Monday 23 May 2016

You cannot believe their reviews!

Credibility is something sadly lacking in the world or reviews today. Article after article is written in the mainstream press highlighting just how many positive reviews are written by:
  • the business themselves
  • 'friends'
  • outside agencies employed by the business
And negatives written by:
  • competitors
  • disgruntled (ex-)members of staff
As most of your will know, Dialogue addresses all of these, either through moderation or Resolution™. 

But what should you be saying to prospective customers who query the validity of your reviews? How about...
  • You can believe our reviews on our own website because they are independently validated by HelpHound
  • You can believe our reviews on Google because most - if not all - of them have been posted there by customers who have at first posted a review to our website - and are therefore verified customers of ours
As we have said before - independent verification and validation are the two crucial keys to credibility. Without those you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to stand behind your reviews - on your website or on any other platform (Google, for instance). You cannot convincingly answer this question:
  • Do you invite all your customers to write reviews (to your website and to Google)?
Without that, you leave yourselves wide open to being 'damned with faint praise' by your competitors:
  • "They look great on their own website, but just try writing a negative review there."
  • "They look great on Google, but they only invite their happy clients to write reviews there."
Once your customers  - and your competitors! - understand that HelpHound:

  • verifies - as far as is humanly possible - that the review is written by a genuine customer
  • enables anyone to write a review on the company's own website
  • automatically invites everyone who has a review published on one of our clients' website to copy that review to Google

   You might be forgiven for thinking that the most important aspect of HelpHound is the ability to show great reviews like this on your website and on Google...

   ...but without the wording next to our logo all credibility is lost

It is that 'anyone' and everyone' that gives all your reviews credibility - on your own site and on Google. Anything less and credibility is gone. 


To get the full picture, this article should be read in conjunction with 'Winning' - and pay special attention to the numbers under the paragraph headed 'Our Advice'.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Estate Agents: Your clients' opinions justify your fee

  How do you justify your fee?

We make no apologies for returning to a theme addressed in this article just over a year ago.

With fees being - along with online v. high street (and isn't that about fees as well?) - just about the most contentious issue in estate agency at the moment (any moment?), it makes sense to look at them in the context of reviews.

Review content supports your fee levels

Everyone - and we are no exception - tends to focus on numbers of reviews" "We have 300 reviews on our website", "We score 4.8 on Google", when we should sometimes be focusing on the contents of the reviews themselves. 

Just read this: 

 And this...

Having a great score on Google and on your HelpHound module helps, but it's the individual reviews that provoke potential clients into picking up the phone/click on 'contact us'.

And what to do with a review like that?
  • Put it in your window?
  • Highlight it all over your website?
  • Reference it in your mailers/leaflets?
It's up to you. Reviews do not - and should not - stop at your module!

Monday 16 May 2016

The mass-market review sites target estate agency

Some of you will have seen today's advertisement for Feefo via Estate Agent Today. It is a while since the mass-market review sites began targeting estate agents, and clients have been asking us to comment.

Not a lot has changed since we wrote 'Independent Review sites - Yesterday's Answer to Today's Question' back at the beginning of the year, but we will use this article to bring you completely up-to-date.

1. Focus on Google and your own website

Your reviews need to be where your potential clients are looking - on Google and on your own website. 

The customer journey - described in detail here - goes: Google 'Estate Agent [location]' then choose some that impress you. Then visit the websites you have selected before making the final decision to contact them.

You need great reviews on Google and great reviews on your website - no-where else. Those who think - quite understandably - that it's all about Google should read this.

2. Then Facebook

People are increasingly using Facebook to source recommendations for businesses. Look good there and it will be just the same: they will visit your website for reassurance and then, if they are happy with what they see, make contact.

How to get those reviews to Google and Facebook? - read this.

3. Use an 'Open' system

Your clients must be able to write a review whenever they want - and they can with HelpHound and Google (and Facebook). If they cannot, two things will happen: they'll write a review straight to Google (perhaps an uncomplimentary one) and your competitors will lose no time in pointing out your reviews are cherry-picked

 This screenshot of a client's review header tells their prospective clients all they need to know: that the reviews are genuine, that a client can submit one at any time - the 'write your review' button - that all reviews are published, and that they have been moderated by an independent agency. If the system you adopt fails any one of these critical tests, then it fails the 'credibility test'. Then, not only will consumers be wary, but competitors will not hesitate to highlight that 'credibility deficiency' in their sales pitches

Any system that is 'Closed' - i.e. one that only allows invitees of the business to write a review - fails the crucial credibility test. It may be fine for shoes and toasters (actually we would query even that - wouldn't reviews from someone who had bought a pair of shoes be so much more valuable a year after purchase?) but you should be open for comment all the time, from anyone*.

*'anyone'? Yes - anyone! The mass-market sites make a virtue of inviting only 'bona fide customers of the business'. But you are in a service business: if you don't allow the occupants of the flat below your tenants to communicate via Dialogue they will take the route of least resistance and post a damaging one star review on Google. How do we ensure that your reviews are bona fide? First - you (or your website) initiate the review. Second: Dialogue - and Resolution - is moderated; any negative reviews are served to the business pre-publication. That's how we can promise your prospective clients that your reviews are 'genuine opinions from genuine clients.'

4. Recognise the difference between mass-market reviews and reviews of professional services

Not from your customers' point-of-view - from yours! How many customers do you have, per branch, in any given year? 100? 200? 500 even? Recognise that you are a very different animal from the mass-market businesses - with hundreds of thousands of customers - that are the mass-market review sites' bread and butter. Also: it is almost certain that you will need a lot of help and support from whoever you choose to manage your reviews - make sure you are dealing with a business that is structured to provide this for you - the sort of support that gets this type of email:

5. Google the clients of the independent sites and see what happens

The advert mentioned at the head of this article quotes three well-known agents. We heartily recommend that you follow the same customer journey described above and study the results. You may then want to ask yourself these questions:
  • Why is there so often such a marked disconnect between the reviews and scores on the independent site (mostly fantastic) and the reviews and scores on Google (some not so great -  or absent)?
  • Can anyone write a review whenever they want?
  • How do the review sites' own brands - and brand awareness - stack up against that of Google and Facebook  
If you still think an independent review site is a good idea, then why not take a look at the big Daddy of them all - Yelp? But we would advise you spend five minutes Googling them before you call (or you could click on 'Yelp' in the tag cloud on the right to see what we think)!

For high value professional businesses it's not so much about review sites as professional review management - and that's what HelpHound provides.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Why not just get reviews direct to Google?

It's time to address this perennial question again. The hugely positive point to note is that businesses are finally waking up to the power of Google - some businesses that is; there are still thousands of deniers who think looking completely anonymous is acceptable. These need to ask themselves the simple question: "If I were faced with two businesses, one looking like mine:

And one looking like this:

Which - all other things being equal - gets the call?"

Given that it only takes minutes a week and pounds a month - there should be no barriers at all.

Right - so now we know we need reviews on Google - back to the central question posed by this article: why not invite our customers to go there and post them direct?

Two - very important - reasons:

 verification = credibility = enquiries = business

First: great reviews on Google drive people to your website, but great independently verified reviews on your website drive enquiries and business. Some people doubt this at first, but not when their customer tells them - and, let's face it, just how much extra business do you need to do to cover the cost and effort?

  Our clients can stand four-square behind their reviews and ratings - on their own sites and on Google - because we promise to publish every genuine review their client asks us to and we invite all of them to copy their review to Google - no filtering, no cherry-picking. That's credibility!

Second: your business reputation is hard-won, and it can be damaged by an inaccurate or misleading review. You should read this for the full story, but suffice to say that having the ability to address negative reviews before they are published - on your own website and on Google - is crucial.

So: adopt Dialogue and look like Greene & Co!

Wednesday 11 May 2016

You only lose your reputation once...

As Warren Buffet famously said "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose it"- and he could just as easily have been talking about review sites as well as any other businesses. Any review website that allows its clients to manipulate reviews to their advantage - intentionally or unintentionally - has to be concerned that its own reputation would suffer. 

At HelpHound we need to be reassured the sites that we recommend to our clients have the highest possible standards, not only when it comes to displaying reviews on their own sites, but also when their clients display their reviews on their own sites. We police very carefully how our clients use their reviews, and we would expect review sites to do the same.

Here is another example of the potentially misleading use of reviews in marketing/advertising:

You - or, more importantly, a potential purchaser - might be forgiven fro thinking that the 5* rating referred to the bike in this ad - it actually refers to all the products - from lawn mowers to vacuum cleaners - made by the same company. We think that should be made clear - and we would insist on clarity if they were a client of ours.

The Times and the Mail have already commented, so we will leave you with two screenshots - of the company site and of the review website so you can come to your own conclusion about the effect that using reviews in this way has on the reputations of both.


 If either comment we will let you know.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Estate Agents: Winning with HelpHound - whichever way you choose to use Dialogue

We recently conducted a survey to find out exactly how our estate agent clients were using Dialogue, and there were two basic variations on a single theme. Here we look at them both so you can choose which is the right one for you.

1. Following the instructions on the tin: channeling all reviews through Dialogue. 

Advantages: It's the safety first option - and ensures that you won't get any nasty surprises. Every review will go through Resolution™, so you will have an opportunity to correct errors of fact and misconceptions. We always advise clients to start out this way, until they get a really good feel for how their customers react. 

Disadvantages: You may get less reviews to Google or Facebook, simply because there will always be a fall-off when clients are asked to copy their review. It's a trade off between security and volume.

HelpHound added value?
  • Being able to point out to potential clients that they are always able to write a review
  • Having independently verified reviews on your own site to drive enquiries
  • Having a star rating next to your listing in organic search
  • Resolution for all reviews to minimise the potential for unfair negatives to be posted to your site or to Google (or anywhere else on the web)

2. The multiple invitation: This involves asking the client to choose between posting via your Dialogue module or Google (and/or Facebook)

 Here's and example of the kind of email you might send; but you must a) reinforce the importance of reviews in all your dealings with your client beforehand and b) follow-up this email with a phone call - immediately. Simply firing off emails will not get the results you need. We usually advise clients to begin my including just their own website and Google, adding Facebook later.

Advantages: the potential to get a higher volume of reviews to Google (and/or Facebook) from a single invitation, simply because you are giving your client that option straight away. Customers who who don't have a G+ account (and don't want to open one) can post to Dialogue or Facebook. Clients who post to Dialogue will still be asked to post to Google. Client experience indicates that those reviewers who are less than satisfied will, in the majority of cases, post through Dialogue (see the 'Numbers' chart below). They welcome the implicit offer to resolve any issue privately.

Disadvantages: By definition, this route runs the risk that some customers will post a negative to Google that will be seen by prospective customers and devalue your score. You will always be able to appeal or respond, but Google's T&Cs usually mean that the review (unless you can prove it is malicious in intent) will stand.

HelpHound added value: 
  • Being able to point out to potential clients that they are always able to write a review
  • Having independently verified reviews on your own site to drive enquiries
  • Resolution for reviews to minimise the potential for unfair negatives to be posted to your site or to Google (or anywhere else)

Our advice:

Begin with option one. It is the 'safety first' option, and should always be use until you and your staff are completely familiar with the operation of Dialogue: you will be able to gauge client response, and get used to managing your responses, to both positive and negative reviews, before 'going public'.

      Case history - click on the image to enlarge

When you are confident - and you have the review culture firmly embedded with all your staff - you can move to option 2. Speak to us before you do, and remember that you can always revert to option one at any time.

Action needed:

Speak to us: Karen and her team will advise on the rewording of your invitation email - and make sure you are using the right links.

And remember: don't be afraid of inviting reviews - and, most important of all, following up with a phone call. One recent client started by being concerned about how his customers would react - a month later he rang us to say "The invitation is positively welcomed - the reaction has been 'You did/are doing a great job for us, it's the least we can do for you.'"

Friday 6 May 2016

Set a target for reviews

So many businesses adopt review management without setting targets. We think targets are an essential discipline; here we will explain why.
  1. It is easy to see your reviews in a vacuum: it is so important to realise that your prospective customers will - consciously or subconsciously - be comparing your reviews with those of your competitors
  2. Don't just aim to look better than your competitors: aim to look a lot better. Don't assume that because you have 30 reviews on Google and a score of 4.6 and your nearest competitor has 10 and a score of 4.2 you wont go online tomorrow to see that they are scoring 4.8 with 50 reviews
  3. Encourage quality as well as quantity: a great thorough and detailed review is worth a bucketful of the likes of "They were great".

Setting targets - corporate

All good business people know just how demotivating impossible to achieve targets can be, so take a long hard look at your business - and other successful businesses in your sector - and set realistic targets. Here are some benchmarks we know have been successfully set and, in many cases, exceeded:
  • for hospitality: a review from one guest in ten is a good starting point
  • for high value-per-transaction businesses like financial services, legal, medical, insurance and estate agency: the 'rule of 50%' applies: you should aim to get half of your clients to write a review to your Dialogue module and then have half of them copy their review to Google
Setting targets - management and staff

All your staff should see being actively engaged in winning reviews as part of their job description. Individual staff and teams should be targeted to achieve a number of reviews per month or year (and rewarded for doings so):
  • calendar based targets: a number per week/month/year
  • volume based targets: a percentage of customers to write a review
  • quality based targets: rewards for the staff member/team that gets the best review(s) in a given period

 Our first estate agency branch to over 300 reviews on their own website and 150 on Google - with a score of 4.9. Imagine how pleased you would be for your business to look like this - on your own website and in Google search. And now imagine you are one of their competitors!

Last, but no least:

Don't pounce! What do we mean by this? We mean build reviews into all your client contact, don't suddenly send them an email asking for a review with no warning at all.

If you are a hotelier: get your reception staff to mention that you will be asking for a review at check in, and make sure all your front-of-house staff are alert for compliments and then remind your guests to mention whatever aspect of their stay the spoke about in their review.

If you are an estate agent: use the fact that you publish all your clients reviews in your initial pitch - potential clients find it immensely reassuring. Then, just like the hotelier, be on the look out for opportunities to ask clients to put their verbal compliments in writing when they are asked for their review.

As ever: our client services team are here to help and advise - please don't hesitate to contact them.



Thursday 5 May 2016

Why we will never recommend a 'closed' review site

When you are deciding on a review management strategy you need to consider exactly how this will benefit your business - and, importantly: how it will be viewed by your competitors.

One major plank of Dialogue™ is the fact that it is an 'open' system. It was designed that way for very good reasons.

Why 'Open'?

For the consumer:
  1. They - if they are already a customer - need to know that they can write a review at any stage in their relationship with the business
  2. They - if they are a potential customer looking for reassurance - need to know that any and every customer of the business can write a review whenever they want
For the business:
  1. It needs to know that it has a feedback channel that is open 24/7
  2. That is trusted by their customers
'Closed' systems - invitation by the business only - bring trust issues to the fore. For two main reasons:
  • The business is able to choose the time that the invitation to review is sent
  • The business is able to choose to whom the invitation is sent
Put yourself in the position of the consumer: you are considering doing business with a business that employs a closed review management system. You will be asking two questions which the business will find it very hard to answer:
  • Why can I only write a review at your invitation?
  • Do you hand-pick those customers who you invite to write a review?
There are even some sites that look open but turn out to be closed after all; you click on your rating and a box pops up asking you to phone the business for a verification code. Great if the business wants no negative reviews - what dissatisfied client is going to brave that call? - but terminal for their credibility.

And imagine you are a business competing with another that employs a closed review system - with the best will in the world are you going to resist the temptation to raise these two issues with your potential customer? Possibly not!

We understand the immediate superficial attractions of these sites, and we can hear them saying "we have an invitation only - closed - system, because it makes it easy to verify the reviewer." But none of the reasons they give outweigh the total lack of credibility. 

As the MD of one web design company said to us recently: "I'd recommend them to my clients, but how can I when their system makes it so obvious that the system is specifically designed to generate [only] 5* reviews?"

HelpHound's Dialogue™

   that 'Write a review' button is a major plank in your - and our - credibility
  • enables anyone to write a review at any time 
Which enables our clients to look their potential customers in the eye and say:
  • The reviews we are displaying on our website are written by any and every client who takes the trouble
  • They - and you, when you become a client - will always be able to say what you want, when you want
 Open - it's the only way that's fair and credible.