content for their websites and social media
  • savings - in both time and money - on all other forms of marketingnt
...from engaging in professional moderated review management. At the time of publication, HelpHound is the only channel currently providing this, not to mention our 10+ years of experience in doing so. We look forward to helping your educational establishment achieve all of the above - to A* level!


Further reading

  • Compliance is key - so many businesses flout the CMA regulations that expressly forbid cherry-picking known satisfied customers to write reviews
  • Results: all of our clients see positive results - Google scores of 4.8+ from hundreds of reviews and consistent uplifts in contacts and enquiries. This article puts numbers to those promises
  • The hotel that was very nearly unfairly shut down by a single 1* Google review

How fast will our advice impact your business's online reputation?

 How's this? The business on 1 December 2023...



And now?




Early days! But a great start - especially given the holiday period - and we look forward to the business getting to the hallowed 4.8* any day now.


Update 22 January 2024 

And now, after a successful appeal against a one-star review that contravened Google's terms of service!



*4.8? Years of research and client feedback show that this is the score at which consumer trust really kicks in; below 4.8 and consumers will read all a business's negative reviews, 4.8 and above and they will simply make contact.


Wednesday 13 December 2023

The world of Google reviews is upside down - it's up to all of us turn it the right way up!

Google reviews are available in inverse proportion to their need. There are 100 times more Google reviews of any McDonald's than there are of lawyers or financial advisers, and many more of those than there are of medical specialists. Why is this the case? There are two main reasons...

  1. More people use fast food outlets than GPs or lawyers
  2. The professions, and service businesses in general, are extremely wary of Google reviews - for good reasons (see 'moderation' below)

Note: All of the following discount 'personal recommendation'. Of course, we all welcome and take note of personal recommendations, especially for categories 0 - 4. But the further up our scale we go, the less likely any individual or business is to know someone well-qualified to recommend such a business. Note we don't say 'impossible', but far less likely. This leaves the responsibility for getting Google reviews fairly and squarely in the hands of the '6 - 10' businesses:professions and services in the main.


0 - 1

Entertainment



More people write reviews of entertainment venues than read them! How can we tell? By the very few 'Likes' the individual reviews receive

Few people read reviews of venues. If your favourite actor/band/play is on at the ABC Theatre that's where you're going. Reviews of the venue may warn you that the queue for the toilet at the interval is horrendous or that the refreshments are overpriced but you will still attend. We do read reviews of performances - but not Google reviews!


Retail



We want it? We buy it. Savvy retailers will use product reviews to add/drop lines - when did you last see a 1* toaster for sale on John Lewis's website?


Well-known services




McDonald's? Boots the Chemist? RyanAir? Reviews are written - by unhappy customers in the main, but will that stop most of us from using them? Will we even read their reviews? 


2 - 3

Hotels and Restaurants - hospitality 




Most consumers now use a specialist site when booking hospitality - and, to make doubly sure, the sites dominate search by block-booking Google ads (note - of all the links in Booking.com's site that could have been served, it's 'Top Reviewed Hotels' that gets the nod)...



And just a click away, with over 6,500 reviews...



The one sector where specialist websites win hands down. Of course, a good Google rating helps, but TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com and the like are so well-established (and funded) that it is a secondary consideration.


6-9

Business services

As the consumer's need for them rises, the number of Google reviews dwindles dramatically...



Accountancy, recruitment, advertising, PR, marketing, web design, SEO, review management (!). All of these are a minefield, especially for SMEs. Why 'especially SMEs'? Because large businesses often have in-house capability, at least enough to be able to judge a specialist service - for example: a CFO of a large business will invariably have accountancy training and qualifications, so will be better placed to make an informed choice of an accountancy service; an SME director, almost always an entrepreneur, will seek out as much independent reassurance as possible. If your business is targeting the SME market, it needs to find an effective, and safe, way to engage with Google reviews.


Education



This is an interesting one. There is a huge amount of information available about educational establishments from preschools all the way up to universities and beyond. But with pastoral care increasingly in the headlines these days, parents, especially, are looking for added reassurance - outside of their own social circle (When did you ever hear a friend say 'I chose XYZ school for my little Jimmy and it's rubbish'?!). Very few schools indeed - if any - have yet to find a safe way to proactively engage with Google reviews. Prospective parents and guardians, as well as other stakeholders, need those educational establishments to find a way to engage.


Legal



Heard the term 'A legal minefield'? Of course you have, and it sums up the quandary facing anyone about to engage with the profession. There is a huge discrepancy in both areas of expertise - will the solicitor that conveyances your house purchase have the expertise to manage your divorce? - and quality of advice.

Those seeking legal advice will seek out Google reviews for reassurance. But is that law firm finding a complaint way to engage with Google reviews?


Financial

Financial advice, investment management, banking and insurance. Financial institutions spend fortunes promoting the value they supposedly add for consumers, whatever their specialism. The only true benchmark is past performance combined with Google reviews - and my, do they seem to do everything they can to ensure the bare minimum of Google reviews are written. Here is arguably the UK's largest retail fund manager, in the news this week...



And, to be fair, it's not alone in not engaging with Google reviews...




10

Medical and healthcare



GPs, specialists from ENT to oncology, hospitals, and nursing homes. Here we are often dealing not only with the person involved but with relations as well. Reviews - Google reviews - will be actively sought out and read. We stress 'read' because in the 1-6 categories a Google score will often be all the reassurance someone needs before contacting the business; in the case of medical and financial businesses, the reviews themselves are far more likely to be read.

The reason they all send you so many requests for reviews - either directly to them or to an otherwise obscure site, but almost never to Google, is because they - and/or their advisors - understand that a negative opinion will do far less harm on a specialist review site than on Google. It's a purely defensive measure. But it doesn't help those seeking out the right practitioner at all.


A shining beacon

There is one sector that has embraced Google reviews like no other, and we wonder if you can guess from the following clues which it is...

  • The average transaction - across the whole of the UK - is just shy of £300,000
  • The average revenue to the business - per transaction - is £4,000
  • It is one of the top 10 'Least trusted occupations' in the UK, after politicians and press!
...and you would think it would be one of the last to want to invite its customers to post their opinions to Google. But it's not. Why not?

Back in the middle of the last decade we were approached by a well-known and well-regarded Plc estate agency. They took the plunge when estate agencies had few reviews, and many of those reviews, across the profession, were negative (you can imagine the kind of thing, we're sure).

We had just introduced moderation - the function whereby every review that is posted through HelpHound is read and, if it contains errors of fact or potentially misleading statements, a process is initiated to ensure, as far as is legally possible within UK law and the CMA regulations, that those are corrected before publication. We already had enough experience of this moderation process to reassure Winkworth Plc that their franchisees would not be exposing their businesses to reputational risk (as would have definitely been the case without moderation - roughly 1 in every 10 reviews is subject to some kind of moderation, and many of those would cause considerable unfair damage to the business if published unchallenged). 

Here's just one of their offices on joining...




And now...


And in local search...



This, understandably, lit a fire across the entire profession when their competitors realised the power of Google reviews to drive business through their doors, so a search now looks like this...



We have examples of other high-value and sensitive sectors as well. For anyone thinking, quite understandably, that 'my clients/patients won't want to write publicly visible reviews', just take a look at this client and take a minute to read their reviews...


Not a huge volume - but enough grateful patients to provide a very helpful impression have taken the trouble to post a review to the Clinic's own website and then on to Google


Conclusion

The most complex and demanding businesses - and the consumers that use them - need reviews far more than simple ones, by a huge factor. The only thing stopping them is a safety net to prevent unfair reputational damage, and it's called moderation. With moderation, the business can relax in the sure knowledge that the factually inaccurate, potentially misleading or just plain unfair reviews it might receive if it simply took the - unnecessary and unhelpful - risk and invited its customers to post a review directly to Google, will be highly unlikely to see the light of day.

We hope this encourages businesses in those '6 - 10' sectors to become proactive - to give their prospective clients/customers/patients the moderated reviews* they crave and you will see enquiries/clicks and inbounds surge - guaranteed. 

*Note: alongside the safety features inherent in moderation there are other helpful 'side-effects'...

    1. The reviews posted through a moderated system tend, on average, to be longer and more detailed and, as a result, more helpful to readers - your prospective customers. Consumers also report that they are far more likely to be convinced to interact with a business having read a detailed review (see 'Results' below)
    2. Consumers that have posted a positive review of a business tend, on average, to be more likely to interact with that business on multiple occasions or remain as ongoing customers of the business they have reviewed
    3. Consumers are far less likely to post critical reviews of businesses when the review process is initiated by the business under review


Further reading

  • Moderation - protecting both business and consumer from factually inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews
  • Results - businesses with great Google scores and significant numbers of reviews commonly see rises in both enquiries (often in the 15 - 25% range) and the quality of the resultant transaction

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)