Tuesday 31 July 2018

Clamping down on corporate reviews manipulation - Australia leads the way

Hardly a month passes when we don't write about compliance. Why? Because hardly a day passes when we don't see a business flouting the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wanted the fine to be A$20m, but we think A$3m probably got the message across.

The point is: do we have to wait for a similar fine in the UK before businesses take our Competition & Markets Authority seriously?

What did Meriton do?

Exactly what most businesses we meet and see every day do: choose which customers to invite to post a review and control the timing of those invitations. All across the UK businesses, some one might describe as 'blue chip' in every other way, are doing the same thing, systematically.

How can we tell? Experience mostly - and when we meet you might be surprised how many people say 'What - we have to invite everyone?' Scoring at or near a 'perfect 5' is one clue, odd patterns of review writing another (we know of one business that has roughly a hundred reviews on Google - twenty in the five years running up to 2016 and ten following, with seventy in a three-month period in between - it doesn't take a genius, here at HelpHound or at the CMA to see what happened).

So - again - the CMA regulations explicitly state that if you invite reviews at all...

  • you must invite everyone - no ifs, not buts, no 'but they will be certain to write an unfair and inaccurate review'
  • you - or the external mechanism you use - must allow them to write their review at a time of their own choosing - businesses that either invite immediately post-purchase but have no mechanism for their customer to return at a later date and either write or alter a review are non-compliant

There's a full analysis of the CMA regulations here. Please call us if you have any questions or doubts. Regulatory fines are very bad for PR (see above).

Why do businesses do it - and what should they be doing?

They do it because of three things...
  • they recognise the power of reviews, especially on Google - and sites like TripAdvisor for those in hospitality
  • they also recognise just how damaging a single negative review can be - both stand alone and the impact it has on their all-important score (they have to score 4.5 or more on Google to avoid the filter since June this year)
  • they don't know of a compliant way to protect their reputations
They should - and we make no apology for this sounding like an advertisement for HelpHound - be using professional review management.

Professional review management enables businesses to invite reviews in the knowledge that there is an inbuilt safety mechanism - moderation (we call ours Resolution™) - that stands a very good chance indeed of ensuring that inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews will not see the light of day.

How? Read this - but here's the short answer: every review that is written about a HelpHound client is read - before publication - by our moderators. If there are any anomalies in the review we alert the business and their customer and allow them to address them. It is, as you can imagine, popular with our clients, but is also, you may be surprised to hear, equally popular with the reviewers, most of whom don't want to publish nonsense - especially when the business has the ability to correct their errors if they are published.

Result? Compliance - yes. Great reviews on the business's own website? Yes (providing the business is good at what it does). Great reviews on Google? Yes.

So - and this is aimed directly at our readers who have yet to join - you will fall into one of two categories...
  • a great business that gets the occasional dissatisfied customer
  • a good business that needs to up its CRM game a tad 
...the former should join straight away - you will be compliant from day one. The latter should suspend all review gathering until its CRM has been addressed, then join. 

What you cannot do is continue 'selecting' those customers you invite to write a review - or use a mechanism that gives your business control over who writes a review and when.

Further reading...

Respond to reviews - doing so will improve your business's score

We have said it before (here's last year's article) but this article on the Harvard Business Review prompted us to repeat - and simplify - the message (and it applies to every business on the planet - not just hotels). 

Responding to reviews is proven (see here) to have the following effects:

  • customers will - on average - increase their score of you business. And with the Google filter now set at 4.5 every 0.1 counts.
  • customers will be less likely to post a negative review - because they know it will elicit a response from the business.
  • customers will 'keep to the facts' - again, knowing they will be challenged if they exaggerate
On top of that, customers that post a positive review will have that positive experience reinforced if you thank them. It will also impress readers, of whatever kind of review, if you show you care about each and every comment made by your customers. 

If you have any questions at all, about the response mechanism on a particular platform (Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook etc.) or about just how to word a particular response, just call us here at HelpHound.

Saturday 28 July 2018

The demise of the reviews sites - and an important warning

Here we go again. But bear with us, this is an important warning for unsuspecting businesses. 

The gloves come off...

It is high time we spoke even more frankly about reviews sites - so businesses relying on HelpHound for advice understand the position (even more!) clearly.

Reviews sites, through no fault of their own, have been made redundant - by Google. Not maybe. Not perhaps. Redundant - full stop. 

Ten years ago, around the time most reviews sites were founded, Google was yet to enter the reviews market; a market they now dominate as they do so many others. Let's look at this in more detail...

Reviews sites mainly break down into two distinct categories:
But Google now cover both those - for free. 

And you - the consumer - want reviews of a - any - business? You google it. 

And when you do that - guess what you see? Google reviews. 

That is, if the business has any (it staggers us just how many businesses persist with reviews sites - when the evidence is there every single time they search. Just take 20 seconds and search for your business - on your mobile, because that's where your potential customers are looking, at least 70% of them).

Does your business look like this...

What do you see - and all consumers see - lit up in lights in these searches? Google reviews, of course

Or, like so many who are still inviting their customers to post to a reviews site, like this...

   The reviews sites are here, if you look carefully enough (under 'Reviews from the web') - but how many of your prospective customers are going to take the trouble to search them out?

And products? Google has well-and-truly stolen a march on product reviews sites, by launching its free offering in January of this year...

 We're betting the reviews site's salespeople are keeping very quiet about this.

This has inevitably driven the review sites - whose bread and butter was online retail until Google gazumped that - to divert at least some of their sales efforts towards service businesses. 

So what are the reviews sites offering to such businesses? The easiest way to answer that is to look at their most recent marketing. This advertisement appeared last week (aimed at estate agents, but it could just have well been targeting any other kind of service-based business)...

Interestingly enough not the site that contacted our clients - but it could easily have been.

...point by point...

1.  'Gain valuable insight' - Google reviews will do that.

2.  'Influence customer behaviour' - agreed. But Google v. reviews sites? Rightmove answered that in their survey - recognition of Trustpilot was at 11% and Feefo at 2% - Google - has anyone not heard of them?

3.  'Generate more sales' - agreed, again. But again - whose reviews are more likely to influence purchasers? And just as important: whose reviews are more visible in search?

4.  'Improve customer service': there's no doubt that taking account of reviews helps businesses and their staff improve the service they are delivering, but it's not an argument for a reviews site over Google reviews.

5.  'Build brand credibility': Now they're losing us - how does using a reviews site (with very low consumer recognition - see point 2 above) over Google 'build brand credibility' - except, possibly, for the reviews site?

6.  'Improve you SEO' - we are glad they qualified this claim with 'can' as we monitor Google very closely and we have seen little, if any, hard evidence of SEO benefits accruing from employing a reviews site.

7.  'Increase conversion rates' - accompanied by a very precise number - 13.5% (we'd love to see the source of this). We have no argument with the contention that showing reviews on your website 'increases conversion', but we are just as concerned with getting consumers to your website in the first place - and that means Google reviews.

To sum up...

No business needs a reviews site in 2018. Those employing them should save their money and choose the free Google alternatives (which, apart from their functionality, must have more credibility as well - they certainly have more brand recognition!).

So what is HelpHound's role in all of this?

Service businesses do need someone to add value to Google - and that's why HelpHound exists. To give business's the confidence to engage with Google reviews without fear of risking their reputations - or contravening the CMA regulations. To provide support and advice all the way along the journey and to ensure our clients always have the best advice - in the strictest sense of that phrase - when they join and ever afterwards.

And to enable the business to show their own independently verified reviews on the business's own website, of course!

Our advertisement?

Let's try something like this...

'Want to generate more business? - HelpHound will ensure...
  • great reviews on your own website - safely (all your reviews will be moderated, to ensure accuracy and, as far as is possible, authenticity)
  • great reviews on Google
  • stars and ratings in organic search
  • stars and ratings in local search
  • stars and ratings in 'Reviews from the web'
Your business will, in short, look great everywhere, by working in concert with Google, not competing with it. And proof? Google will provide that, month-in month-out, via your Google My Business report...

Every business receives their Google My Business report every month. Thank you to Curchods for allowing us to share theirs with our readers.

...and we wouldn't want to crow, but these figures are unarguable and, we would humbly suggest, just a little better than 13.5%.

HelpHound - all the advantages of a reviews site and all the advantages of Google rolled into one, with none of the disadvantages.

Further reading...

  • 'Aggregator' sites - such as reputation.com and Trustist - also lack these vital mechanisms to protect high-value service businesses - and you don't want to be importing inaccurate and potentially misleading reviews into your own website.
  • The CMA regulations - you need a reviews solution that will allow every one of your customers to write a review whenever they choose - only then will you be compliant with the CMA regulations.
  • Results - you've seen the Curchods' Google My Business report in the screenshot above - now read the whole story.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Failing the Google reviews filter? This is NOT the solution!

We noticed this tweet today (and, if we can spot it you can be doubly sure Google and the business's competitors can spot it too)...

Now, we have a certain amount of sympathy for businesses that find that a tiny minority of their customers are impacting their Google (and Facebook and Yelp) images. At least the businesses in question have passed first base: they have accepted that it is essential to look as good as they possibly can on Google. But there are four big reasons that businesses should not knee-jerk into taking this kind of action...

  1. It is non-compliant with the CMA regulations - you will, in the UK at least, be breaking the law.
  2. It hands your competitors a really big stick to beat you with: 'I wouldn't trust [Dossett Dental]'s reviews, they are paid for'.
  3. It's against most sites' own T&Cs - and the last thing any business wants is to fall foul of any of these social media giants.
  4. It doesn't work - let's see what's happened to Dosset Dental's Google reviews since this promotion...

...Wow! Two whole Google reviews (and none on Facebook or Yelp) - at the risk of 1-3 above. It's simply not worth it. 

What should businesses in this position do?

First - take a deep breath, then do what you would do in any similar situation - take professional advice. And what should that professional advice be? Here goes...
  1. Adopt a long-term review management strategy (how may businesses do we see every day that have tried multiple reviews sites - sometimes more than one a year - over the recent past?). Buy a solution, after serious consideration of the options available - don't be sold one.
  2. Ensure that strategy is 100% compliant with the CMA regulations
  3. Stick to that strategy until your reviews accurately reflect your business

Essential reading...

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Reviews - the future - and some questions for Google (and Facebook)

So much of business's planning in relation to reviews currently ignores 'future-proofing'. Understandably businesses want to see quick results (and this will happen) but all too often the wrong long-term strategy is adopted, resulting in unwelcome changes of direction. In this article we will shine a light into the future by making some predictions based on our experience and professional knowledge, combined with little common [business] sense. On top of that we will highlight flaws in current reviews mechanisms, so you will be able to approach crucial decisions about review management for your business with 'eyes wide open'.

But before we go on to do that we will establish just where we are now...

Reviews in 2018

There are three main forces in the world of reviews today...

  • the reviews websites: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yell, Trustpilot, Feefo and so on
  • Google - as in 'Google reviews'
  • Facebook - as in 'Facebook reviews'
We intentionally avoided numbering this list 1, 2 and 3. Read on and you will see why.

So - going forwards?

The reviews websites will wither and die, not all of a sudden - they have far too much capital behind them (Yelp currently has a market capitalisation of over $3bn, but just look at the trajectory of its share price since Google entered the reviews market: Trading at under half its all-time-high of $100 back in 2014) - just like Yellow Pages, steam trains and canals before them, they will be gradually replaced by more efficient alternatives. 

They are already being replaced by Google - consumers don't want to visit a different site for each and every discreet need - they just want to 'google', and there is a very good reason 'to google' is an established verb in every language on the planet and 'to yelp' or to 'trustpilot' in not.

Those alternatives? Currently it is impossible to see past Google and Facebook. Why? It is simple really: [almost] everyone visits Google multiple times a day (and Facebook, to a greater or lesser extent). How many times did you visit Yelp, the biggest 'general' reviews site on the planet, to find a business last month? Exactly. At present you are many times more likely to visit Google to find a business than you are Facebook, but, depending on just how nimble Facebook is, that may change in future.

But Google will not - and must not - stand still

What does everyone see when they search? Google reviews - and that's why it is so important that they can be relied upon.

Consumers rely - more with every day that passes - on Google reviews. So Google must make those reviews as reliable as it can.

There are still many issues to be addressed with reviews in general and Google reviews in particular. We have tracked every detail of Google's evolution with reviews over the last eight years and they have come a long way, but here is our shopping list of things they will need to address if they are to maintain the lead they currently have...

 Consumers increasingly simply refer to a business's Google score - a healthy 4.7 here - before deciding to make contact with a business, so it is critically important that this score fairly reflects the business under consideration - and that it has not been manipulated in either direction by the business or other agencies (a competitor, for example)

  • Attribution and verification: there are good reasons why some reviewers should be able to maintain anonymity, both from the business they are reviewing and from the reading public, but that does not mean that anyone and everyone should be able to post a review of a business with impunity. At HelpHound we hope that Google will introduce a 'verified' category of review as soon as possible - whilst at the same time identifying unverified reviews and excluding their scores from any algorithm designed to produce the Google score.

This review was published on Google. It's impact? The hotel's bookings dried up completely. Luckily HelpHound spotted the story in the national press and stepped in to help the business appeal the review with Google, successfully. But think how you would feel is your business received a review like this. Read the full story here

  • A fair appeals mechanism. Currently any Google review that remains un-flagged will stand - doing harm to the business under review, perhaps unfairly. We think it would benefit all concerned, the business, the reviewer, the potential customer reading the review and Google, if they refined their appeals procedure to, at the very least, insist on some form of proof that a reviewer had used the product or service under review before a potentially fraudulent or inaccurate review is allowed to stand (and its score impact the business's overall score).

  But what is this business like today?

  • Time limits: Businesses change, for better or for worse, so reviews mechanisms should accommodate that. A business that has built up a great score over the years should only be allowed to maintain that score if it is reflected in its recent reviews. Conversely, a business that has improved its customer service over the recent past should not be held back by an outdated low score. By all means let the individual reviews stand, but we suggest that any reviews over 18 months old are archived for the purposes of the algorithm that calculates the business's headline score.

This review - strictly a 'rating' (but a rating currently has an equivalent impact on a business's Google score) - currently contravenes none of Google's T&Cs. Despite the fact that it has been written by someone hiding behind a pseudonym and an avatar, it carries the same weight as one like this...

...written by someone who has written over 200 reviews of other business and has used their 'real' name and a photograph of themselves. On top of that they are a Google Local Guide. But their review has been neutralises, for the purposes of the business's Google score, by Vintage Bluenote's rating. The business? An ophthalmic surgeon - would you want reviews of a surgeon you were considering using to be held to higher standards than those of a pair of shoes? Currently they are not. It goes without saying that at HelpHound we think they should be.

  • Differentiation between products and services. Product reviews are all well and good - they certainly help shift product! - but service reviews, especially those for 'high-value' services, need special treatment. We have come across so many abuses where both business (and sometimes consumers) 'work the system' to their advantage. The business that requests the review 'before the paint is dry' to improve its chances of a positive review is just one endemic example. There should be a higher 'standard of proof' incumbent on the reviewer of say, an oncologist, than someone reviewing a toaster.
  • Google to be more proactive in ensuring opinions have not changed over time. "You wrote a 5* review of ABC plc twelve months ago, has your opinion changed?" This would address the issue of businesses that only invite reviews when the product or service is 'straight out of the box' and vastly increase the value of Google reviews at the same time.
  • Don't 'partner' with reviews sites that contravene either the CMA rules or the laws of natural justice. If a reviews site favours its paying business customers over its reviewers Google should not be awarding them some kind of 'seal of approval' (Google partnership) or favouring their results in either organic search or 'Reviews from the web'. Reviews shown a Google search, in whatever way, should achieve the same stringent criteria Google sets, or will set in future, for its own reviews.

This function - 'Rating greater than [4.5]' is available to opt-in on desktop search. We believe it should be the default for any Google search.

  • Ranking in search should reflect a business's Google reviews score. Who wants 'any plumber' (or even a random list of plumbers - even if that list is based on a defined geographical radius)? And you certainly don't search for 'any lawyer' or 'any cardiologist'. Give people the results they want. And those results? The best, in the opinion of their own customers. Google already has the tools to do this, and offers them to users on mobile devices, but we think this should be Google's default.

Notes on Facebook

This may be fine for individual users or Facebook but is unhelpful for businesses (and therefore for consumers)

In theory Facebook, with its overwhelming dominance in the social sphere (Google+ comes nowhere near its penetration), should be a major force in reviews. After all, who are consumers most likely to trust? A random selection of reviews by people they don't know or reviews by their friends?

But Facebook has a long way to go to become even as business-friendly as Google where reviews are concerned. The issue stems, we suspect, from a twofold issue...

  1. It sees itself as a 'community' and that mind-set, maybe rightly, drives it to come down hard on the side of its individual users, not its business users
  2. It is a west-coast US business, and US law - especially law in the state of California - fiercely defends the right to freedom of speech - almost any speech
What does this mean for business users of Facebook?

They have two options - enabling the reviews function or not. If the business is subject to what it considers to be an unfairly damaging review on Facebook they have (with a few exceptions) very little remedy aside from simply disabling the Facebook reviews function, thereby losing all their Facebook reviews. This is not a decision that should be taken lightly, as it may well be noticed by competitors and means losing not only all the business's past positive reviews, but all future ones as well.

What does Facebook need to do?

It should review its review appeals procedure. It should allow businesses to make a case for inaccurate or potentially misleading reviews to be challenged. It should acknowledge the fact that most of its users also work for businesses, and those businesses are being unfairly harmed every day of the year by inaccurate, unfair and plain fraudulent reviews. 

In summary...

Google reviews are undoubtedly the most trusted reviews on the planet today, by such a large margin over reviews from the reviews sites we sometimes wonder why the latter persist, but - and this is a big 'BUT', Google need to take steps to protect that position, along the lines we have detailed in this article. Trust is critical if consumers are not to be misled - and lose confidence that once lost will be very hard to regain, and Google has it within its power to enhance that trust considerably. Watch this space for developments.

Car Hire Clanger: Read this story - it may apply to your business

A HelpHound staffer recently took a break in Spain. Like millions of others every year, they hired a car. So far, so very normal, so what can we learn from their experience? Well, let's work backwards from the email they received today...



Oh! Now we're getting somewhere. So what did - does - this business look like on Google?

And this...

By now you are probably asking some questions, 'Why did you rent from this horrendous outfit?' for instance. 'You are in review management, for goodness sake, don't you believe reviews?' 

The answers to those two - perfectly valid - questions are manifold, but we will try to simplify them...

1.  Pretty well all the car rental companies in this location look similarly horrendous when you read their reviews. None of them have engaged in any form of proactive review management. They are mostly stuck in the old CRM feedback loop - perversely giving a massive opportunity to the first car rental business that does engage!

2.  The business has about 300 negative reviews on Google and 75 on Trustpilot. Now we are not saying those customers did not have genuine cause to write those reviews, but businesses with massive put-through are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to review management. We estimate that this business has about 100 customers a day - that's at least 15,000 a year (allowing for the off-season) and they have 375 negative reviews in total. If all those reviews had been written in the last 12 months they would equate to less than .03% of their customers - three in a thousand. 

3.  The nature of the business: 90% of their customers arrive on only on day a week - Saturday ('change-over' day).

This does not mean to say there is no solution. That solution, as ever, is to engage. Ask customers for a review. Combine this with rigidly enforced service standards at obvious touch-points (pick up and drop off) and the business should start to look a whole lot better on Google.

The review management solution - because, make no mistake, looking as bad as this in search is deflecting significant business - is to be proactive. Use a moderated reviews solution (not the old-fashioned feedback one you have seen at the top of this article) to invite reviews, first to the business's own website and then to Google. 

The result: happy customers will begin to post reviews in numbers while unhappy customers will still have an effective channel for their views. But the business's score will go from where it is today...



...and maybe even ultimately (assuming it is a well-run customer-focussed business) to...

And then it will know the meaning of the words 'effective professional review management' and impact that has on a business's bottom line.

Friday 20 July 2018

The Google Reviews Filter raises the bar again

For longer than we care to think we have been banging the drum about just how vitally important it is to score well on Google; now Google have turned the screw by adding '4.5 and up' to their filter (the maximum score a user could choose was 4.0 until recently)...

...this means that any business scoring 4.4 or less will now not be shown - at all - to searchers that enable this filter (who - you and we might well ask - will select any other filter?).

Why have Google done this?

 direct from the horses mouth...

They are reacting to the significant upswing in the use of the qualifier 'best' in search strings ('best' plumber, 'best' estate agent) reported here last year. Google have realised that their users don't just want businesses that score 4 out of 5 - understanding, as they increasingly do, that this is likely to deliver a business that score 1 or 2 stars from up to 20% of its reviewers.

Look at the difference it makes - this time for estate agents...

...it is far from perfect (you might reasonably expect Chestertons to feature in the filtered search, for example), and we would like Google to think about factoring the number of reviews into their algorithm to add value (a single one star review next, and Imperial get filtered under this system - under a system that required a minimum number of reviews - say thirty* - few of these businesses would pass the filter, but the ones that did would have taken reviews seriously).

What more do I need to know?

This new benchmark - 4.5 - confirms what HelpHound has been saying for quite some time now: a business has to score in the high 4's to succeed. But still we meet business people that treat Google scores like an exam - '3 out of 5 is a pass' - no, it emphatically is not, and nor is 4. 4.5 is the new bar - and businesses must do everything in their power to clear that bar, staff training, effective CRM and - wait for it - professional review management.

This filter applies to all sectors and verticals now. Take action now.

*And a note on why we chose the number 'thirty' for reviews - it's at about that point that a savvy consumer begins to trust a business. Below that and the feeling that 'any business can get ten or fifteen friends and family to write a review' prevails.

Further reading

Friday 13 July 2018

Why are online estate agencies using reviews sites, not Google reviews?

Regular readers will know our views on two important issues...

  1. Reviews sites
  2. Killer reviews

...but we are going to revisit them here for the benefit of all. The BBC, as some may know, has taken an interest in what the marketplace calls 'online' estate agents (Purplebricks featured on Watchdog recently). It was reported today that a BBC researcher is asking - via Twitter - for anyone with experiences of using 'online' estate agency. Should anyone doubt the angle the BBC is taking they would do well to note the title of the programme the researcher is working for: 'Rip-off Britain'.

Now, all disruptors come in for criticism - not everyone liked/likes Laker Airways, or Google, or Uber, or AirBnB - some of it undeniably justified (growing pains?) but there are aspects of the marketing practices adopted by some of these businesses - the online estate agencies - that bear further scrutiny, and that's what this article is all about - from the reviews perspective, anyway.

1.  Reviews sites

We have one simple question for these businesses (the online agencies, not the reviews sites): 'Why not ask your customers to post to Google?'

 All our clients' customers are asked to post to the business's own website (that's where Google sources the stars and rating at top left, as the 'Reviews from the web', centre right) and Google - helpful, for both business and consumer? We certainly think so.

Google provides a highly visible reviews platform, much more visible than any reviews site (see the screenshot above) and totally dominant in mobile search. So we are at a loss as to why any business would choose any other solution. Unless, that is, the reviews sites are offering 'added value' over and above Google. But they are not; what they are offering, consciously or not, is a mechanism that has the potential to be abused by the businesses in question.


You run a business. You don't want inaccurate or misleading comments appearing anywhere your potential customers may be looking - that's fair enough, but the key words we have used are fundamental: 'inaccurate or misleading'. But never a day passes here at HelpHound that we don't come across a business that is guilty of abusing reviews - mostly out of fear, sometimes cynically. Here are the most common...
  • 'Cherry-picking' - inviting only 'happy' clients to write a review - against the CMA regulations
  • 'Friends and family' - (actually, more commonly - staff). inviting only sure-fire bets to write a review - also against the CMA regulations
Then we move onto the reviews sites...
  • 'Invitation only' reviews sites - sites where the business controls who writes the review and when it is written - what we call 'closed' reviews sites: against the CMA regulations. These specifically state, in their core rules, that any reviews mechanism must be open for the customer - any customer - to write a review at a time of their own choosing
  • 'Malicious appeals' - some reviews sites will suspend reviews pending appeal. This function was no doubt introduced by the reviews sites with the best of intentions. The flaw (and abuse) begins when you understand how some businesses use this function: by appealing just about every negative review, knowing what the reviews sites will do next (and how they differ from Google). If you appeal a Google review, the review stands until Google are satisfied that the business has grounds for appeal - only then will it be taken down (and, trust us, the appeals process is rigorous). We know of at least one reviews site that will suspend a review immediately it is appealed by the business and only reinstate that review upon proof-of-purchase by the reviewer. This behaviour is also non-compliant with the CMA regulations.

Important note: using a non-compliant reviews mechanism has far-reaching implications for businesses...
  • the CMA has the power to impose significant fines - and will use that power
  • those fines come with publicity
  • competitor businesses - if and when they become aware that a business is using a non-compliant solution - will draw potential clients' attention to that fact in negotiations
  • it leaves an indelible paper-trail - there for all (CMA/competitor businesses) to see, forever

Is there any solution?

More and more now we are meeting businesses that are aware of the CMA regulations - and have therefore decided to retreat from any reviews solution ("if we have to invite everyone, then we would rather invite no-one"). They understand the power of reviews to drive business, but they (quite rightly) have weighed this against the possibility that the solution they choose may be non-compliant. 

How does HelpHound square this circle?

Every HelpHound client has a 'Write a Review' button on their website - enabling anyone to write a review at any time. This sometimes concerns businesses until they realise that if they don't allow unhappy customers to write to them (where the review will be moderated, at least) they will take a much less desirable alternative - they will write their review to Google

By focusing first on our clients' own websites - we enable them to invite reviews there (from anyone at any time - therefore compliantly). At this point all reviews are moderated and with any that are inaccurate or potentially misleading - that crucial phrase again - we invite the business and the reviewer to engage with each-other, pre-publication. Both know that the reviewer has an absolute right to have their review - whatever its content - published, but in practice the system works wonderfully well, for both parties. The company is saved the pain caused by an inaccurate or misleading review, the reviewer is almost always grateful that they have avoided being corrected in public (via either HelpHound's or Google's response mechanism), and, perhaps most important of all, consumers who read the reviews (and use the business's Google score as a guide - as so many now do) are not misled one way or the other.

At this point - after the review has been published on the business's website - the reviewer receives an automated invitation from HelpHound to copy their review to Google (it could so easily be a reviews site instead, but why would it be?).


We would like to say that results are universally great, and they almost always are. Our clients, by definition, tend to be good businesses run by committed management. But we cannot make a bad business look good - it's one of the reasons that we are popular with businesses and consumers alike: if a business looks good on HelpHound it is good! As one client - in estate agency, no less - said to us 'HelpHound is the gold standard - and we wouldn't have it any other way; we look good on HelpHound because we are great at what we do for our customers.'

Good businesses will thrive with proper professional review management

But that's not the only feedback we get from businesses - there is another positive benefit (that feeds through to the consumer): 'As soon as we introduced HelpHound to our staff they all upped their game - because they knew they were going to be reviewed.'

The key, though, is that HelpHound is currently the only viable solution for high-value service businesses such as estate agency, wealth management, accountancy, legal and medical services - where the accuracy of reviews is paramount for everyone concerned.

Further reading...
  • Fear - don't be afraid of adopting review management for your business
  • Review aggregators - moderation is so important, that's why aggregator systems - which, by definition lack moderation (if there's a damaging review on Google or Facebook an aggregator will show it on your site) - harm their clients reputations in the long run
  • Independent review sites - this article is nearly two years old - how right were we then?