Monday 23 November 2020

Why has HelpHound retained so many clients through 2020?

Last month an ex-client returned to the HelpHound fold. Here we discuss what they lost by resigning and what they regained by rejoining - and some of those reasons may surprise you more than others. 

First, the part of the iceberg that is visible above the surface: their appearance in search. This is what a HelpHound client should look like:

The stars and scores - x 3 - on the left are drawn by Google directly from the business's own reviews hosted on its own website; over 75% of the business's Google reviews have come as a result of following up HelpHound's automatic invitation after the customer has posted a review to the business's website. The 'Reviews from the web' in the centre of the business's Google knowledge panel - along with the number of reviews hosted there and the overall score - are drawn directly from the business's own reviews.

And in local search, the most important search of all:

The stars - and score - that make the business's listing jump out from the screen are drawn straight from the business's own reviews - not their Google reviews. The business's rank in local search - first of at least twenty-six local agents stretching as far as three pages in Google search - is not all down to HelpHound (they do have an award-winning website), but see 'SEO' below.

Now: this is what a similar business without the benefit of HelpHound membership looks like (you can see it in the local search above):

As you can see, without HelpHound they lost:

  • Stars in search
  • Scores in search
  • Stars in local search
  • Scores in local search
  • Their own reviews hosted on their own website - see SEO below
And - perhaps most important of all:
  • moderation - the ability to challenge reviews that contain errors of fact or misleading statement pre-publication. If you are unfamiliar with this we strongly suggest reading this article

But that, as we said above, was just the tip of the iceberg. What else did they lose - and regain when they rejoined?


As far as the Google algorithm is concerned, fifteen percent of a business's score for SEO comes from hosting their own reviews. That 15 percent may sound insignificant until one realises it is just about the only factor in a business's SEO that they have control over! It is interesting to check out any HelpHound client: look for their position in local search - you'll see the impact then.

Here is Google's own advice on improving a business's ranking in search. As you can see, there are five points - from 'Enter complete data' to 'Add photos' - and we're betting that, by now, you and all your competitors have got those two plus your location(s) and working hours buttoned down. So what is left to set you apart from your competitors? That's right:

'Manage and respond to reviews.' 

So why do so many businesses...
  • not bother to respond to reviews - at all
  • only bother to respond to negative reviews
  • not host their own reviews on their own websites
  • even when they do - not bother to respond to them
It's hardly rocket science, nor is it time-consuming. And hosting your own reviews? Less than £100 a month per location. And how much are you paying your SEO agency? 


In the UK it is illegal to:
  • selectively invite customers to post reviews - it's called 'cherry-picking' by the regulators
  • control the timing of your business's reviews - your customers should be able to write a review at a time of their own choosing
This means a business has two options: invite and allow all clients - all clients - to post their reviews direct to Google or use a system such as HelpHound, with the attendant moderation described above (alongside the SEO and marketing benefits of hosting its own reviews).


We still hear some non-compliant businesses say 'But what is the likelihood of my business being prosecuted by the CMA [for cherry-pickiing]?'

Our answer? 'We cannot say, but what we can say, for sure, is that your competitors will know what you are up to and they won't hesitate to let your potential customers know when they meet them.

The fundamental question here being 'what price your business's reputation?' With HelpHound all our clients are 100% compliant from day one - and no expensive legal fees.

In summary

We have always contended that we more than earn our fees. Our customer retention rate of well over 95% in what has been a very difficult year - possibly the most difficult year - has been gratifying.

To see a customer return like this is the icing on the cake.

Friday 13 November 2020

How NOT to respond to a review

Whilst applauding businesses that quite rightly think it is best practice to respond to reviews, it is still, sadly, easy to find the kind of response to a Google review that will result in the opposite effect intended. 

Let us analyse a real-life example:

What, exactly, is wrong with this response, and how could it have been worded better?


  1. Overall impression: this response is what is known in the trade as 'formulaic'. 
  2. It doesn't address any of the points raised
  3. It requires the customer to take action: "Could you please reach out..."
All of these are key CRM failures and convey the impression that the business simply doesn't care.

Worded better:

The rules are quite simple:
  1. Do not address reviewers by their first name unless it is the only name they have used (e.g. 'Steve H'). In this case 'Dear Mr Hollis' looks so much more professional, besides being straightforwardly polite.
  2. The accusations of being 'unprofessional and unethical' should be addressed head on: 'We pride ourselves on being both professional and ethical'.
  3. The point about the accepted offer being subsequently rejected should also be addressed as succinctly as possible, without compromising client or potential purchaser confidentiality.
  4. The reason behind the follow-up call should also be explained.
  5. A 'complaints@' email address should never be used. Apart from anything else it gives the impression that the business receives sufficient complaints to justify their own email address/department!
  6. The response should be signed off properly: 'Kyle [surname]; [position].' 
It is also a cardinal rule to bear in mind that the response be written with subsequent potential customers in mind just as much as the actual reviewer. This review is what we christened a 'killer review' some years ago, that is: a review that has the potential to stop the phones ringing - or, at the very least, put off a significant number of potential customers from making any further contact with the business.

And here's an example of those rules in action:

First the critical review:

Followed by a prompt and properly drafted response:

One final - but nonetheless important - point: underneath every review you will see how many people have voted that review 'helpful'. In two years the review above has received only one helpful vote out of the many thousands of views it will have had. 

If you have any doubts at all - about procedure or wording - please contact us.

Further reading...

  1. Responding to Reviews - so much reward for so little effort
  2. Killer reviews - an explanation

Friday 6 November 2020

Reviews: quality trumps quantity - every time

If you are buying a shirt perhaps the fact that the particular shirt you are looking at has thousands of five-star ratings will give you some comfort, but, by-and-large, if the shirt looks great you are going to buy it.

But where high-value services are concerned? The fundamentals here are altogether different: any business hoping to thrive in this sector, be they legal, financial or medical professionals, estate agents or any other service business that is asking people to part with significant amounts of their hard-earned cash their reviews score - their Google review score - needs to be at 4.5 or above before their reviews even begin to stand a chance of being read. Then the quality of those reviews needs to be high...

  • the written English needs to be as near flawless as possible
  • the content of the review needs to address the issues that most concern a prospective customer

And let's take those two points in more detail:

Written English

You cannot dictate what your customer writes, nor how it is written, but you can influence both in converation with your customer before they write their review by tactfully explaining just how important their review is for your business.


In the same way: customers will often ask you "Are there any aspects of your service that you would like me to highlight in my review?" 

Both the above serve to stress just how important personal contact is if you are to succeed in getting great reviews. It's an extension of your personal service to your customer and should be presented as such to them: "We rely very heavily on our reviews to communicate that value we add to future customers". 

And we cannot stress the word personal - in italics above - strongly enough: there is a completely understandable tendency for some businesses to attempt to absorb review management into the central marketing or admin function but this does not work. Writing a review is seen, by almost every review-writer, as a personal favour to the individual who has provided the service: their lawyer, their financial adviser, their estate agent. We see this time-and-again in the individual reviews: 'Thank you to Laura' not 'Thank you to ABC Plc'. The invitation must be sent by the individual, not the business, and followed up by the individual (for more on this see 'Procedure' below).


There are three main review-gathering mechanisms in common usage these days:

  1. In-app
  2. Text/SMS
  3. Email
And all three have their roles to play. But for complex service businesses, where quality is the aim, Email - plus follow-up phone call - is the only way. Why? Simply because extensive research over many years has shown that the first two methods, whilst capable of eliciting reviews in volume, have a marked tendency to encourage very brief reviews.


The kind of review that SMS elicits:

The kind of review written by a customer that has been approached by email with a follow-up call:

Our benchmark...

See that '...More'? It's indicative of a longer and more detailed review. We aim for at least forty percent of our clients' reviews falling into this category, simply because this kind of review has so much more impact and influence than the 'one-liner'; it's the kind of review that prompts the potential customer to make contact, and that's the ultimate goal of all review management.

It is also interesting to note that in the last example 'Aoife S-G' is a first-time Google reviewer. These are gold-dust, and are very rarely achieved by anything less than the most professional and focussed invitation, both verbal and by email.

The procedure we recommend

The first thing we say to new client businesses is: embed review management into the day-to-day culture of your business. It's not something to do when the office is quiet - although many businesses could benefit from a concerted push during the current 'lockdown lull'! - or at the end of the month; every single customer should be seen as a potential source of a review and the fact that you will be inviting them to post a review should be mentioned and reinforced at every opportunity. 

  • The first mention of the fact that you will be asking them for a review should be introduced during your initial pitch 'I'm sure you will have read some of our reviews, I will be asking you to post one if you appoint us'. This not only warns them that they will be expected to post a review it also reassures them that your reviews are a genuine reflection of your business and not cherry-picked, as so  many people assume
  • Reinforce that mention every time the customer pays you or your business a compliment during the process: 'Thank you, it would be great if you could mention that when the time comes to write your review.'
  • Every other touch point pays dividends: before you send the email inviting the review and definitely as soon as it lands in your customer's inbox. The latter takes response rates from low single digits to as high as fifty percent.
  • Customers will often ask for prompts: "What would you like me to focus on in my review?" Don't be shy!
  • Always follow up if the customer has not posted their review within seven days. 

No single client of ours has ever had anything but a positive reaction to any of these steps; after all, why should they? They have provided the service the customer appointed them for and writing the review costs the customer nothing.