Thursday 15 September 2016

Review Site or Review Management?

This is the choice facing every business now that the 'engage with reviews or not?' argument is settled. We have written this article so you can understand which - using a review site or embracing review management - is right for your business.

Are you in (online) retail - or professional services?

If you're in high-volume retail one of the 'off-the-peg' solutions is a good starting point. You will get reviews and you will be given a feed and a link to embed into your own website. You will get negative reviews - often relating to your delivery service or your website/payment method, not the product - but having this kind of reviews channel is better than no channel at all.

If you are in high-value professional services you will do well to consider review management. Being a professional service itself, it will be tailored to suit your own needs and band identity and will be much more effective in addressing the issues raised by your customers/clients/patients/guests that won't benefit anyone by being given a public airing on the web.

It may cost more than an off-the-peg solution (probably - but not always), but you will have to make a decision about the value it will add, just the same as any professional service you employ. It should pay for itself by...
  • aiding customer retention
  • driving new business
  • improving your image online
  • being infinitely flexible - from the point-of-view of both design and function
  • being future-proof - infinitely adaptable whatever direction Google and the web take
If it does not, don't hesitate to look for another solution!

Do you provide a product or service that is universally known and understood?

If you are a world-renowned fast-food franchise or you provide a simple service such as motor MOTs you may fare well with a review site. If you are a restaurant, hotel or motor sales and service centre the decision will be less clear cut. If you provide high value services - legal, financial, estate agency - where misunderstandings can easily arise through lack of customer knowledge, leading to inaccurate and misleading reviews being published - you should almost certainly choose review management.

Do negative reviews hurt - or might they even add value?

One of the most common urban myths surrounding reviews says "You need the odd negative to lend credibility." We would ask you to stop and think about this for a second. Here are two examples:
  • "The shoes did not fit"
  • "Their service was unprofessional"
If the kind of complaints you receive fall mostly into the former category, you may suit a review site. If they are more likely to be critical of your service than your products - you would do well to consider review management.

Because review management will allow you to engage with the person commenting pre-publication.

How do you want to display reviews on your website?

Do you want them to conform with your own brand image - or are you happy to embed an external review site's design into your site? There is no hard and fast answer here - except your own preference.

Own you own reviews or lease them back from a review site?

A review manager will advise you how best to collect and display reviews from your customers - wherever you want, whenever you want. The reviews themselves will remain your property, to use as you wish, even if you change review managers.

With most review sites the reviews become the intellectual property of the review site itself. They then either...
  • allow you to use and display those reviews under certain conditions and circumstances or...
  • charge you for certain enhancements - commonly up-rated listings and displays
As a company we have issues with those review sites which charge their clients to provide them with a feed of their own customers' reviews - some time ago we christened them 'hostage sites'.

Linking away

More important than people often think, providing your customers with a helpful link to an external review site has its disadvantages: foremost among these is the return rate. Reliable estimates put this at less than 15%. That's five out of six potential customers who won't return to your site once they've followed en external link. Small businesses commonly think that lots of helpful links will enhance their visitor experience and their SEO at the same time - so the B&B embeds a link to the local tourist board who helpfully provide links to their competitors. The same happens with sites like TripAdvisor (who make their 'Certificate of Excellence' conditional upon a back-link). 

If customer retention on your website is an important consideration, then you should be seriously considering review management.

Do people visit the review site in question unprompted by you?

If the answer, as it is in the majority of cases, is "No, they rely on us to direct traffic to them" (notable exceptions are the likes of Facebook, Yelp and TripAdvisor) then you should think twice before you effectively add value to those sites and pay them into the bargain.

What if you consult a review manager and a review site is best advice? 

They should advise you accordingly. Review management differentiates itself from review sites in that it provides advice, it does not sell a product. Some review management services may have products to help their clients manage review - in the way that HelpHound has Dialogue (the software that enables our clients to collect and display verified reviews) - but at their core they are purveyors of professional advice.

What if you are already contracted to a review site and you need review management?

Using one does not preclude using the other. We have often advised clients to use review sites in the past; and we have clients that currently use review sites. Part of a review managers' professional role is to stay abreast of all the review solutions and advise their clients accordingly. You will see constant references to specific review sites on this blog - and they appear in the tag cloud in the column to the right of this article.


Think of a review site as...
  • accounting software
and review management as...
  • your own accountant (who may provide or recommend software)

In summary

A ten minute - free - chat with a review management professional is always time well spent. It will be all it takes to set you on the right road - the road that suits your business best.

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