Tuesday 23 April 2024

Which business would you trust...

With your health or wealth? 

Take two - to all intents and purposes identical - businesses. Let's assume a friend or colleague has recommended them to you. What is your next logical step? Call them? Look at their website? Well, to do anything like that you're almost bound to resort, at least initially, to searching online. And, here in the UK at least, that search means 'Google'.

And so here they are: 

Business 1

Business 2 

We said that these two businesses were 'virtually identical'. Let's take a closer look...
  • They are both estate agencies
  • Both locations are a single branch of a business with multiple branches (so no marked difference in transaction rates)
  • They both transact a mix of business - sales and lettings
  • They both have Google reviews dating back over many years, Business 1 since 2018, Business 2 since 2017
  • Both had a Google score in the mid-3s (3.2 and 3.4) in 2019

Now: where do they differ?

Up until 2020, not a lot. Business 1 had 11 reviews and business 2 had 19. But then they begin to diverge. Over the last 4 years...
  • Business 1 has averaged 13 reviews a year, 1 a month
  • Business 2 has averaged 106 reviews a year, 9 a month
  • Business 1's reviews scored them an average of 3.42
  • Business 2's reviews scored them an average of 4.96

So what made the difference?

In 2020 Business 2 joined HelpHound. Since then they have...
  • asked every stakeholder - vendor, purchaser, landlord and tenant, for a review
  • and allowed others, anyone at all, to write a review via their website
Now, the more cynical of our readers will be thinking: that way misery lies. Asking everyone and allowing anyone is tantamount to inviting negative reviews. Our answer would be 'yes', but for one crucial ingredient of the HelpHound mix: moderation (see more on that subject here and below). This is the core offering at HelpHound that gave the second business the confidence to do just that.

In the real world

There's an awful lot of noise on the web surrounding reviewer behaviour (and we're the first to admit we've contributed our fair share) but the results you see above are 'real world' and they are shared by the overwhelming majority of our clients. So let's forget the theoretical for a moment and relate what actually happens.

1.  If you incentivise your staff to gather reviews from your customers they will do so (Both: your staff will get reviews and your customers will willingly post them)

2.  An emailed invitation to post a review, when followed up with a 'Please post, it's important...' phone call, takes response rates from low single figures to above one in two - from 0.5 - 2% to over 50%

3.  Inbound enquiries increase in direct relation to improved score and volume. And its easy to measure, it will happen as soon as the business scores over 4.5 and accelerate when it scores 4.8 of more

4.  Once a business's score has climbed over 4.5 inbound enquiries through search and web rise by between 15 and 25%, measurably. We have at least one client where enquiries more than doubled (as measured by Google)

5. The quality of business transacted improves. Graet scoreas and great individual reviews drive high-value enquiries. Look at these outstanding results 

See that thumbs up at the bottom left? Five years ago a review would be lucky to get one in a year, now one a month is not unusual. Why are these important? Since Google dropped its 'views' statistics (we suspect they were undermining sales of Google advertising - why advertise when your reviews are doing a great job?) they are the only indication a business is going to get that its reviews are being read. We estimate that only about one in a hundred people reading a review can be bothered to click on the thumb, so five thumbs up might easily equate to 500 views of that single review (in this case, over the past twelve months).

Even if this business didn't lead in search, it's leading score of 4.9 from 446 Google reviews would ensure a great flow of enquiries. Having a score of 4.9 from 663 of its own reviews (the reviews it hosts on its own website - invited through and moderated by HelpHound, although many consumers assume they are awardrd by Google somehow) showing right under its listing reinforces the message: Click here! Use us! And just suppose the searcher had been recommended to use one of the other businesses in this search? We're betting they would be giving serious consideration to contacting our client as well.

6. The businesses value their 'stars in organic search' and the reviews on their websites very highly indeed. How do we know? There was a negative/positive just over a year ago when we were moving web servers. Although we had performed all the operations you would think essential for such a move (backups/mirroring) as well as making the move over a weekend, some business's schemas - the mechanism that enables Google to see the business's own reviews hosted on its own website and delivers those stars in search, didn't function for a short period. The howls from those clients were heard across the Atlantic (where our servers are). Clients know that stars in search are highly influential

So many good things flow from this part of the front page of the business's website. First the obvious: the visitor (invariably a potential or existing client, but other stakeholders as well) can see other's opinions of the business - all 663 reviews are a click away. The 'Write a review' button next to the number of reviews takes them straight to the business's review function, where, once the review is written it is read by a HelpHound moderator before being posted back to the business's website (with the reviewer being automatically invited to copy it to Google).

7.  By adopting moderated review management the business is given the confidence to open itself up to reviews, both from stakeholders and from others. We have noticed a distinct fall-off in negative reviews to Google as soon as businesses begin inviting reviews, right across the service business spectrum; we can only assume because consumers have more respect for the kind of business that acts in this way, so are more likely to approach the business with the issue that is concerning them, either by picking up the phone, emailing or going to the business's website and clicking on 'Write a review', in preference to heading straight to Google to write what might be a misconceived, factually inaccurate or just plain unfair, but potentially extremely harmful review there

In conclusion

You will see from a glance at this word cloud that the common denominator of all our clients is the fact that they provide advice; that does not mean that HelpHound won't take on a product-based business, it is a simple fact of life that service-based businesses and their customers/clients/patients rely far more heavily on accurate Google reviews

No well-managed customer-service-focused business needs to be wary of Google reviews. The advantages of proactively engaging through a moderated system, both positive - increased enquiries and lead-flow followed by supported conversion - and defensive: against inaccurate, misleading or plain unfair Google reviews, are proven and achievable over a very short time scale (we took one client from scoring under 3 to 4.6 in less than two months; they now score 4.8).

Our guarantee

We provide new clients with a cast-iron guarantee of success with Google reviews. This does not mean that, unlike some other review solutions, we will promise make any business look great: it means that all our clients are great businesses that strive to provide an exceptional level of service to every single one of their clients or patients and we enable them to look as good as they deserve.

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