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