Tuesday 8 March 2016

Dialogue™ - effective and, most important of all, fair

There are three parties to the exchange that takes place through Dialogue:
  1. The business (our client)
  2. Their customer
  3. Google*
Here we examine, in detail, the pros (and cons) of Dialogue for each of those.

The customer - always the first focus of everything we do

Any verified customer of a client business may write a review to that business's HelpHound Dialogue module. Then the review is read by our moderators; if that review is positive - 4 or 5 star - it will be published, if it is negative - 3 star or less - or contains potential errors of fact, it will be forwarded to the business for comment (the process we call Resolution™). After the business has responded the customer will be invited by HelpHound to post a final review.

This means that...
  • customers who are writing the review as a 'thank you' will always have their reviews published straight away
  • customers who are less than satisfied will have their complaint investigated and responded to (a pre-condition of membership of HelpHound for the business); after that they will be invited to post a final review on the business's module
After that process we invite every customer to post a review to Google - no exceptions are made. 

The business

Dialogue enables businesses to invite and display verified - and therefore credible - reviews on their websites. So far, so good; but there are potential pitfalls:
  • All of our modules are 'open' - in other words anyone - and we mean anyone - can write a review of our client business
  • We promise - on our client business's behalf - that every reviewer has the right to have their review published on the business's website
  • Everyone who has a review published on our client business's website is subsequently invited to post that review to Google
Misunderstandings can arise about these three points, so let's deal with them in more detail:
  • 'Open' modules: If the reviews on our clients websites are to have complete credibility, those reading them must know that they are much more than simply 'representative' - they must know that each and every customer is able to write a review. 
  • 'Right to be published': We allow no filtering. The only way a business can delete a negative review is by resigning from HelpHound (and losing their module). That, however, is very different from a system that allows misconceived comments to be published. Time and again we forward negative reviews to our clients who then politely - and calmly - correct errors of fact.  Errors of fact in reviews help no-one: the reviewer, the business or the reader of the review. There is a grey area, of course, between a review that contains an error of fact and one that simply says 'I cannot recommend this business because...'. In this instance the business is allowed to state its case (by apologising, if an apology is appropriate) and then the reviewer is invited to post a final review. This has the huge benefit for both business and customer of adding a dispute resolution function into Dialogue. We have countless examples of messages where the customer has said that they were grateful to have the opportunity to resolve the issue at hand with the business.
  • To Google: Google reviews are seen by everyone - whether they are looking for them or not - simply by virtue of being served in every search on a business's name. Unfortunately proportionately very few customers post a review (The Ritz Hotel in London, for instance has 133 rooms and 161 reviews on Google; the oldest Google review was posted in 2011, so the hotel has been reviewed on average 32 times a year - we estimate that to be about one in a thousand of the Ritz's guests writing a review to Google - hardly a representative sample - and therefore not that helpful for someone looking to get a feel of the hotel before booking a room). It's the same - or, if anything, even worse - for high value businesses like financial advisers, lawyers and estate agents (for instance: the UK's largest private client stockbroker has no Google reviews). It has to be in everyone's best interest - the consumer, the business and Google - to see the most high quality real reviews posted there. At the moment we reckon HelpHound's Dialogue is the only mechanism that is achieving this.


Google's raison d'etre is centred on providing the highest quality search results for its users. And that has to include reviews (if not, they would not give them such prominence in search). HelpHound adds value for everyone concerned by directing a flow of high quality - real and verifiable - reviews towards Google. We have countless examples of clients who had no - or very few - Google reviews before joining HelpHound and choosing Dialogue for their review management who now offer both their potential clients and Google a valuable resource.

It is demonstrably not in Google's best interest to be serving inaccurate or misleading reviews. Google provide a great response mechanism for the business, but that does not impact on the individual business's score - which is increasingly used as a benchmark by potential customers - a business scoring 4.5 being more likely to be chosen than a business scoring 4.3, for example - which will be diminished, causing the business harm in the process. HelpHound's Resolution ensures, as far as possible, that the reviews that are posted to Google are an accurate reflection of the customer's experience of that business.

*we understand that there are alternatives to Google reviews, but they are either insignificant in terms of reach or on the wane (e.g. Yelp or TripAdvisor) - for that reason we currently consistently focus our clients on their presence in Google reviews.

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