Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 15. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, this show is a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, roundups of our most recent salon owners marketing tips & tricks, all the latest in and around Phorest and what upcoming webinars you can join. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 15

When it comes to online defamation, it’s often hard to know the right course-of-action to take to minimise damage to your business. On this episode, Michelle Bolger from ESA consultants is a guest speaker and explains what exactly defamation is, and what you, as a salon owner, can do when you’re confronted with the situation. Phorest also unveils a new feature, the Online Reputation manager, and has Patty Monaghan, head of product, explain how it works and what it will do for your salon.



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM podcast, episode 15. I’m your host Killian Vigna.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle-Springer, your co-host.

Killian Vigna: This week we’re bringing back one of our special guest bloggers, Michelle Bolger of ESA Consultants to talk about the impact of online defamation, and what exactly is it. And then we have internally Patty Monaghan, who is our head of product, and today is going to talk about the new online reputation feature. This podcast is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off. Now, let’s get into the show. We’d just like to introduce back our special guest blogger, Michelle Bolger. She’s an employment law consultant at ESA Consultants, and you may remember from back in episode one when she was talking about how to handle and prevent salon employee theft. So things like, even employees bringing home products, stuff like that. This week now, we’re bringing back for online defamation. So, Michelle what exactly is online defamation and how does it affect salon owners?

Michelle Bolger: Okay, well, good morning.

Killian Vigna: Good morning.

Michelle Bolger: I’m sure all of the listeners today are going to be absolutely thrilled to have to be listening to this, but unfortunately online defamation is now part of business. It’s a daily part of business because, in order to make the business successful, you have to engage with social media, Facebook, promotions, even Snapchat and Instagram, they’re always… Or even the referrals and the comments on your own website. If you don’t have these things in place, you’re probably not making the most of your business. So it is a bit of a dance with the devil. There’s no way to avoid us nowadays. So the best thing to do is to decide how you’re going to handle us. Legally, there is, and I don’t want to put anybody to sleep, but we’ll talk about the legalities first off.

There was a new Defamation Act put out in 2009, and back in the day, you might have heard people talking about libel and slander. That no longer exists, there’s only defamation now. So libel was when you wrote about something, so think libel – label, so you actually wrote about something. And slander was spoken. And they were two very different types of defamation that you used to do. Well, not that we used to do, but that people used to be accused of. Now it’s just defamation, and in fact, the definition now says that it’s a defamatory statement, so either in writing or spoken that could injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.

So what does that mean in Monday morning English? That means if Stroblog out on the street would hear it or read it and think “Oh my God, that salon is awful,” or “Maria is absolutely awful at cuts, I’m never going to her”, then that could potentially constitute defamation, okay? So that’s why it has to be reasonable members on the street. Now if someone goes up on your social media, on your Facebook and says “I hear that they slaughter kittens and offer them up to the devil to make a sale,” well okay, no one’s really going to believe that.

Killian Vigna: Okay, well that is Monday morning listening.

Michelle Bolger: Yeah, just another thing to do on a Monday morning. No reasonable person is going to believe that that’s actually happening. So is that defamation? No. In fact, we’re just going to feel a little bit sorry for the person who says that and make sure they’re getting the right types of attention from qualified medical practitioners. So that’s what we’re looking at. We’re looking at something that could affect your reputation for the normal, whatever normal is nowadays, but the average person.

Killian Vigna: So within reason, is it. Without exaggerated claims? Is that the difference?

Michelle Bolger: Yeah. It’s what’s reasonably going to be understood. Is it reasonable that someone could go up and say “I think Shane gave me the worst haircut in the world, he didn’t listen to a thing I said. I went in looking for an angled bob, and I came out with a perm. He just did his own thing.” Well someone could reasonably believe that he did that. So does it constitute defamation? Yes. But let’s be honest about this. To take a defamation case against a client, you’re going to have to engage your solicitor, who’s going to engage a barrister. And then you’re going to take them to court. So that’s going to cost a lot of money.

So unless you have a few grand lying in the back of your couch, unlike the rest of us who just have half eaten crisps and five cent pieces, probably not going to happen, that you’re going to take a case, because it’s not money well spent. You’d be better off taking that few grand that you found in the back of your couch and putting it into some really good marketing. Into some good flyers and promoting yourself than actually going down the legal route. So in general…

Killian Vigna: So it’s kind of [crosstalk 00:05:25]

Michelle Bolger: Exactly. Are you gonna have a case? Yes. But if we look at the reality of it, is it going to be worth your time and your money? Probably not, probably not. Unless somebody accuses you, let’s say it’s a competitor and they accuse you of using… They start some kind of campaign against you where they’re putting up things like “Oh, I hear that ABC Salon uses knock-off products and that 40% of their clients are getting allergic reactions.” This kind of thing that is truly very damaging. And it’s done with the intention to undermine your business. Then I would say absolutely you need to get very serious legal advice and go to someone who specializes in defamation law and tackle that head on. But in terms of your clients coming back to you … In terms of maybe staff issues, between staffing, are you gonna take a defamation case? Nah. You’re not going to take a defamation case.

So let’s look at the reality of the situation then which boils it down into, if it’s an ex-client making the statement. Okay, why have they made the statement? Don’t fight it out on social media with them. The most you should probably do is contact them through social media and say “Would you be okay if we called you, if our manager calls you to discuss this? We’re very sorry that that’s your opinion and we’d like to talk you through this and see what actually happened.” Talk to the stylist. Talk to whoever was there on the day and see what happened.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: But at least take it off social, take off the audience and do it privately, yeah.

Michelle Bolger: Exactly. Don’t fight it out. I’ve seen, I think we’ve all seen them, and we’ve all sat there eating a bit of chocolate and knocking back a cola, and read and gone “Oh my God, she didn’t! Oh, my God, she did!” And “Oh, girl don’t get into it. Oh my God.” That’s all you’re getting; you’re not getting any… I know they say that any publicity is good publicity but really, not so much. The most I would do in that case if the client writes something up would be to contact them. If you don’t have their details on file, would be to contact them and say “Look, can we call you? Can we contact you?” If you do have their details on file, just contact them privately. Don’t engage publicly. Because it’s not worth… Say to yourself these things: Is it worth me spending eight to ten grand fighting this in court? Do I have eight to ten grand right now that I would set fire to rather than do anything else with it? No? Well, then I’m not going to fight this publicly.

Zoe Belisle-Springer:

Killian Vigna: Yeah, when you look at it that way.

So it really does, like we say usually, kind of take a step back, go off have a cup of tea before you go and reply. It really is one of those cases.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Because it’s not just eight or ten grand it’s also like… Court cases take for ages to get by.


Killian Vigna: It’s not like it’s done here and done next week or something.

Michelle Bolger: I’ll tell you this now, it’s only going to become the hot topic of the salon, and in your home, for however long it takes to go to court. Everything is going to be you in a bad mood waiting for this other shoe to fall, and you’re just going to be going around thinking about it the whole time. It’s not a good thing to put your energy into. Those things … It’s going to happen, just accept it. If you have a good business, you’re engaging in social media. And if you’re engaging in social media, these things are going to happen.

So put a plan in place as to what’s supposed to happen.  Should you be away on holidays, let the manager know this is the policy, this is how we deal with these things. Because you don’t want it lying out there for a week or two while you’re off sunning yourself either. You want to be able to know that it can be dealt with, that this is how we deal with it. We contact them in the first instance; we don’t engage in social media unless we don’t have their contact details. If we don’t have their contact details, we send a very professional, short, one-liner, “Dear X, we’re very sorry that that’s your opinion. Could we call you to find out more?”

Killian Vigna: And we have seen a few of these. I was looking through… I was helping a client there last week… I was looking through the posts, and there was one case where it was just one negative one. Now it was a bad call on the day, but the salon owner replied back and was just short and sweet, “We’re very sorry, do you mind if we get in contact?” And the person actually went ahead and replied again saying “Oh it’s okay, I kind of accepted that it was just a bad day.” But they took it off of Facebook after that. It was just that one line response and all of a sudden their client felt more at ease.

Michelle Bolger: Yeah, and I think it’s good for your other clients as well, and potential clients to see matters being dealt with.

Killian Vigna: Especially if it’s one of those… If it’s out of the ordinary, like.

Michelle Bolger: Exactly. There’s a lot to be said, but really and truly what you said is so true. Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a deep breath. Take a deep breath. Shoulders back. Do I have eight or nine grand to blow on this? How can I use this, right now, to actually make my business better?

Killian Vigna: Yeah and we just see here in your blog, your father says “If you’re going to write something down, treat it as if it’s going to be published in the newspaper.” So just always have that in the back of your head.

Michelle Bolger: Exactly. And that’s it. You have to remember now that when you are putting something on someone’s Facebook page, you may even think it’s private. It’s not; it’s out there. It’s out there for anybody to read. But that’s kind of slightly different now because we have clients who might make the negative comments. But where I’d really, really like to underline that concept of anything you write, only write it if you’re prepared to have it published in the newspaper, would be that the way management has gone now, especially for salons and that kind of industry, there’s an awful lot of texting going on. An awful lot of texting. And it could be “Are you able to do an extra two hours tomorrow?” Or “Such and such is after calling in sick.” So we get very used to texting, texting, texting. And that’s fine.

But in a salon where you have a group of… Well, any salon I’ve been to, they tend to be a group of wacky, zany, very vivacious people, full of personality. You have to be to do the job, to deal with people as much as they deal with, they’re very vivacious. But it’s a small environment. Cliques can happen, not everyone’s going to get on with everybody, and it can become very easy to send that quick little text of “Oh my God, Anne Marie is totally racking my head today, did you should see the state of her mother’s hair?” It has happened enough so previous examples out of the air, I know they’re kind of extreme, but these things can happen and what they don’t realize is that Sarah sends it to Rob, and Rob has a giggle, and it’s all fine and that’s grand, but then Rob decides he’s actually friends with Anne Marie and shows it to her. Now we have problems. That also could be under defamation. You have written something.

Killian Vigna: So it’s not just online.

Michelle Bolger: No, it’s being shown around.

Killian Vigna: It’s internal staff as well.

Michelle Bolger: Yeah. And WhatsApp, these kinds of groups that I get caught up in as well. So from a management point of view, you can think a lot of managers would say to me when they go into them, “Oh no, Killian and Zoe, they’re my go to people. They’ve been with me since I started this salon. I trust them implicitly”. And they would say things, not say things rather; they would write things to them in a text, WhatsApp, Facebook, stuff that they shouldn’t. Stuff that it’s not okay to say. It could get them in trouble. So from a management point of view, hold back. If you don’t want it published in the papers, don’t text to someone. Even if you think that they absolutely have your back, things can change. Would you leave your door unlocked in your house? Possibly. If it’s nice enough area, you’re not gonna freak out too much. But are you gonna do it every day? For the rest of your life? No, because it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when someone comes along and uses the opportunity.

In terms of management, just don’t do it. Stop it. That’s what I would say. Stop it. As you listen to my dulcet tones, stop it. Do not do it. Unless you want your priest, your mother, and the Irish nation to do it, don’t do that anymore. And for staff, when someone comes to you… If you’re a manager and someone’s coming to you with an issue because there’s been these nasty WhatsApps, these kinds of things happening… Again, is it a defamation case? Now let’s everybody take a deep breath. Taking a case is not always going to be the best resolution to something. But that’s a red flag to you. There is something very disconcerting happening on the floor, there isn’t a good team environment, and someone has really suffered as a result of it. So you need to start engaging your HR policies there. Do an investigation into it, and you need to reinforce it with your staff, that that’s not okay. That’s not okay. Yes, their phones are private. Yes, they’re entitled to their opinion. Freedom of speech, [inaudible 00:15:16], that’s all fine. But we have to be adults and professionals about this as well. And that isn’t okay.

Have I disciplined people over doing these things? Yes. Have some of the disciplinaries escalated to the point where they’ve been terminated for gross misconduct? Yes. So no, you don’t have to put up with it. And the subject of the texts who is suffering … And is probably mortified going into work each day, every time someone takes their phone out of their pocket, they’re thinking “Oh God, is that about me?” When it could be “Hey what do you want for dinner tonight?” But they start to get it into their heads, “Oh God, everyone’s having a chat about me.” Do they potentially have a case? Yes. If you as the manager don’t deal with this properly, they could have a case. You’re allowing it to continue and you have duty of care to your employees.

Killian Vigna: So as a manager, what would, just to summarize up this article, as a manager with your staff, what would be the best way to approach it? Should you approach it before it happens? Should all staff know of procedures in place? Or do you nip it in the bud early enough, or…?

Michelle Bolger: Yeah, if everything is perfect … In an absolutely gumdrop rainbow marshmallow world, yes, you would have a policy in place regarding social media. And when I say policy I can actually see people’s faces drop and think “Oh geez, here she goes on again about another policy.” But a policy can just be short and sweet, where you’re saying to your staff, they’re all [inaudible 00:16:49] and say I am aware that people are using WhatsApp on their phones, and social media and everything, but please be aware that anything that you put up about this salon or about any of the employees who work here, or indeed any of the clients who are here, is relevant to our business and could be the subject of an investigation or disciplinary procedures if the company deems it inappropriate. You’re putting your staff on notice. You’re saying to them, “I’m letting you know now that I don’t want this happening here. This isn’t okay. That’s the first thing, if you can.

Killian Vigna: It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you just mention it.

Michelle Bolger: Yeah because people might know. It’s always been fine, but manager’s themselves might have engaged in it in the past, so it’s not fair to suddenly turn around when one of your staff does this and go “Oh, that’s a disciplinary!” That’s unfair. But ideally, you put the staff on notice. Now where you haven’t done that, if there’s anybody listening to this and they’re thinking “This is going on right now. I have no policies in place; I have no procedures in place. What do I do?” What you’re going to do is, you’re going to have a private meeting with the person who has been affected first of all. And by private…

Killian Vigna: This is just a spoken warning, is it?

Michelle Bolger: Sorry?

Killian Vigna: This is just kind of the spoken warning stage, it’s not…

Michelle Bolger: It’s not even a warning stage. This is just when you’re going to, cause you’ve nothing in place yet, right? So what you’re going to do is… What you need to think about is if the person being affected is struggling or suffering, or probably not coming into work, even. So you’re gonna have a private discussion with them about how they feel, what’s been going on, and what they can prove has been going on. Just have a discussion.

Now when I say private, the canteen where people are going in and out of isn’t private. A busy café where you think “Come on, let’s just go for a coffee”, and there’s people all around you, that’s not private. So really just pass to where you can have a productive, meaningful conversation, and where that employee feels comfortable enough to actually tell you really what’s happening without thinking “Oh my God, that’s my neighbour sitting over there with her mother having a cup of coffee.” Or “I can’t say anything because people are coming and going and having their … Looking for their handbags because they’re going out to their break.” So make sure it’s private.

Now you might have that discussion with the employee, and they might feel much better after that alone, and just say … If you could just say to them “I know that that text was sent and it was hurtful and I’d just like it to die now.” Sometimes that can be the result of that conversation. And then you’re gonna have this same private meeting with the people involved, and say, “Look.” … Explain their … Be respectful. They’re all adults that you’re dealing with. And you say to them, “Look. This is what I know about what’s been happening. I’m not happy with it because of … This is how it’s affected X; I don’t want it happening again.” And then you can issue a new policy at the same time.

That’s kind of best case scenario, everybody’s happy, and we all skip off into the sunset. If that’s not possible, and you might need to do a formal investigation where you need to send out letters to the people affected, invite them in for an investigation. And if you’re looking at doing that, I would do a bit of research on it, or contact someone like ESA because it can be a little bit of a minefield getting that right. But in general, if you think you can, have a discussion with the person, and with all of them affected at a local level, and see if you can resolve it that way first.

Killian Vigna: Yeah and as for just getting [crosstalk 00:20:21]. Don’t let it drag on.

Michelle Bolger: Oh my God, that’s so on point. Don’t let it drag on. Deal with it then and there.

Killian Vigna: That’s, Michelle, that’s absolutely fantastic. So just to wrap up the blog here, so I suppose the three ways to identify is, it must be published, so that’s you saying social media, but also your WhatsApp, your texts, it must refer to the complaint, and it must be false as well. So like you were saying about your dog example at the very start, it must be a believable complaint.

Michelle Bolger: Exactly. Is it believable, would someone just picking it up and having a read of it… Would they be able to identify the salon, the person who gave them … The salon or the person that’s being spoken about, and has it been put out there, and is it false? That’s what gives makes up defamation in terms of taking a legal case. Do you have the state of a legal case? You’re going to have to prove those three things. But in terms of what a person on the street would know of defamation and the potential it has to damage, then we’re looking at things like not necessarily taking cases, but how are we going to handle those potentially defamatory statements in our salons and within our staff.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Well thanks so much for joining us this morning on the episode.

Killian Vigna: It’s been a pleasure as always to have you on the show and as always a good laugh on a Monday morning. So Michelle from…

Michelle Bolger: Yay, Mondays!

Killian Vigna: Michelle Bolger from ESA Consultants, thanks very much for the online defamation explained, because we hadn’t a clue and it was good to get some clarity on that.

Michelle Bolger: You’re very very welcome. I hope I haven’t put you all off in texting anyone now.

Killian Vigna: I’m turning my phone onto airplane mode for the day now. Have a great day.

Michelle Bolger: Have a good day.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Have an amazing day. Buh-Bye!

Michelle Bolger: Bye!

Killian Vigna: So just to follow up on Michelle’s online defamation, as always for the last couple of weeks you may have seen some content being pushed out through the social media, or we’ve had webinars all about how you can, I suppose …

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Control of how people treat and react to…

Killian Vigna: Come on you can do it. Treat right and react to online. So it’s basically like what people are talking about, and how you can kind of monitor that and work with it. I know you’ve put out some content over the last few weeks.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah. For instance, last week we put out a video announcing our new feature, the online reputation manager and so that’s out on social media, and you can request a call back to get more information and how to get it set up, basically, with one of our team members. But today we have…

Killian Vigna: At the head of product, Patty Monaghan. Nearly forgot his name!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Wasn’t sure how to pronounce your last name, and I was like “Oh, I can’t mess this up”.

Killian Vigna: So, Patty, we’ve had a couple of people that attended the Salon Owners’ Summit. They came into Phorest on Monday, and you had a new feature to present to them.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, so basically around the world of online reputation, we decided to build a new feature called “Online Reputation”. It’s an online reputation manager… Kind of where this comes from is from when we speak with salon owners, and I speak to a lot of salon owners who generally, in Phorest we’re in communication a lot. The main things we’ve seen, and anyone who listens to this will know that it’s all about retention and rebooking your clients. Most of that, you’re talking 80%-90% of your business comes that way.

And how you get new business then is referrals, so it’s all about the reputation of your salon in how you get new business. People get referrals all the time from all the top clients, but that tends to be wearing them out. And one of the things that we’ve seen, and we’ve seen some stats on this, is 87% of people, when they’ve been referred, the first thing that they’ll do is they’ll Google a business. That might be to find out more about them, to find the phone number or where they are, for example. And the first thing that you see then is the reviews for that business. Almost every single time without fail, the online reputation does not match the offline reputation.

Killian Vigna: So you’ve got a salon that is genuinely a 5-star salon, all of your customers think you’re amazing, you know you’re doing a good job, but you’ve maybe got one review on Google, and some business down the road might have two hundred reviews or a 5-star, and because they have a good strategy about how they get an online reputation, they look way better than you do, even when you’ve got a better business.

We’ve mentioned that before; like we did a quick Google search with two salons. One that was a small, independent salon down the road and one big, huge one. And we were kind of doing the whole offline guess who was going to be bigger. We googled it, and they only had one review. They were being slaughtered by the small guy around the corner.

Patrick Monaghan: I know, this is crazy, we’ve got some of the top, top businesses, and I’m not gonna name names but there’s some top, top salons and businesses in Ireland and in Dublin that have only got eight reviews on there, and these places are known globally. So it just doesn’t match… That’s just because in this industry it’s not something that a lot of people have done. In general, some businesses, like restaurants, have gotten loads of online reviews. But in salons and spas and the beauty industry in general, it’s not something that’s all that prominent.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: But if you think about it, people are getting onto Snapchat only now as well, and it’s the world online, and catching up to it.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, these things tend to pop up over time. And we’ve always had some social integrations, and we have some… We’ve already got a feature in Phorest where you can get reviews every time after all of the services, and you can find out internally how that’s going. And then if you want, you can post it online, but you post it as a comment from you, the salon owner. Which means you can control it, and there’s a lot of advantages to that. [crosstalk 00:26:20] And we do that, every time after every service, or you can set it up to do it every time after every service, but the difference in online reputation is that somebody has to log in, as in end customer, your client, has to log into their own account or on Facebook page or on Google page and leave one review of your business only, to say this is a good business. As opposed to, “My service yesterday was good.” So that’s the difference in how we step forward in this new feature and how it’s different.

And so there’s a lot of challenges around that because one of the things that our customers love is that they can control what reviews go online. So if they’ve got a bad one, they just don’t post it. If they’ve got a good one, they do post it. And when you move into the public world of reviews, of Google reviews, and the full Facebook business reviews, they have to be logged in as a customer, so the customer has to go themselves and leave the review, which means the salon owner can’t control what they say. That naturally makes salon owners nervous.

But what we can do at Phorest, which is kind of quite unique, with our product is because we have a history of all of the reviews they’ve given, everything they’ve said over every service they’ve had, we know who good customers are. We know what customers have repeatedly given you a 5-star review for your services. We can target only them. So maybe after the third or the fifth time, whatever you want to do. Maybe it’s after the first time if you’re okay with that, but the salon owner has control. They can decide whether it’s the third time they’ve given a 5-star review or the fifth time. Only then will we ask them to publicly post that review, cause we know they see you in a positive light. That’s kind of how we drive the best people to give you reviews.

And there are things that you can’t control. You can’t control some individual client, nothing to do with Phorest, who maybe had a bad experience or maybe had an argument with somebody there, just something small. You can’t control those things. And then they come along and post a negative review online, and it’s just something that businesses have to deal with. But what we’ve seen is that if you get your good clients constantly, consistently giving you reviews, and you’ve got two hundred 5-star reviews. If you get a really bad review, it won’t even affect the average. The key is offence is the best defence. Get your good customers out there saying good things about you, and it completely drowns out the noise of that one outlier who might have said something, so it kind of tackles that problem.

Killian Vigna: Because there is always going to be that one person.

Patrick Monaghan: There is, yeah.

Killian Vigna: We said it could’ve just been a bad day for them or it could’ve been your member of staff, so it’s not hiding it or going “Oh, no, negative review.” You’re actually pushing it down the line, then aren’t you?

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, you’re pushing it down the line, you’re making people see. And to be honest, more people won’t even see that because they would have to drill, click in, drill down…

Killian Vigna: It’s like moving past the first page of Google, they’re not going to.

Patrick Monaghan: Exactly, no one’s going to do that. All they want to see is the summary. So when you Google somebody on Google maps, or if they Google your business directly, it will just say “This person has a 5-star review out of two hundred reviewers.” And that could have… Two or three or five of those could have been bad, but Google won’t say that unless somebody goes in to investigate that. Nobody’s really going to do that. The key is, get good people to give you good reviews and pretty much the world is your oyster.

Killian Vigna: And I suppose to put the system into perspective, if you wanted to find out what people were saying online, you would have to Google your salon name in Facebook, in Google, and in Yelp, and then you’ve got to go through all the reviews, see who’s done what. This way, it’s just one screen.

Patrick Monaghan: One screen, exactly. The main driver of this feature is to get your reviews and then we have a whole set of secondary features which is basically to tell you what people are saying about your business online without you needing to go and periodically search that. So we’ve got a screen in Phorest, you just click “Marketing” then “Online Reputation”, and it just shows you straight away what people are saying about you on Facebook, Google, on Yelp, the average reviews, when the last review is. It lets you respond to any of them from Phorest. So you can just tap respond, and it will know where to respond. And you can engage with your clients. Both good reviews and bad reviews, you’ll want to respond so people can see you responding. And all that can be controlled from within Phorest.

Killian Vigna: So with this feature, would you have to go into it every day and kind of go through reviews and then go “Oh, I need to send out an SMS” or does it automate or…?

Patrick Monaghan: It basically depends on what people want to do. The way that we work, we kind of have the philosophy of doing it for them, which means that if you guys don’t want to put in a lot of effort, you don’t have to. So if you switch this feature on, and you never look at that screen again… Every service, every day after every service that your clients give a review, we will automatically check if they should be sent online or not, and we will then push them to go and leave a review online. And we’ll do that automatically every day, every service without you ever opening this screen.

So step one is you don’t have to do anything, and then step two is if you want to go and look at your reviews and see what people are saying, you can do that once a day, once a week, once a month. Whatever suits you. And then the third use case is… We’ll actually email you when something big happens. So if anyone gives you a negative review, for example, we’ll actually email you and tell you that. So you can go into Phorest, respond, maybe send… We’ve got a boost feature which will allow you to target a whole lot of customers at once. So pick two hundred customers who have given you a 5-star review in the past and try to get that number boosted up to try to drown out that negative review. You don’t necessarily have to use this system, you can leave it running by itself, you can look at it if you just want to know what’s going on, and if you really have to do something, like respond to a negative review, we let you know.

Killian Vigna: So you don’t have to do it all yourself. You’re not just getting a feature here. You’re getting a feature and a support team with it, nearly, essentially.

Patrick Monaghan: Exactly. Yeah, and we’ve got our Grow team here in Phorest as well ‘cause what we see and again we speak to salon owners, and a lot of people that said this at the Summit is they don’t know where to even start with these things. You might have a Google entry on Google Maps that was created by Google. Google and Facebook will generate these pages for you, so even if you don’t have a Google page, there probably is one there for you, but you don’t actually own it, and people are like “Where do I start” or “What do I do”.

And we actually have a team here who will call you, walk you through it, literally will do all the stuff that you need to do, or walk you through what you need to do. We’ll do all of the work; we’ll check that your information is correct, your address, your phone number, all this kind of stuff. And that’s all just something we include as part of the service. We like to do that kind of personal touch. So we have an actual human who will call you and make sure that you’re set up correctly. So you don’t have to worry about where to get started.

Killian Vigna: So am I right in saying that the whole idea of this feature actually came about from talking to the clients, but also the User Voice? The User Voice in the Phorest system.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, so we have a system called User Voice, which I kind of police religiously and take a look at that. We get a lot of votes, and we’ve got a lot like … For example, what User Voice is is a way for our customer base to submit ideas and to vote on the best ideas on what we should build. And we usually look at the top ten ideas a lot to see what kind of bubbles up to the top, and out of eleven hundred or so current active ideas, which is a huge amount of ideas, we get a lot of feedback from our customer base, particularly the Google side of online reputation was consistently in the top ten, and again it stayed in the top ten. And we built it.

So we get this feedback from our customers, and we get this feedback from the market itself. We see that there’s a lot of tools popping up out there that allow people to get more Google reviews, but the thing that we’ve seen that we’re missing is that they don’t know who to ask, so they kind of actually broadcast and they ask their whole client base to leave a Google review, and maybe they give you a tenner off or something like that, and that’s their strategy. But the problem is, they’re asking people who had a horrible experience and didn’t come back to you, you know what I mean? So it doesn’t work, but if you have what Phorest has, which is a whole history of your clients’ opinions of your service, then we can do that, and we can tackle it.

So we saw a couple of things. We saw a lot of requests from our clients … Then in speaking with our clients a lot of them were telling us this, and then we saw a lot of tools starting to pop up and be used by clients, which we’ve figured out actually could be a simple addition to Phorest which would be hugely, hugely valuable to our customers. Without needing this kind of separation in data. We know what’s going on already.

Killian Vigna: And with the User Voice and stuff like that, it’s not like we just came up with the idea, this feature, like Patty said, he’s constantly on User Voice. This was a client’s request, and one of the top selling points for it was because it generated free SEO, nearly. You didn’t have to go out paying for ads or anything. You were bringing reviews to your website. You’re bringing traffic.

Patrick Monaghan: Exactly, yeah. The way that … SEO is a search engine optimization in Google, is that…

Killian Vigna: Getting found on Google, basically.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, getting found on Google. There’s a lot of black magic in there, in that box, that Google doesn’t necessarily share. There are always going to be cases where if you’ve got some massive salon, you’re spending ten grand a week on optimizations and ads and things; they’re gonna go to the top because they’re just paying a whole lot of money. But in general, I’m predicting in this industry that doesn’t really happen all that often. So what you’ve got is all things being equal. Google will default back to the review side of things. So we’ll say, if you’re on Google Maps for example, and they search “hairdresser Blanchardstown” which I’ve done before, we had one of the more recent salons pop to the top of the Google results because they had eighteen reviews and other businesses, which had been there for ten or fifteen years, who’ve only got two or three reviews, or no reviews, didn’t show up in the top three on Google. So it does affect the listings that you get, the ranking that you get.

Killian Vigna: And with that Google business, even if you do pop up, it always shows recommended salons and competitors as well. Which is why you need to make sure you’re on top of it, and you’re the main one that appears.


Patrick Monaghan: It’s the same thing as we’ve said at the start of this. Where you know you’ve got a great reputation, you might have been in business for ten years, you’ve got loads of really, really loyal customers who say great things about your business. And then you look online, and you’ve got one review that’s three stars, and you’re like, “Okay”. Somebody who doesn’t know your business is like, “Is this…” [crosstalk 00:36:07]. And it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask your clients. We did tests where we emailed some clients and things like that. People get reviews; they do actually give reviews. Your clients generally don’t mind you asking.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: It takes two seconds, so.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, they like you.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: It’s not a big deal for someone to leave a two-minute review.

Killian Vigna: All feedback is good, it’s people giving you ideas of where they think you should move, what directions to take your business in. They’re not making business decisions for you. But you can see where you can improve. They start identifying areas.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah and we get that. That’s something that in Phorest we’ve had for a long time. As I said after every service, somebody will tell you if… They might give you a couple of one or two-star reviews saying the room was a bit cramped. And if you see that two or three times, which is entirely internal in Phorest and nobody external sees that, only you as the salon owner or manager can see that, you know that that’s a problem, and you fix that. And then that same person might give you three 5-star reviews because they love it and only then will they get asked to leave you a public review. So there’s internal and external, and that’s why it’s a perfect addition to the Phorest suite of features that we have. It really drives that.

Killian Vigna: So when can we see this feature kicking into gear?

Patrick Monaghan: We actually have some of our customers live with it at the moment. Already we’re kind of… We have a list of people who were onboarding, some people who attended the Salon Summit. We’ve got an initial wait list, and we’re going through those. As I said, we have a team who call people and set them up. So we’re doing that right now, we’re setting up salons as a goal. So this month we have people going live, we’re gonna do a big launch of it at the trade shows as well, in London at the end of this month. So at the end of this month and early March, it’s gonna be out there for the world to see and that’s… So if you’re at the trade show, just pop over and have a look. Because it is one of those things where you just need to see.

Killian Vigna: Yeah and then you understand straight away.

Patrick Monaghan: Yeah, and how much it simplifies. ‘Cause like I said, when you try to do it on Google, it’s just all over the place. And then you see it all on this one, multi-colored screen, and it looks nice and easy to read. It’s one screen, you can see the Google logo and five stars beside it, the Facebook logo and five stars beside it, and you know everything’s okay.

Killian Vigna: Well, Patty that does sound brilliant. Thanks for shedding light on that new feature.

Patrick Monaghan: No problem, guys. Cheers.

Killian Vigna: And just to follow up with Patty’s new online reputation feature, or the product that Patty was talking about, and we actually have Chris, who’s going to be hosting a “Mastering your online reputation” webinar on March 15th, and that takes place at 3 PM Irish time, or I believe it’s 10 AM in New York time, so EST. So places you can sign up for that are on the Facebook and…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, we have events, and there’s… Usually, the links are on different sections of the blog so if you just type it in, type in “online reputation webinar master class” online on Google, you should be able to find it.

Killian Vigna: Cool, yeah. And like we’ve said clients or non-clients, that is a webinar that you should definitely get involved in. Because Chris breaks it down so well.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Massive reactions every single time.

Killian Vigna: It’s one of those things where you need to see it to understand it. We’re talking about it here, but we’re visualizing the screens in our head, we know what we’re talking about, but I suppose for someone listening to the show, so I highly recommend getting on board that webinar, it’s March 15th, and you can go to the Facebook events page. So just to summarize the show then. We had Michelle Bolger from ESA Consultants, and she was in talking about online defamation explained. The recap of that one was, if someone makes a complaint…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Well essentially, what’s the definition, to begin with. Do you really want to go to court, realistically, and go about replying to people online.

Killian Vigna: Exactly. Like Michelle said, if you don’t have that couple of grand sitting in the back of your couch, maybe sit back and really think about it and take it offline as well. Cool, and then we had Patty in talking about the online reputation feature, so he gave some good insights on that.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: If you do want to request a callback for that feature, there is the video online on our Facebook page. It’s pinned to the top of our page, and you can just go there. There’s a link there where you can request a callback for that, and we’ll be putting out a blog this week.

Killian Vigna: Exactly, or as always if you want to know anything in the Grow section, it’s just grow@Phorest.com. Drop us an email, and someone will get back to you with the right person. So as always thanks very much for tuning into the show today.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: If you have any questions, comments, leave us a note, follow us on iTunes, Podbean, whichever is easier for you guys. And we’ll catch you next week.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. All the best.

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