Tuesday 28 February 2017

Estate Agents - 5 rules that will guarantee success

HelpHound works - there's no arguing that - here's just the latest in a long line of success stories. But it only works for businesses that follow these five simple rules...

Rule 1: The business must have a tight focus on customer relationship management (CRM). 

If it ensures that...
  • telephone calls are answered within five rings
  • emails are responded to the day they are received
  • all staff are trained to focus on customer service as their first, second and third priories
...then it passes Rule 1

Rule 2: Warn your client...

Waiting until the deal is done and then asking for a review our of the blue is unprofessional - and it will not get you the results you business wants - and needs.
  • build the fact that you will be asking for a review into your pitch for new business
  • remind your client that you will be asking for a review whenever you can
...and it passes Rule 2

Rule 3: Reward your staff...

They are only human - and, besides, it works!
  • have an inter-office competition
  • organise a squash ladder
...and it passes rule 3

Rule 4: Value the reviews on your own website...

They are the ones that drive enquiries.
  • don't skip over it to Google
  • value Resolution - a single negative review can do untold harm
... and it passes rule 4

Rule 5: Take our advice...

You became clients of HelpHound because we are professionals - we live and breathe reviews in the same way as you live and breathe property - so please...
  • read our newsletters
  • subscribe to this blog (everyone in the office)
  • rely on our staff when they make recommendations for you
... and it passes rule 5

That's all - you'll thrive - we positively guarantee it!

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Winkworth Kennington - a template for success

Note for mobile users: click on images to enlarge

Winkworth Kennington have really made their HelpHound membership pay dividends. In this article we will go into their story in some depth in the hope that others, whether clients of HelpHound or those at the stage where they are considering coming aboard, may learn from their experience.


   Winkworth Kennington in Google search just eighteen months ago

We first met with Nigel Field and Loran Absalom nearly two years ago. Nigel has a reputation, both within Winkworth and across the world of estate agency, of being extremely marketing savvy and open to new ideas.  

They both saw the potential that publicly visible reviews had to drive business - they were already making considerable efforts to gain client feedback -  and were particularly reassured by two aspects of HelpHound's approach: 

  • HelpHound are professional review managers, not a review website, and as such have our clients' interest at heart all through the relationship - they would be Winkworth's own reviews, displayed on their own website, with HelpHound providing the mechanism and the independent verification that is so crucial if reviews are to have credibility in the eyes of the consumer
  • our Resolution™ system, because it balances the interests of the business and the consumer by allowing the business an opportunity to address potentially misleading reviews pre-publication. It removes the fear every business has of inviting harmful or damaging reviews


With Nigel's full support Loran has driven the successful integration of professional review management into the day-to-day life of the office. The negotiators have built reviews into their initial pitch at valuation and see that thread through to the review that is written on their branch website and then to Google. 

Loran's feedback to us at HelpHound has enabled us to improve not just our service to Winkworth Kennington but has even resulted in a fundamental change to our own procedures that will benefit all our clients in the future (watch this space!).


Winkworth Kennington are the best looking agent in their area in local search, desktop:

And mobile:

That message is reinforced when their potential clients visit their website:

  The scrolling carousel of review snippets to the right of our module draws the visitor's eye (to see it in action just visit their website) and our verification lends the crucial element of credibility

The 'Write your review' button:

 This small button is so important: it is what gives the whole system its credibility - by allowing anyone to write a review whenever they choose - and, crucially, ensures that the business complies with CMA regulations

The reviews themselves:  

The message from Kennington is clear: they value the reviews on their own site just as much, if not more, than the reviews they have on Google (and they are not alone - Greene & Co negotiators, for instance, print their reviews out and carry them in their vendors' packs when on valuations)

Their overall scores...

...give potential clients confidence at a glance

Their promise to publish:

... adds the crucial element of credibility

They display their reviews in their office window...

...which catches the eye of passersby

 And they have got nearly half of those reviews across to Google:

Which means looking great in the Google Knowledge Panel:

 Score - 4.8, absolute number of reviews - 40 and rising and, perhaps most important of all in terms of driving enquiries - the three rich snippets

And this is what they think of HelpHound:



In summary

Winkworth Kennington are an exemplar because they have taken both our software and our advice and driven it through the entire office, from management through their negotiators to their support staff all of whom 'now walk to work with an extra spring in their step'. And that's how we want all our clients to feel!


Tuesday 21 February 2017

HelpHound for hotels - how simple can it be?

For 2017 we have made some adjustments that will make our service for hotels even easier to understand - and adopt.

The benefits

There are two core reasons your hotel should adopt HelpHound:
  • impact on your online image
  • effect on your direct bookings

In more detail...

Looking as good as can be all over the web

It's so simple - as soon as you embed HelpHound the following happens:
  1. Negative comments - everywhere - fall
  2. Positive comments - on all open sites (TripAdvisor, Google and so on) rise
That's guaranteed. 

Direct bookings

 You know your guests want to read reviews before booking - HelpHound enables you to display them on your own website so you can increase your chances of the guest booking direct - no clicking away to OTAs

You know your guests are looking for them - so HelpHound enables you to show them. That way there's far less temptation to go elsewhere. 

Commission saved. 

And there's more...

Feedback Manager

Do you respond to your online reviews? Everywhere? Fine - you don't need Feedback Manager. But so many hoteliers tell us that they lack the resources to manage this aspect of their business, so we do it for them - full time or part time (during staff holidays, for instance).

This response - personal and professional - will impress anyone reading the review. Note that the hotel has addressed the positive comments in the review rather than just posting a simple 'thank you' as so many do.

Some of you may be asking 'Why is it so important to respond to reviews?' The answer is simple:
  • it impresses future guests
  • it reduces the likelihood that a disgruntled guest will post a negative review

The full service

HelpHound is so much more than just software. We are review managers and we will provide ongoing help and support on anything related to reviews - including appealing unfair TripAdvisor or Google reviews. We are here to make sure our clients present the best possible image online, as they do physically with their properties.

The punchline:

Now for £1 a room/month. No ifs, no buts. With no contract for the first six months - that's how confident we are that you will see the benefits - fast.


Thursday 16 February 2017

HelpHound: so much more than just Google

Because HelpHound is about so much more than just software we end up speaking to our clients every day of our working lives; sometimes it's an issue with a single review, at other times we are liaising with them their web designers over bespoking their HelpHound feed or module. But invariably one subject will always crop up - Google.

All engaged business managers and owners will always be aware of how their business appears in search:
  • where does it rank in natural search for popular searches?
  • is it appearing in the 3-pack for those searches?
  • does it score well?
  • are the first half dozen reviews positive?
  • are all three rich snippets in the Knowledge Panel positive?
And this is as it should be.  And it's a big part of HelpHound's role on your behalf to make sure your are able to answer the review-related questions above - the third, fourth and fifth - in the affirmative.

Much more than just Google

 'With (R) or without (L)' - if you doubt the power of hosting reviews on your own site we would respectfully suggest a chat with Nigel Field or Loran Absalom at Winkworth Kennington! At the very least google 'Winkworth Kennington and follow the consumer journey

But never lose sight of the benefits of having reviews on your own website; many of our clients actually value those reviews more than those on Google. Here are some of the comments we hear:

"Potential clients often come direct to our website, bypassing Google - so the reviews we show there are the first they see."

Examples: when they follow a link from another site - a portal, for instance.

"We often use our reviews in our marketing."

Examples: window displays, advertising and other marketing. Bear in mind that the reviews on your website are yours, not Google's not HelpHound's - your own, to display wherever and whenever you like.

"Even if the client has at first been attracted to our website in the first place by our Google reviews, the fact that we host independently verified reviews on our website encourages them to make that critical first contact."

Note: always ask enquirers what prompted them to make contact. 

More than 'just reviews' as well 

If it's remotely reviews-related, we are here to help and advise:
  • a factually incorrect or misleading review has appeared on Google? We will show you how to appeal it
  • the same for any other website
  • issues with G+ or the Google Knowledge Panel? We will advise
  • concerned about the Google Filter or 'Top Rated'? We will help
  • Google introduce anything else like these two, we will be here to offer a solution 
HelpHound: here to support your engagement with the world of reviews - and Google (but not just Google)!

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Responding to reviews - the unforseen benefits

Is yours one of the 92% of businesses that does not currently respond to online reviews? Read on...

In few areas of review management are so many benefits achieved for so little effort. And some of those benefits are not immediately obvious. Here we show you just what we mean, but first let's look at how your potential customers consume reviews in the first place.

Checking the 'worst' first
This little tab is clicked by everyone

It's basic human nature. You know you do it, and so does everyone looking at your business. So let's look at two real-world examples - both taken from Google - one for a client business one from one that's not. The non-client first:

Then our client:

And not just the negative reviews (another HelpHound client): 

And now: the lessons...
  1. The simple act of responding to the review will impress anyone reading it
  2. The responses have been written with the certain knowledge that many more people than just the writer of the review will be reading it firmly in mind
  3. The Google review box is a fixed height - as shown in these screenshots - in the first example three - nearly four - one star reviews show. In the second, only one, thanks in part to the space taken up by the business's response
  4. The simple act of responding to the review sends out a very powerful message to subsequent reviewers: that their review will be responded to. This keeps future reviewers genuine, and will give those tempted to 'have a rant' serious pause for thought
  5. By being a HelpHound member the business has the moral high ground; not only can it say [words to the effect that] 'Why didn't you contact us before posting this review?' but also 'You were invited to write a review direct to us but declined our invitation.'
All of the above add up to a message that will seriously impress a prospective customer. Think of it from their point-of-view, do they want a business that ignores reviews, or one that:
  • invites reviews - from all their customers?
  • publishes them on their own website and gets them to Google?
  • engages with their reviewers if they raise any issues?
  • responds to those reviews?
By now we expect we are all on the same page. Responding to reviews should not be seen as a chore any more than responding to a client email - it should be part-and-parcel of any modern business's standard operating practices.

Note: If you would like a copy of our memo 'How to respond to a Google review' which deals with the mechanics, please just call us.

Friday 10 February 2017

Estate Agents: Don't incentivise customers to write reviews

Apart from being against Google T&Cs:

You run the risk of:

This incentive backfired in more ways than the agent (not a client of ours) could possibly have envisaged

But mostly because it should be unnecessary.

Just follow these guidelines:  

Our clients got to look as good as they do on their own websites and on Google - by a simple combination of following these Guidlines and working hard - there's no shortcut.

Related post:
  • Selection is against the law: read about the Competition and Markets Authority rules here

Thursday 9 February 2017

HelpHound - in ten steps

Here's the latest version of one of our popular visual aids (click on the images to enlarge):

It is a visual walk through the visible benefits of membership, but that's not all there is to being a client of HelpHound. We will support you all the way, from the day you join until you look great on your own website and great on any other sites that matter to you and your customers (in the example above it's Google - for obvious reasons, but if you are a hotel or restaurant it could be TripAdvisor as well - and we won't neglect Facebook and social media - just look at Greene & Co on Facebook!). After that, we will keep you right up-to-date with what ever will impact your business in the future: know about the Google filter? You heard about it here first. Star ratings for just one review? - here again.

If you would a copy of this memo emailed to you just complete the form on the right.

Google star ratings - now for any business with just one review

Last weekend Google expanded its star ratings - for the first time introducing ratings for those businesses with less then five reviews. This is what it looks like:

In Map search:

Last week this looked like a simple list of estate agents - only one had a star rating - how differently do you think potential customers will react to it now?

In business specific search:

The implications:

Google are determined that their users will take notice of reviews, that is for certain. This move highlights, for the first time, those businesses that have yet to engage with reviews. In the example above none of the businesses have engaged, and how that shows since the star ratings were rolled out.

The impact:

The impact is squarely on low volume businesses - like estate agency, legal and financial. Hospitality and retail, which have massive footfalls, already have critical mass; the aforementioned invariably don't.

The opportunity: 

This is a massive opportunity for well managed customer-focused businesses in these neglected sectors to really shine. To look like this:

Most regular readers will recognise this HelpHound client. If your business is not yet a client of ours just pause for a moment and imagine it looked like this by the end of the year. That's the HelpHound effect. Now, more than ever, you need the most experienced review managers in the business on board.

And this:

It is not rocket science - consumers are impressed by businesses that care enough to ask their customers to write reviews; Google know that - it's why they are putting so much effort and resource behind reviews. Shouldn't your business be doing the same?

A note of caution

Before you simply rush to get reviews direct to Google, bypassing your own website, read this or speak to us.


Wednesday 1 February 2017

Review Management in 2017 - a Guide

Every year we publish a compendium of recent articles that is intended to be a comprehensive guide to those new to review management in general and HelpHound in particular.

We commend this years' to everyone - our clients and those yet to join - because so much has happened in the world of reviews in the last twelve months, and the pace of change is unlikely to slacken any time soon.


Almost always the first topic - simply because Google is the gateway to your business (even if just to find your phone number). 2016 and the first weeks of 2017 have seen fundamental developments that directly impact every business.
  • There has been a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour when searching for a business on the web - away from the independent review sites towards Google
  • There has been a huge upswing in both the number of reviews being posted on Google and reviewers posting there; businesses that had no - or few - reviews last year now have dozens
  • Google have introduced a filter for users that enables users to exclude businesses from search results if they have fewer than five reviews and/or they score less than 4.0 out of the maximum 5
  • Alongside the filter Google have begun rolling out 'Top Rated' which has the same effect as the filter with a single click


Reviews are regulated by the government through the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA has rules - the spirit and wording of which must be complied with by businesses and their professional advisers.


Some businesses, often prompted by a competitor or a single negative review, have embarked on their own review management. This can be a useful first step, but a word of caution from those at HelpHound for whom review management is a full-time job:
  • To comply with the CMA rules (see above) whatever mechanism a business adopts must be open to all its customers, not just those that the business knows it can rely on to write a positive review
  • it is difficult for a business to invite and display its own customers' opinions on its own website and call them reviews, the first stumbling block is often the business's reaction to the idea of displaying a harmfully negative comment that it has invited itself
  • inviting all customers to write a review without a mechanism for managing inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews in place risks lasting harm to your business's reputation

Independent review sites

From the early 2000's independent review sites led the way while Google slumbered like the proverbial giant it has become. These sites appeared prominently in search and, despite flaws - fake reviews, fraudulent reviews, flaming and trolling - those that achieved critical mass like Yelp and TripAdvisor flourished. The recent surge of Google into a space that it alone controls - search - has sounded the death-knell for the smaller independent review sites (and even Yelp, which pulled out of the UK in 2016). They now simply don't have the visibility - the world of reviews outside of your own website now consists of Google first and Facebook next.

Reasons not to engage with reviews addressed

Up until the recent Google surge most businesses outside the world of hospitality could adopt a fairly relaxed approach to reviews - if they were getting reviewed it was mostly happening on small sites with little - and reducing - visibility in search. Now it is Google all the way - even one review on Google is served prominently for everyone to see. Your potential customers may not even be looking for reviews, but they will see them anyway.

So let's look at some of the reasons that businesses have so far not engaged:
  • Fear: fear that engaging with the world of reviews might do their reputations lasting harm. For well-managed businesses all that is needed to allay these understandable concerns is our Resolution™ mechanism
  • Doubt: as to the power of reviews to drive business. We challenge you to look at the 'with' and 'without' examples in this article and ask if your business would not improve its bottom-line performance by engaging review management professionals?
  • Cost: is review management yet another drain on business resources? Or is it an essential business tool in the 21st century?
  • 'Would our customers object to being asked to write a review?' We hear this less and less, but this article addresses our clients' experience of asking their customers for reviews
If your business has no - or less than five - reviews on Google we suggest you read 'Think your business won't get reviewed?

In Summary

Reviews seem such a simple concept, but we hope that this article has shown that it is important to ensure that the right approach is taken every step of the way, and that professional review management such as we at HelpHound provide for our clients is an invaluable asset for any business or service.

If you require more information about any of the topics covered here please don't hesitate to contact us - just use the box on the right - or phone 020 7100-2233 and we will be delighted to help.