Monday 14 December 2020

Are you giving away one of your greatest business assets?

More and more attention has, quite rightly, been focused on the security - and value - of personal data online. One area of this that has mostly, until now, flown under the radar is reviews.

Let us explain: when a consumer posts a review on a review site, or a site that simply hosts reviews alongside its main business (Amazon is a good example of this) - Trustpilot, Yelp, Facebook, Feefo or any other - they do far more than simply review the business or product they have bought. They also give the review site the following (as a bare minimum)...

  • their email address
  • the fact that they have bought a specific product or service
  • the fact that they are a customer of a specific business
...and, crucially, in almost every instance, permissions to deal with that information as the site in question wishes, with few limitations. 

And that information - call it data if you like - has a value.

The question every business should now be asking itself is 'Are we simply giving an external business our own customers' data? And, if so, are we getting sufficient value for doing so?'

There is no doubting that consumer reviews, of themselves, are a valuable commodity and we would humbly suggest that they are a commodity so valuable that a business should think long and hard before 'giving' their customers' reviews to any external website, along with the valuable personal data that will invariably entail.

Our advice

In almost every instance we advise our clients to retain control of their own customers' reviews; hosting them on their own site and not therefore giving them or their attendant data to any other entity.

With one exception: Google. For the following reasons:
  • Google reviews have influence that is more far reaching, by far, than any independent review site
  • Google reviews are seen by every person searching for any business
  • Google will almost certainly already have been given your customers' personal details by your customer (they will have used other Google products and, these days, almost certainly have written one or more Google reviews)
  • Google is by far the most popular search engine (87% of the UK search market as of October 2020), and anyone using it knows that Google is tracking their every keystroke already
In addition, Google credits businesses that host their own reviews on their own websites for SEO purposes - for more on this important benefit, read this article.

So: host your own reviews on your own website and get as many as possible to Google. 

Further reading...
  • Some people reading this will be understandably nervous about inviting reviews to Google; for reassurance read about moderation and why it is such a key ingredient of professional review management

Just one review can stop the phones ringing

We call them, as regular readers will know, 'killer reviews'. So what exactly is a killer review?

Let's begin with what they are not...

  • They're not the common one-liner one-star review. Needless to say, no business wants this kind of review (it impacts their Google score just as much as a well-reasoned one-star review), but it is the least damaging negative review of all. If the business has plenty of great reviews most right-minded people will ignore this kind of review.

  • They're not the rants. We define a rant as a badly written diatribe - or it could simply be a well-written diatribe; the point is that the contents of the review will be seen by most reasonable people for what it is: an over-reaction. The review above contains not a shred of evidence to back up any of its contentions; again, most readers will give the business the benefit of the doubt providing it has plenty of positive reviews.

  • They're not the 'unreasonable criticism': the vegan criticising a seafood restaurant for serving fish, the recipient of a misdirected email haranguing the business for daring to have the wrong email address. While it is understandably irritating, and even unprofessional if there were no extenuating circumstances, to have been kept waiting, it's probably best resolved outside of a Google review. The English - 'cause of' doesn't add weight either. Plenty of positive reviews will drown this kind of review out.

Here's how we define a killer review. It is...
  • written in good English
  • written by someone that has already given the business a chance - to correct whatever issue it contains - often more than once
It contains...
  • multiple examples of inefficiencies, lapses in communication, and other missteps

Here is an example...

Need we say more about the content of this review? But on the impact? 
  • The business will be automatically excluded from local or generic searches where the searcher has the Google review filter enabled - as a result of their poor score
  • Five people have already voted the review 'helpful' - the thumbs up at the bottom left. That has to be five potential customers at the very least. We estimate that for every reader that bothers to vote this way, up to a hundred others will have read the review.

What should this - and any other business finding itself in receipt of such a review - do?

The very first thing? Respond to the review. Not a 'please email complaints@' but a thorough and considered response addressing every point raised in the review. When drafting such a response be sure to remember that the reviewer has the right to reply and, most important of all, your response will be widely read by future prospective customers when they search for your business.

The next? Implement a review management strategy. The review shown above is the only review this business has, so it completely dominated the impression created by this one review. The review's one-star rating has also become the business's Google score by default: 1.0. Just one five-star review will lift that score to 3.0, another three and it will be 4.2, and so on.

Further reading...