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The Value of Commenting: A Case Study of The Good Care Guide

James Perrin

by James Perrin on 22nd February 2012

This week, the BBC has run a story concerning the launch of a website called the Good Care Guide. The aim of the website is to give relatives a central hub to share their views and experiences from the care homes and nurseries they have used or had experiences with.

We have seen these types of review websites for businesses before. For example there’s Trip Advisor, Yelp, Qype and Ciao. Generally speaking, reviews are given on things like bars, restaurants, hotels, holiday destinations, products and so on and so forth. However, when it comes to care, is this a complete different kettle of fish, or should care providers be subject to the same reviews and scrutiny as businesses within the leisure and hospitality industries?

In the age of web 2.0, where the social world is playing an ever increasing role on the Internet, comment is inherently a good thing. We learn and understand from others, which provides us with additional information around a website, a web page, a story, a product, and a service. No longer do we take something we see and read on the Internet at face value; we are able to gauge what others are thinking, and form our own opinions accordingly.

This is a good thing, as it is opening up what is a seemingly linear communication process; and as the Internet evolves, whether businesses like or not, people will be able to talk more and share their views. That’s why the majority of businesses have embraced social media and taken advantage of people’s comments as it adds value, not only to their website, but to their business and the services they offer as a whole.

However, there are those who are hell-bent on ruining review based platforms, and using it as a way of deliberately writing disparaging comments about competitors. This is where care providers are understandably concerned. The Chief Executive of the National Care Association, Sheila Scott explained, “If a care home is ruined by a malicious comment, which is conceivably possible, then it’s not just our member and their staff but the vulnerable people who are put at real risk, so that’s our concern.”

Effectively then, care home providers are worried that if they receive a bad review, or two, then this will stop additional care seekers from using their services. This reduces the amount of funding they receive, which ultimately can put staff and vulnerable people at risk.

However, as mentioned, businesses are able to improve on their services if someone has left a genuinely bad review. This is the effect that communication can have. Businesses don’t want to see bad reviews, it looks bad. So, by improving their customer service, or the value of what they are offering their customers, they are able to improve and blossom. So, why shouldn’t care providers do the same?

Well for many parents and relatives, they believe this is a good thing. In the past they would have received advice and opinions from friends and family; the Good Care Guide provides them with a platform to not only read friend’s and family’s opinions, but those of many other people as well. As a result, it will help drive up standards. A genuinely bad review presents care providers with an opportunity to improve on their own services. They can also contact the individual and work towards resolving the problem they had or are having.

If there are concerns over false reviews and spam messages, then the Good Care Guide could follow in the footsteps of Trip Advisor who are able to detect such erroneous comments and remove them. Also on Trip Advisor, users are given a quality rating themselves, and so this should be something that the Good Care Guide should implement, if they aren’t already doing so.

So far the Good Care Guide has received some 80% of extremely positive comments, and so for good care providers they have nothing worry about. However, this website may just be the catalyst to help improve those providers who some families have question marks over. After all, when it comes to care, we always want what’s best for our loved ones.

James Perrin

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.

11 Comments

  • Stephen Logan

    Stephen 22nd February 2012

    Interesting post James.

    I think business, in all walks of life, should be held accountable for the levels of service they provide. The issue with sites like Trip Advisor is that the moderation process is limited, meaning that competitors could easily besmirch a rival anonymously.

    This is made possible both by the anonymity offered by larger review sites as well as the sheer volume of comments made every day. Invariably, moderation becomes more difficult when you have to deal with greater numbers of comments. On a niche site like Good Care Guide, this should be less of a problem.

    There have been so many horror stories about the quality of care provided in the UK, a site like this could provide valuable peace of mind for those entrusting children or parents into the care of others. Of course there is still the potential for malicious lies to ruin the reputation of some establishments; but by an large, good service will naturally encourage positive comments, whilst the opposite is equally true.

    As long as they can ensure that reviews are genuine through effective moderation, it’s a good idea. Care homes and nurseries are a little different to hotels and guesthouses. Most people will only ever have dealings with a few in their lifetime and competition within specific areas is likely to be less fierce. So it’s unlikely that people with a grudge or rival businesses are going to leave false reviews, as they might elsewhere.

    Most organisations should use comments to improve their own levels of service, as you mentioned in the post. Faceless anonymity might scare some, but it’s easy for businesses and consumers to sort genuine grievances from false or petty claims. Some people are more likely to say what they really think operating behind a pseudonym than they would to your face, making this a valuable source of honest, no holds barred feedback. It’s up to care providers as to whether they embrace this and make improvements, or simply ignore criticisms/praise in the belief that they know best.

    In short, it’s good for consumers but bad for businesses who offer sub-standard services. There is no place to hide online.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 23rd February 2012

    Interesting story. I think when it comes to reviewing care homes, it becomes a lot more sensitive than just a hotel or product review because you are dealing with people’s lives and well-being.

    The care home sector is fiercely competitive and this could provoke all manner of tactics to skew a competitors reputation on-line. If there should be advice about a care home’s reputation it should come from an official review body.

    However it is good to see the positive reviews on the Good Care Guide website, but user reviews are never going to be the bottom line when it comes to the quality of care.These are just my thoughts on the story.

    Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Logan

    Stephen 23rd February 2012

    Agreed Dean, but I still can’t see care homes doing battle on a review forum. That’s not to suggest that it is an impossibility, they are competing businesses after all, but any such falsehoods should be easier to spot than on a hotel review site where they deal with hundreds of customers and dozens of comments a day.

    Individual care homes, nurseries and childminders only have a select few clients at any one time. So as long as they are monitoring reviews, they should be able to spot genuine issues and flag up potential problems to the Good Care Guide (as you would on Trip Advisor)

    Each review page also links through to the Care Quality Commission, who provide independent reviews http://www.cqc.org.uk/. This also allows those with genuine grievances to contact the CQC and report their issues.

    Essentially it just opens things up and makes it much easier for users to praise or critique services, which should be positive – as long as it isn’t hijacked.

    Reply to this comment

    • Dean Marsden

      Dean 23rd February 2012

      You’re right, I don’t expect there will be thousands of comments each day like a travel site.

      I like the idea of the link to the CQC. Will be interesting to see how the whole project affects Care Services overall.

      Reply to this comment

  • James Perrin

    James 23rd February 2012

    Some really good points. Whilst reviews on the Good Care Guide provide relatives with additional information about their experiences, I very much doubt any relatives will choose or dismiss a care provider or service solely based on that review alone. In all likeliness they will conduct further research, including a visit to the provider themselves.

    Honesty and transparency is always best practice, especially when it comes to care, so I can see this as a good thing. As you both say, it’s not as if there will be thousands of comments, and as long as the Good Care Guide has a rigorous moderation of their reviews, the information they supply should be quality enough to help relatives decide on the best care service for their loved ones.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply to this comment

  • MARY BUTLER 6th March 2012

    I own a nursery and have no problem with parents posting comments on the site. I do however object to the way nurseries are listed. Some of us are disadvantaged by where the nursery is positioned. My nursery is listed 14th , and although at the moment is the only nursery in the area which has an excellent rating posted, most people looking at the site will not go down to 14th to find it. You can go to another drop down part which does list by highest rated, but you would probably have to be familiar with the site to use this.

    I have contacted the site and they do not appear to see that this could be a problem for providers.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James 6th March 2012

      Hi Mary, thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t worry too much about your position within the Good Care Guide’s results. First and foremost, people will use this site to search for specific providers so they can see what other people’s experiences have been with that provider.

      With a variety of search options available, I’m sure there will be times when you appear higher in the search results. These can also be sorted in a variety of ways, so I wouldn’t get too hung up on where you appear. As long as you have some good feedback from your customers, that’s the main thing.

      Reply to this comment

  • Tom Cooper 16th March 2012

    I am a consultant working in the private sector. I reckon most providers would have no problem with service users posting comments as long as the Good Care Guide organisation actively moderates the content to weed out the malicious or defamatory posts, which will undoubtedly be a significant proportion of the total. For example, every time a manager disciplines or fires a member of staff they will be running the risk of receiving retaliatory negative postings. Equally there are a lot of professional complainers out there just waiting to rubbish a care provider, perhaps out of spite or looking for compensation. Any site reader who takes as gospel a single comment from an unverified source whether positive or negative is likely to be misled and in my view so-called ‘quality’ ratings from unqualified individuals who may have an axe to grind are not credible. The problem is that in today’s instant gratification society such comments may carry more weight than is justified.

    Incidentally, I have worked in the care industry for the past thirty years, including in regulation and have always found far more to admire than to criticise in a field of work that is grossly underrated. But of course good news is no news. However the distorted public perception that has been created by all the negative stories means that people contemplating needing to use care services are now very scared and I am not sure that the Good Care Guide, which let us not forget is set up to make profits rather than from any altruisitic motivation, will contribute much genuine insight to those looking for unbiased information about care providers.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James 28th March 2012

      Tom, you’ve raised some really interesting points surrounding the issue of credible comments, but as you say, no one should take what they read as gospel, it’s always better for those looking for care providers to do more research than rely on a Care Guide. I think the Good Care Guide will have to act responsibly in terms of moderating the site, otherwise people just simply won’t use it. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply to this comment

  • Mark Chapman 20th March 2012

    We at ReallyCare CIC recently launched http://www.bettercareguide.org which is a not-for-profit alternative to Good Care Guide. Furthermore SCIE have announced they are launching a site in the summer and DH are funding Patient Opinion to extend their reach to cover social care. Hopefully at some point we will end up with a single site (or at least a single open data source) that will allow people to compare sites without the listings being affected in some way by whether money has changed hands.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James 28th March 2012

      Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s really interesting to see other online care guides, and just goes to show the need for patients, as well as their friends and family to share opinions and experiences (good and bad). Provided this is the intention of the site, it can only be a good thing.

      Reply to this comment

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