Tuesday 15 December 2015

Learn from Uber and AirBnB

Both Uber and AirBnB were early adopters of reviews - they knew they were a major key to the credibility of their service; how else were they going to gain that crucial element of trust from their potential users?

here's Uber:

 If a review can instill trust in a £10 cab ride, think what it can do for any other transaction

And AirBnB:

With most successful businesses there is one key element that ensured that success. With Facebook it was the introduction of the 'relationship status' field (remember Bebo - Facebook's predecessor? No - not many people do!). Without reviews Uber and AirBnB might still be struggling startups.

So: if you are in a business where trust is a key element of your potential customers' decision making process (and we are struggling to think of a business where it is not) you need to think seriously about adopting a credible review management system. Otherwise, one day, you may find your business in the same hole that London cabbies and small hoteliers find themselves in today.

Postscript for our clients: Are you impressed by Paolo's responses? Then check your module to make sure that your responses are right up-to-date.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Estate Agents - Your worst nightmare

You might be thinking "It's Helphound, so it's got to be about reviews. Probably our business getting negative reviews, or even failing to get positive reviews."

Close. But not quite on the money. Here is your worst nightmare:

This is a verified client opinion - of the service provided by one of your competitors, on their own website:

This is a similar review that has been posted onto Google, having first been posted to another competitor's own website: 

This is a competitor's score on their own website (note that the reviews - all 179 of them -  are unarguably from real clients):

 This is what another competitor looks like on Google: 

And what do all these have in common? They are all HelpHound clients and the reviews have been initiated by and generated through Dialogue™.

And there's more; how about how our clients look on their portal microsites?:

So, just maybe, you shouldn't simply be thinking 'Wouldn't it be great if we could look good on our own site and on Google?' but also 'Isn't it vitally important that we look great by comparison with our competitors?'

Food for thought?

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Estate Agents - online v. high street - missing the point?

Yet again the industry news channels are full of headlines about the amount of money 'online' agencies are raising and how impressive (or plain bonkers - depending on your standpoint) their valuations are. And the comments on PIE and EAT are dominated by 'high street' agents defending their positions.

But this is not the real argument. And it's not the right argument. We're not saying all agents agree with these brave commenters, but there would appear to be a lot of support for their point-of-view.

SO what is the real argument?

Online or high street? Probably irrelevant with a war-chest that big
One thing is for certain is that between them, the so-called online agencies have a heap of cash to spend on selling their proposition to Joe Public, and anyone who ignores this does so at their peril.

So let's look at what Joe Public wants:

There are all kinds of estate agency our there, but they are all promising the same thing - to achieve the highest price for any given property. And that is sometimes just about all the client cares about (OK, we know: and speed as well).

An office in the high street? We meet agents every day who insist that their (sometimes very expensive) office is an essential marketing tool. We won't argue, except to say that it's certainly less important than it was twenty years ago (pre-web).

So what does matter to prospective clients?

The answer (apart from the money one) is probably 'different things matter to different people' with some or all of the following making it into the Top 5:
  • Contacts with potential purchasers
  • Accurate valuation
  • Experience in handling complex transactions
  • Professionalism - this includes, but is not limited to, recognised qualifications
  • Reputation - among friends, colleagues and online (Google etc.)
We would submit that any agent who includes 'commission rates' in their 'Top 5' is fundamentally undervaluing their role. We are not saying that you should not be open to negotiation on fees, but if you find yourself consistently falling back on price as a core USP, then your business model is flawed.

If you agree with us so far, you will be looking for the very best way to say to your potential clients:
  • 'We know lots of people looking for a property just like yours
  • 'We know the market really well and will value your property accurately
  • 'We have many years' of relevant experience
  • 'We are really good at what we do
  • 'Our clients say we do a great job
Look at that last point again. Doesn't that encapsulate all the others? 

Our message is: If you can crack the 'Reputation' conundrum you will win all ends up: you will find it easier to get enquiries, and then convert those enquiries into instructions - and all the while earning decent fees. It won't matter fundamentally whether your office has a shop window in the 'high street' or is on the third floor around the corner.

If you want more proof that this is the case just read our clients' reviews - see how many objections they enable them to address head on - fees, professionalism, dedication, contacts, local knowledge, and so on - and just how convincing (and reassuring) they would be if you if you put yourself in the position of a potential client looking to choose an agent. 

The argument now ceases to be 'High street or online?' and becomes what it should have been all along: 'Is this a great agency in the opinion of its clients?' which is just where it should be.

 Every day we publish reviews like this one on behalf of our clients - how impressive do you think Winkworth Barnet's potential clients find comments like these? Here's another great review that specifically highlights the fees issue

...and then we help them get them posted to Google - to show up in local search (this is the first ever Google re-post for a new client)

Could anyone possibly deny the power of these reviews?

SO: for those of you with a physical presence on the high street - keep on paying the rent, but make completely sure you are harnessing the power of your client's opinions at the same time. That way everyone will know just how great you are at what you do - and you will be able to win the fees argument as well.

Friday 4 December 2015

Reviews and Champagne - what have they in common?

We all know how hard champagne producers fight to protect their appellation. Here we strike the first blow on behalf of 'reviews'. Why? because consumers need to know the difference between bona-fide reviews and what are commonly known as 'testimonials'. 


No confusion over the contents of that bottle!

It benefits no-one (except, questionably, the individual business) if someone is misled into buying a bottle of cava or spumante (or English sparkling) in the belief that they are buying champagne. In the same way, no-one benefits from being confused by the terms 'testimonial' and 'review'

So, to kick off the debate, here we will attempt to define (and therefore differentiate) between the two:


Testimonial marketing has been around as long as the written word. We're sure businesses were using testimonials in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius, and for very good reason: for thousands of years testimonials have been the next best thing to personal recommendation. Let's look at what defines a testimonial, it:
  • is a written reference of (and for) the business in question
  • purports* to be written by a genuine customer of that business
  • is published by that business: by being physically shown, reproduced in the company's literature or advertising or posted on the company's website
  • may or may not be written in return for reward (financial or otherwise - discounted products and services)
  • is, by definition, the opinion of that individual customer about their own individual experience of the business in question

*'purports': really high-quality testimonials include both the name and contact details of the person (or corporation) who has given the testimonial. This enables consumers to have maximum confidence in the testimonial in question. Less high-value testimonials commonly fail to identify the author (Mrs P of Wimbledon).

But then: along came the world wide web. At last there emerged a better, more reliable alternative...

  • are posted on, or through, a body* independent of the business being reviewed
  • may be positive or negative in nature and content
  • should be posted by a verified customer of that business
  • may be invited by the business, but should allow uninvited (but verifiable) customers of that business to post as well
*if that body has any financial relationship with the business under review it should be made clear to consumers

In Summary:

When did you last see a negative testimonial? Absolutely! The killer benefit of reviews is credibility: the business cannot decide which customer opinions to show. And that's a massive benefit for the consumer - and it's also a massive benefit for great businesses, because it becomes a major differentiating factor. Businesses that are 'brave' enough to invite and publish reviews (as opposed to testimonials) are, by definition, sure enough of their levels of service to adopt the reviews route.

And, by-the-way, that doesn't mean those businesses are perfect. As we all know there is no such thing as a perfect business; it simply means that the business in question is high-grade enough to know that positive reviews will hugely outweigh negatives and their customer relations are such that they will respond to the occasional negative in such a way that any reasonable customer will be impressed. 

At HelpHound:

We were pioneers in the online reviews space. In nearly ten years in the business, we have come to really understand the world of reviews and reviewers. We have designed Dialogue to be (as one of our clients described it) the Gold Standard in review management. If you have Dialogue working for you, you can rest assured that you have the very best review management system available today. If you are moving up from testimonial marketing Dialogue is the way ahead for your business. 

And if you currently host testimonials on your website? Remember the champagne/cava analogy we began with: please don't call them reviews until they really are!