On rare occasions, I’ll get a strongly worded complaint or call from a FirmChecker user.
My physiological reaction is one that business owners are all too familiar with: a pang of anxiety and sinking stomach.
When it’s your business, taking things personally is natural. So, it’s understandable that negative reviews, left publicly, are scary for business owners. In addition to the ego-hit, it can turn away customers.
What we do…
Given what I’ve just said, it may surprise that I run a review website for professional services firms: www.firmchecker.com.au.
Why? Because I firmly believe that trusted reviews make the world better.
Like most millennials, I use reviews to make decisions on where (and what) I eat, sleep, work, and play.
Armed with information, I rarely have a bad experience, because I can make better choices. Plus, reviews mean businesses must deliver a great customer experience to remain competitive.
Have reviews gone too far?
Google has made customer reviews ubiquitous and easy, so you can get a flavour of customer sentiment very quickly on almost any business.
But has Google made it too easy? I trust information on dedicated review sites; like Glassdoor (employers), Zomato (restaurants), Capterra (software) and TripAdvisor (hotels) far more. Leaving a review on these platforms requires care and effort.
Everyone has a Google account, so leaving a review there is almost frictionless.
“Frictionless” sounds great, except it means Google attracts the lowest effort, least thoughtful, and most visible reviews. Furthermore, Google does little to verify its reviews, and that can lead to businesses suffering severe downturns – like it did here and here – and can take a toll on owners’ mental health, like here.
What’s Google’s position?
Google argues that it should not be the arbiter of what’s reasonable and defamatory, and that making them responsible for reviews published on their platform would undermine consumer rights, whistle-blowing and freedom of speech.
It has a point.
We don’t want a situation where only positive voices can be heard, or reviews will be meaningless and true choice will be undermined. Balance is required.
But it’s hard to avoid the inference that for Google, it’s too costly to moderate content and for them, the reviews business is small-fry.
How we seek to strike the right balance
Feedback vs Reviews. Clients can leave private feedback or public reviews on FirmChecker, depending upon their preference. This means they can still be heard if they don’t want to warn others about their experience, or if they want to maintain privacy.
Anonymity, with verification. For the same reason, we allow clients to post reviews anonymously if they prefer. “Anonymous” and “troll” are often used in tandem, but anonymity is not just used for mudslinging. It helps people give honest feedback. Our data support this: reviews left anonymously tend to have far more detailed suggestions for improvement.
Human & technological content moderation. Finally, every single review on FirmChecker goes through BOTH human and technological checks to minimise the chances of fake, misleading, obscene and defamatory content being published on the platform.
It means reviews take a little longer to be approved, but it’s worth the wait because the information can be trusted.
“Recently, we were able to have an erroneous review promptly removed from the site. This would have been substantially more difficult on Google – whose attitude is generally “too bad”.”– Gabby Dawson, Office Manager, Shanahan Swaffield Partners
Secondary reviews. As an ultimate check, firms can get in touch with someone in Australia if they think we’ve erred, and to that end, if firms think we’ve gotten it wrong, they can easily contact someone in Australia who will listen to their side of the story.
The upside for firms
Not that it’s all about mitigating bad reviews!
FirmsChecker helps firms to get the feedback needed to improve their service and boost word-of-mouth growth – where 80 percent of work comes from in professional services.
It also helps firms improve their conversion rates among more discerning buyers by providing detailed break-downs of practice areas, industries served, price structures and qualitative performance of each firm.
This means clients choosing firms with FirmChecker are doing so with confidence.
About the Author
Ben Farrow is the co-founder and CEO of FirmChecker.
For professional services providers
- How to Strengthen Trust with Clients
- How to Provide Exceptional Client Experience
- The False Economy of Hourly Rates