One of our staff has a bit of a thing for Italian sports cars. His needed a repair, so he used a company called Chipsaway.
Before doing so he consulted every resource on the web – the marque forum and all the review sites. Chipsaway’s local franchisee had no reviews on Google, but was so convincing when he visited to quote he was given the job.
Afterwards our man was invited by Chipsaway HQ to post a review to TrustPilot, but he decided to write his review to Google. Why? For three main reasons:
Chipsaway already had over 1500 reviews on TrustPilot
TrustPilot’s system did not allow a review to be posted of the local franchisee who actually carried out the work, just Chipsaway in general (although the review could, of course, have mentioned Jas – the franchisee who carried out the work, future customers would have had a devil of a job identifying Jas amongst the 1500+ reviews)
Jas, the franchisee who carried out the work, had no reviews on Google
Today – five months later – our man received an update from Google (he’s a local guide). What did that reveal?
this image, viewed 1042 times in five months, is only ever seen by someone clicking on ‘see photos’ in the business’s knowledge panel or reading the review in question
…that his photograph – and, we must therefore assume, his review (for his review remains the sole Google review of this business in this location) has been viewed over 1000 times. To put that in context: to see that photograph someone would have had to do the following:
search for ‘Chipsaway Chiswick’
view their knowledge panel:
and then: click on ‘See photos’
or the review itself…
…to see that photograph.
Now, Google guard the metrics of their page-views very carefully, but this is pretty conclusive evidence that Google reviews are reaching a very wide audience indeed.
So what do businesses need to do to be seen in 2017? We would humbly suggest that they need reviews on Google. Way over and above any other site.
Before that, to make sure that their reviews are factually accurate and not harmfully misleading – or even posted maliciously – they need HelpHound, which will also mean they have star ratings in natural search and a link in the Google knowledge panel under ‘Reviews from the web’…
1: the business’s own reviews and star rating, collected with HelpHound; 2: Google reviews invited using HelpHound; 3: the business’s own reviews – again – linking direct to the business’s own website; 4: Google rich snippets gleaned from the business’s Google reviews
…not to mention great independently verified reviews of their own on their own website.
Thanks Jas; you did a great job, and we sincerely hope that this review has helped – it has certainly helped us understand just a little more about the power of Google reviews.
One of the prime concerns we hear from every single potential client is “What can we do about negative reviews?”
And often we sense that the immediate response they would most welcome would be something along the lines of “we have a mechanism that will prevent them being published, either on your own website or anywhere else.”
But that’s not our response. Our response is guided by two things:
sensible business practice
the CMA regulations governing reviews
Let’s look at both of these:
Sensible business practice
Just let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, we did have a system that magically filtered out negative reviews; what would the real-world impact of such a system be?
We don’t have to look far for our answer, as there are plenty of independent review sites that operate systems that favour the business, either by denying the reviewer the right to post a review unless specifically invited or by having a mechanism that allows the business to impose conditions on the publication of negative reviews.
Both these systems have the same medium to long-term effect. They drive dissatisfied customers to post to Google – the one site a business needs to look at its very best on. We see examples all the time. Here is just one…
The same business – on an independent review site (L) and on Google (R). An increasingly common disconnect, almost always caused by the business inviting ‘happy’ customers to post to the reviews site, leaving ‘unhappy’ customers no option but to post to an open site – Google being the obvious choice
Sensible business practice dictates that whatever system a business adopts it must positively welcome all kinds of reviews from everyone and anyone. After all, Google does.
What happens next is important. At HelpHound we value our own reputation as a force for good in the somewhat murky world of reviews, and to maintain that reputation means treating both sides of the review equation equally – we have to be seen to be fair and credible to both business and consumer, and we need to be seen to be adding value in both directions. That means that the business should be fairly and accurately represented through its reviews and that the consumer should be able to rely on those reviews as an aid to their purchasing decision.
Inaccurate reviews – in this case pricing – help neither business nor consumer
Fake reviews, of any kind, help no-one. Inaccurate or misleading reviews ditto.
HelpHound’s Resolution™ to the rescue – for both parties
The full process is detailed in this article. To summarise, Resolution™ is designed to minimise the chances of fake, inaccurate or misleading reviews being published, as none of these benefits anyone.
Here’s an example. This review was posted recently:
Under the terms of Resolution™ – understood by both business and their customer – the review is first submitted to the business for comment. In this case there had been misunderstandings between the two parties concerned, as well as miscommunication (there were language issues). Resolution™ allowed for private communication between both parties and, again, as of right, the customer is invited to post a review after that communication (which can be their original review, but seldom is). This is what they did post:
Some might say that it would be helpful for both reviews to be published (and there is nothing to stop the reviewer doing so) but that would be to assume we inhabit a perfect world in which everyone communicates in both directions every time. Far too often a consumer will post an inaccurate or misleading review – often straight to Google – leaving the business nothing to do but post its own response. But that harms the business’s reputation unfairly, especially through Google’s scoring system – an unfair or misleading 1* review, even responded to by the business, remains to impact the business’s score – a shorthand guideline increasingly used by consumers to winnow out a shortlist (and by Google itself through its filter).
The CMA regulations
A full analysis can be found here. Two of the core principles of the CMA regulations (which have the force of law in the UK) are:
that the reviewer should be able to write a review at any time of their own choosing
that the business must do nothing to prevent that review being published
At HelpHound our clients incorporate a button like this on their websites so absolutely anyone* may write a review at any time…
And we promise to publish any genuine review. And this means that the reviewer can have an inaccurate or misleading review published. The fact that they seldom do is down to Resolution™.
And one final point: always remember that, whatever review system you employ, your competitors will often attempt to undermine it. If it favours the business at the expense of the consumer, or if it is seen to be non-compliant, that hands a significant weapon to them.
*This surprises some businesses t first, until it is pointed out to them that they often have many more stakeholders than they have customer email addresses: husband/wife/partner/neighbour/employee/potential customer/’friend’ of customer/professional advisor of customer and so on…any of whom can write a review of the business to Google at the click of a mouse, and often do – unless they are given a more attractive alternative.
You may have noticed it with your own business, and you will almost certainly have noticed it when searching online for other businesses. We estimate that Google reviews are accelerating at a factor of between 1.5 and 3 a year.
A glimpse into the future? Not for this business! More and more people are writing reviews now, especially Google reviews
As many of you know, we carry out audits on every business we meet – simply to understand their current exposure to – and engagement with – reviews. Just this week we have encountered two businesses, one in recruitment and one in estate agency, where the number of Google reviews has gone – in the last 12 months – from 91 to 263 and 29 to 86 respectively.
What is driving this growth?
A number of factors, many of which we alluded to in this article almost exactly a year ago. Let’s list them and highlight some that are new…
more people can physically write a review – Google just has millions more people signed up to one of more of their services (G+, Gmail, Youtube and so on)
more people have ‘broken their duck’ – once they’ve written one review they are far more likely to go on and write more
peer approval – writing reviews is becoming the norm. A common response to the complaint ‘I’ve experienced bad service’ these days is: ‘Then write a review’
review site fatigue – it’s the name we’ve given to a syndrome that we reckon is becoming more common by the day: people cannot be bothered to register with multiple review sites, one for a hotel, another for a plumber, yet another for their estate agent – now they just go to Google
credibility – ever since Google began insisting that a review is attached to a Google account (you will still see old ‘A Google user’ reviews, but they can no longer be written) credibility has made a quantum leap. Google understands that consumers want credible reviews from real consumers and is determined to deliver them
Take a minute to read this review – it would be harmful if it were one amongst dozens, but it was the first review written about this business, and remained the only review of the business until a potential client mentioned that they had seen it. Now this business has many reviews from happy customers, but wouldn’t life have been a whole lot less stressful for them if they had formulated a review management strategy before this review had been posted? At the very least conduct a search on your business once a week to see your business as those searching on Google see it.
businesses are driven to proactivity by a negative review – there’s nothing like receiving a really well-crafted negative review to bounce a business into action – most often the wrong type of action (the major errors we see are invariably infractions of the CMA code)
NEW! The Google Filter – enabling consumers to filter businesses that score less than 4.0 out of searches – has undoubtedly prompted some businesses to act to increase the flow of reviews
NEW! Google Guides: Google prompts its Local Guides to write reviews – it knows where they have been…
your business is featuring in multiple lists like this
Add to this the propensity for consumers to write negative reviews – the motivation is just so much greater…
Here’s a typical example: this person has only ever written four reviews – estimates vary, but the general consensus is that people are nearly fifteen times more likely to write a negative review
Then we begin to see that businesses need to find a proactive strategy with regard to reviews.
Today a business with twenty reviews looks good (as long as the reviews and resulting score are positive, of course).
But soon a business with numbers like these will become the norm:
Review management cannot guarantee your business scores 4.9 – like this
client of ours – but it will minimise the chances of harmful inaccurate or
misleading reviews being posted
And then there will be some real heart-searching in marketing departments across the world. Why? Because Google scores (and therefore the Google Filter) operate on a purely mathematical average. The impact of this is to make it increasingly an uphill struggle to ‘correct’ a bad score. Look at the numbers…
A business currently has a score of 3.0 from 10 reviews. How many five star reviews to get that score up to 4.0 (and therefore pass the filter)? Answer: 10 (and no 4, 3, 2 or 1 stars meanwhile!).
But a score of 3.0 from 100 reviews? The business will need a hundred five star reviews. And so on upwards. And that’s only to get to 4.0; to really impress consumers your business should look to be scoring at least 4.5. You do the maths.
One day your business is going to have this many reviews – and only proactive review management is going to ensure that your score is a fair and accurate representation of the service you provide.
Engage – and engage before your business finds that it is failing the Filter or, worse still – and we have seen this on more than one occasion – the phone stops ringing.
Here are screenshots, taken today, of two similar businesses we met over two years ago…
When Greene & Co joined these three locations had zero, zero and three reviews respectively, very like the business on the right (and I’m sure they won’t mind admitting – it’s a matter of public record after all – that those three were not quite as complimentary!),
…the difference? Nothing discernible – except the one on the left has been a client of ours since then (and, apparently, keeps longer hours!).
The latest review from one of the four categoiries of reviews – buyer/seller/landllord/tenant – on a single branch. Just how reassuring do you think a review like this is for someone considering using this business?
We don’t know about the second business, but we do know that Greene & Co a very pleased indeed to be where they are today – both on their own website and on Google. And not just because they look great in both places – which they do. They have found that, in consequence:
they get more enquiries, both direct and through their website
they win more instructions – their negotiators carry their reviews with them – usually on an iPad
they look great – in search and on their own website – by comparison with their competitors
office morale is boosted – even estate agents enjoy reading just how good a job they have done!
feedback has become a useful management tool
they can relax about ‘having the right reviews solution’ and, importantly, compliance with the CMA regulations
What made Greene & Co join*? In a single word? Trust. They trusted us with their reputation, and they trusted us to give them the best advice and follow that up with a professional service. And the ensuing results have proved us both right.
*Of course there was more, much more – and it’s encapsulated in the articles on this blog and, right up-to-date, in this presentation
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