Tuesday 23 November 2021

Why you should respond to all your reviews

The overwhelming majority of businesses still don't respond to their reviews. In this article we will address just why it is so important to do so and we'll share our years of experience in advising businesses how, where and when to respond. 

1.  Reviews are one of the most visible references of and for your business there is, and the overwhelming majority of consumers now use them; current estimates vary from 75 - 90% of consumers referencing reviews before purchasing a product or even going so far as to enquire about a service (put yourself in the position of someone requiring an oncologist or a builder - would you take the minutes needed to read their Google reviews?). 

If a business responds to the review its response is just as likely to be read as the review itself. Look at this example:

The review is a fortnight old and already 4 readers have taken the trouble to vote it 'helpful' (we estimate that between one in ten and one in twenty readers bother to vote - on that basis between 40 and 80 people have seen/read this review).

All of the potential clients - for whoever else would be reading these reviews? - will have also read Natasha's response.

2. Your response is a great - and free - opportunity to highlight your business's USPs. Here's another response, this time on Google:

Again: besides being basic good manners (the client has taken the trouble to write a review, surely the very least the business can do is thank them?) the response gives the business a great opportunity to reinforce some of the compliments paid in the review.

3.  Now on to the less obvious. First: there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that shows that businesses that respond to reviews receive fewer negative reviews. Think about it: if you are not entirely happy with a business there is, these days, a temptation to resort directly to writing a review. When such an individual sees that the business they are about to review invariably responds to their reviews how much more likely are they to give the business a chance to rectify whatever issue they may have offline, at least in the first instance? 

Every single customer complaint should be viewed as having the potential to turn into a harmful - and publicly extremely visible - negative review. Here's just such an example - in this case the business has failed to satisfy the customer offline and a negative Google review has resulted... 

And the business's response? A classic case of 'ignore the key points raised that any other reasonable potential customer might be interested to hear the answers to'...

The requested title, given that the above is a review posted to Google, of 'Trust Pilot SOS' will only serve to encourage readers to go to that review site and be faced with nearly 2,000 one and two star reviews of the business there.

4. This leads directly to our next point: when responding address the issues the customer has raised. As much as the business might like the conversation to take place in private and offline - usually by responding with a generic 'I'm sorry, please could you contact complaints@business.com' such a request will not have the desired effect, not only for the reviewer but, importantly, for others who read the review and will be intrigued to see how the business responds (and addresses specific points which may well be of interest to them):

This, again, is an example of a business misunderstanding - or simply not thinking through - the role of reviews and responses. The reviewer clearly states their issues with the business and any sensible reader will be interested to see how the business responds to those issues. The business had a cardinal opportunity to communicate with all stakeholders: potential customers as well as the specific customer/reviewer. 

How much better, for all concerned, if the response had addressed the issues directly: 'Dear Mr* Gabbett () [insert reason for the initial delay]/[reason for only half of order being delivered]/[reason for the further delay]' along with the promise to contact the customer directly with specific details?

*using the reviewer's surname and the salutation Mr/Ms etc. can never be criticised, already irate customers sometimes react very negatively to the use of their first name

5.  However great the temptation, never ever get into a tit for tat exchange with the reviewer (remember that most platforms, including Google and Trustpilot, allow the reviewer to either edit their original review - as has happened under 3. above) or post a new one in response to the business's reply).

Far better to simply apologise, even if you have to grit your teeth - remember you are predominantly addressing the subsequent readers of the review (the reviewer may not even read your response - there is a common tendency to 'review and move on') - just explain the action your business took to rectify the situation in such a way that any reasonable person will shrug and say to themselves 'well, at least they apoligised and I understand what action they took, they did their best'.

6.  In the same vein: never, however much it may support your case, disclose personal information about the reviewer. Not only may this leave the business on shaky legal ground it also transmits an entirely negative message to prospective customers reading the response ('Do I want to be dealing with the sort of business that will publicly disclose personal information in this way?').

At first reading you may well be saying 'we would never do this' but we can assure you we see daily instances where personal information, often personal financial information, is disclosed in responses by businesses (examples consist of disclosing the - lack of - creditworthiness of the reviewer or the reviewer's supposed unwillingness to pay invoices, to name but two).

HelpHound members

All HelpHound members have a one-click facility that enables them to respond to every review on their website and we heartily suggest it is used, for the reasons outlined above. If you are in any doubt as to the mechanism or wish to receive advice on the wording of your response we are here to help.

The same applies to Google reviews. Just log into your Google My Business account at business.google.com and follow these easy steps:

Then select 'Reviews' from the left-hand menu...

And click the 'Reply' button found under any reviews yet to be responded to, remembering that as soon as you click 'Post reply' your response will be publicly visible under the review...

That's it!

Remember: we're here to help and advise. All the time. So if you are in any doubt whatsoever about procedure, strategy or wording just call us.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Have your cake and eat it!

 This flyer was sent out by a business this week...

What a pity.

Let us explain: how much more powerful would that have been had the business in question adopted a Google-focussed solution?

It has sixty-one reviews on Trustpilot, but what does a prospective client see when they search online?

Remember: Mobile searches now outnumber desktop by 2:1 and that number is growing every month

Google. How much more powerful if they had directed their sixty reviewers there? 

How much more credible? 

How much more visible?

So - no excuse - focus on Google. Or is there more to it? We have heard many reasons for going elsewhere - or even doing nothing - over the years. Here are some...

  • Fear. Pure and simple. Fear of the dreaded killer review appearing where it can do the most harm: on Google. There's some perverse logic at work here: a damaging negative is somehow acceptable on Trustpilot or Feefo, because 'it won't do so much harm' ! But why engage with reviews in the first place? To get them seen by as many potential customers as possible, of course. And that means Google. But with a safety mechanism: moderation. 
Employing a moderator boosts the value of your reviews for everyone: the writer of the review (who doesn't want to mislead anyone), the reader (who is relying on the veracity and accuracy of the review to make a crucial choice) and lastly, and self-evidently you, the business owner. 
A professional moderator will read every single review written to your business's website and then interact with whichever of the three parties to the moderation process they need to to, as far as is humanly possible, eradicate any factual errors or statements likely to mislead a reader.
  • Everyone else is with [name of review site]. So much of marketing involves looking at one's most successful competitor and then taking their lead. But here's a massive exception: Google don't have a salesforce where their reviews are concerned, so you're never going to get a call selling Google reviews. It's up to you to work out the right solution for your business. Here's a hint: if it is a service or professional business - as opposed to online product/retail - you need to be focussing all your review efforts on your own website and Google. 
And: your customer data is extremely valuable, so you need, as far as possible, to retain control over it, not be giving it away to a review site.
  • Consumers won't write a review to Google. We nearly left this one out, but so many businesses missed out on the early days of Google reviews because of this popular misconception. Google now hosts over ten times the number of reviews as Yelp, the biggest quoted review site. If you ask a hundred people to write a review, anywhere, you're never going to get 100 reviews. But we commonly - and confidently - advise clients to target to get 50% of their customers to write a review to their website and then 50% of those to copy their review to Google.
  • [name] review site gives us a drop-in widget that is so easy from a tech point-of-view. That's like saying 'I'm going to do what's best/easiest for my web designers rather than what's best for my business'. Google is so demonstrably the end focus of your review management, but you simply cannot afford to run the risk of inviting reviews unmoderated - see 'Killer reviews' - so your web people must be competent to fully implement a review management API, allowing Google to scrape your own reviews to boost your local SEO.
  • If Google is the right place to have our reviews, why bother with our own website? For two main reasons: first, if you are in a high-value service business or one of the professions you need moderation. It's not a 'nice to have' add-on, it's absolutely core. Without moderation it's only a matter of time before a factually inaccurate or potentially misleading review gets published to Google. And those have the potential to stop the phones ringing, it is simply too high a risk to take with your business's hard-won online reputation.
The second reason: owning your own reviews; don't give that valuable data away unless you're getting something equally valuable in return. In the case of Google you will be (an uplift in enquiries), but you will be far better off, both financially and presentationally, owning your own reviews in the case of those displayed on your website.

If any readers can add to this list we would welcome your feedback, simply use the 'Contact us!' box on the right and we'll include your point along with our response right here.

It's never too late!

Finally, resist the temptation to say 'well, we committed to X review site and its been hard work getting all those reviews, so we'll stick with it'.

We have had great success taking businesses with many hundreds of reviews elsewhere and getting them a well-established profile in Google reviews in short order. 

Have your cake (with lots of great reviews - that you own - on your website) and eat it (with lots on Google too).