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TripAdvisor for accountants: Are you ready?

29th Sep 2015
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A TripAdvisor for accountancy practices is picking up steam, with over 900 accountants registered and reviewed on the site and a recent supplement in a national newspaper.

Vouched For is the brain child of Adam Price, a former banker in the city. Five years ago he launched the site concentrating on IFAs, before branching out to solicitors. At the end of last year Vouched For began working with accountants.

Whether or not Vouched For is successful (and by all accounts, it’s doing well) is actually a sideshow. User-generated content has become the defining force of the internet age and online customer reviews have also become standard in other professions and sectors. If Vouched For doesn’t do it, someone else probably will.

Services like accountancy are important decisions in peoples’ lives, contends Price. “They tend to be small businesses and there are lots of them, so consumers are a bit lost.” Once on Vouched For’s homepage, the potential client is asked for their postcode, what their needs are and then provided with a list of potential suitors, all with a photo and client reviews.

According to Price, Vouched For is not just for the clients: “From the accountants’ perspective, they are first and foremost accountants; they’re not experts in marketing. They don’t have access to big marketing budgets,” said Price. “Historically businesses advertised in the Yellow Pages or on Google, but in other industries sites like TripAdvisor have become one of the most important tools”.

Vouched For is bound to be unpopular in some segments of the profession – it’s not necessarily pleasant to be ranked. But Price argued that accountants have been the most receptive profession so far and the service does attempt to reward accountants who diligently use the service.

This past weekend’s Mail on Sunday carried an eight-page Vouched For supplement showing the top ranked accountants; in March there was another in The Telegraph. “We also give badges which an accountant can put on their site. When it’s clicked it takes the client to their Vouched For page”.

The similarity to sites like TripAdvisor is, of course, obvious. But any site faces a unique challenge given accountancy’s smaller clientele. A popular restaurant may have hundreds or thousands of clients per day meaning a useful review system would only require a small percent of customers to rate it.

Accountants don’t have that volume, so that model doesn’t work for Vouched For. Price attempts to compensate by going for quality. “Client reviews are all verified by the accountant,” explained Price. “If an account denies a client, we ask the client for their evidence.

“We look at a bunch of data to spot if anything is fraudulent. We also ask the accountant to verify that the client is a genuine client. If we believe the accountant is behind it, we would report them to their accredited body. But it’s very rare that we see accountant-led fraud.”

Accountants are also able to directly reply to any comment left and any abusive posts are moderated.

The number of review data on the site also gives Price a unique insight. “Clients take technical skills as a given, we only list chartered accountants, so they accept that the accountant has professional competency,” said Price. “It’s not just about finding an accountant that’s good, but an accountant that’s right for you.”

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By kalaika
29th Sep 2015 17:11

Doesn't load for me

"TripAdvisor for accountants: Are you ready?"

 

Well, their website doesn't appear to be.  I've just searched for a location and after five minutes it says that it's still finding matches for my search.  Second browser, same result.  Nobody'll use it if it doesn't load...

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By johncharles
29th Sep 2015 18:43

I cannot

find it either

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By JSJ54
30th Sep 2015 08:24

Same with me

The search just goes on and on and on!

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
30th Sep 2015 09:11

Intriguing idea

I can see how the site might work for financial advisers and for lawyers. I'm less sure that it will have any longevity re accountants.

The first few decent practices on there are proud to proclaim their high ratings and I imagine this is intended to encourage others to come on board. Maybe it will as might the media coverage. But will enough of the public want to use such a site to choose a new accountant (whether when switching or when choosing one for the first time). And will enough accountants bother to encourage clients to post  testimonials on there?

The testimonials that are of most value re accountants are those that relate the quality of service and value for money received over a period of time. This is very different to TripAdviser, holiday and restaurant review sites where immediacy is key. Those sites can prompt users to post reviews by reference to a specific experience. Not sure how that can be replicated for accounting services provided over an extended period. Time will tell.  

Happy to be proven wrong - as ever ;-)

Mark

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Sep 2015 09:12

.

The terms and conditions for accountants contains a link to their fee structure (which suggests not only do they want a rather chunky monthly fee, they also want a referrals fees simply for a contact via their site.....which could easily be any old time waster, cold caller, ringer around of 20 firms etc.....

But the link doesnt go anywhere.....

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Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
30th Sep 2015 09:17

The link works for me

https://www.vouchedfor.co.uk/ 

But like I said, Vouched For is actually not the main crux here. It's more the idea of client reviews. What do you guys think of that? 

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
30th Sep 2015 10:11

Client reviews

Francois Badenhorst wrote:

... not the main crux here. It's more the idea of client reviews. What do you guys think of that? 

It's long been the case that including client reviews and positive feedback on an accountant's website can help to persuade the random prospect who finds the site. It's just one of the factors though. Equally there are many accountants who are embarrassed, scared or would consider it unprofessional to seek such feedback.  

I believe it's good practice to encourage clients to provide feedback so that we can learn what works or doesn't work for them. Structured systems that facilitate this can be useful but, as I noted above, making this work on a consistent basis for clients of accountants is very different to the trip adviser model where users are constantly taking new trips, eating in new places and staying in different hotels.

Mark

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Sep 2015 09:55

.
This is the one I couldn't  get to work from their T&C's, its just defaults to a standard search page.  

www.vouchedfor.co.uk/pricing-accountants

 Lucky they are not an online firm relying on technology!

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By JSJ54
30th Sep 2015 09:55

I tweeted them to say the search wasn't working

and received this reply:

"Have you tried expanding the search area? Also only contactable professionals are shown by default"

 

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
30th Sep 2015 10:23

.

I tend to agree Mark, I cant really see how this would work for accountants who have long term clients, for 20+ years.

It seems more suitable for business who spend a lot of time looking for work and have a high throughput. 

That said if you are the ONLY firm to do this in your area, and perhaps a startup it might just work for you.  I looked in my area, and there is just one accountant in the county which had lots of 'reviews' (presumably generated via a mass mail out to customers) but whilst they are all 4 or 5 stars the actual comments made quite uncomfortable reading with various moans and quibbles which the accountant then had to spend time answering...

And interesting idea, but be good if you could actually read the terms of service.

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By mrme89
30th Sep 2015 11:02

Cynical?
Reviewing an accountant is not a new concept.

Clients can leave reviews on platforms such as Google and Yell.

There is also the power of social media – but this is often used to voice a bad service, rather than a good service.

A site like TripAdvisor for accountants wouldn’t work well, and is not comparable to TripAdvisor which is a globally successful website with millions of visitors.

I also think the above company have missed a trick. By charging people to advertise their services, they are competing with PPH and not the likes of review sites such as TA. They will struggle to get firms to sign up at the relatively high fees, and they will struggle to get traffic from potential clients.

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Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
30th Sep 2015 11:06

Adam Price does raise a good point though

The extant online review platforms emphasise volume and are geared towards the hospitality and service industry. I agree with him that if it is to be effective the search/review metric should be altered to fit the profession. 

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By Ian McTernan CTA
30th Sep 2015 11:23

Only accountants...

And by restricting it only to chartered accountants 'so they have professional competency' they have entirely missed the boat as far as listing the 'best' accountants goes.

Oh look, this chartered accountant has a really good review, I'll go to him as I mainly need tax advice but don't realise it yet.  Wait, you're not a CTA, nor do you have sufficient tax expertise inhouse to deal with me...

Can't see having to PAY to get on the site as a good start.  As I have learnt over the years, being listed number one will just ensure you get a lot of timewasters contacting you.

It's a lot better to spend money on something that will attract the sort of clients you want rather than aim to be listed on that site.

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Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
30th Sep 2015 11:36

Thanks, Ian.

Ian McTernan CTA wrote:

And by restricting it only to chartered accountants 'so they have professional competency' they have entirely missed the boat as far as listing the 'best' accountants goes.

Oh look, this chartered accountant has a really good review, I'll go to him as I mainly need tax advice but don't realise it yet.  Wait, you're not a CTA, nor do you have sufficient tax expertise inhouse to deal with me...

Can't see having to PAY to get on the site as a good start.  As I have learnt over the years, being listed number one will just ensure you get a lot of timewasters contacting you.

It's a lot better to spend money on something that will attract the sort of clients you want rather than aim to be listed on that site.

Great comment, Ian. Appreciate it. Have you used the service in the past?

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By M Keates
30th Sep 2015 11:43

It's really not that good!

Made up from a batch of average accountants who can get their clients to rate them with no real 'qualification' by their client.

I don't really get it as it's self-proclamation and not really a trip advisor approach. Where are the bad comments like you get for hotels? There aren't any, instead it's 'pick my favourite 10 clients who will say something god about me'.

 

There is actually a better solution around which is interactive, independent and generating better quality approaches from interested parties, not the one-man bands who shouldn't be in business in the first place!

 

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By JSJ54
30th Sep 2015 12:04

Moving away from the post

M Keates wrote:

....... not the one-man bands who shouldn't be in business in the first place!

 

 

Is that all "one-man bands" or just the ones who "shouldn't be in business in the first place"?

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By M Keates
30th Sep 2015 12:09

just the one's who shouldn't be in business!

 

There are some very good individuals out there who can make a living and then there are others who get swept along on the tide of potential success however they don't have any idea of what's involved in running a business so should try and get gainful employment.........

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By Macey
30th Sep 2015 11:56

Why only Chartered allowed?

Can't see the logic

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By fruitful
30th Sep 2015 12:10

another perspective

As someone who has searched for a new accountant a few times over the years, I can say I would welcome another method of finding independent feedback. I don't use Facebook or Twitter so that is no use to me. I'm not sure about this particular platform as I would also note the paid for subscription etc. For me, the thing that makes Tripadvisor a must-use site is the guest photos showing what the rooms/ bathrooms really look like - you couldn't replicate that on Vouched For! Unless you could submit screenshots of rude emails (yes I have received these) or untidy offices!?! Otherwise who can say what the reviewer's own standards are, and how that informs their experience & opinion.

So I would only use sites such as this in conjunction with the accountant's own website and as part of wider fact finding. As long as the accountant's own website is comprehensive in describing the services they provide and how they might relate (or not) to my needs I would be confident in coming up with a decent shortlist of who to call.

In general though, it can be very useful to have client feedback for times when it isn't possible to ask for a reccomendation from a trusted friend/ acquaintance eg when just moved to a new area or when no one you know and respect has an accountant.

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7om
By Tom 7000
30th Sep 2015 12:11

i found it its here....

http://www.checkaprofessional.com/

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By JSJ54
30th Sep 2015 12:22

Nearest firm to Manchester

Tom 7000 wrote:

http://www.checkaprofessional.com/

140 miles away!

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By R.Skinner
30th Sep 2015 12:46

Feedback

Hi all,

I work in Product Development at VouchedFor. It's great to read all your feedback, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  We're still a young company and we know some areas of the site still need work. We're looking into some of the things mentioned in the comments below at the moment and hope to have them fixed later on today.  If you do have any feedback on our service or experience any issues then we'd love to hear them - you can contact us at [email protected].

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By Ainsley2
30th Sep 2015 20:54

Website

Hi - I started a search maybe 10 mins ago and it is still searching....... No results yet

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By Char
20th Oct 2015 14:25

CIMA is not a practice qualification and too many high ratings

Firstly CIMA is a qualification for management reporting and half of those listed are offering financial reporting services.  As such they are not qualified for the services you are listing them for and it is devaluing our worth in the industry as chartered practice accountants.  Secondly, how can you state you rate accountants yet all have a score of 4/5 and above?  

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By Michael C Feltham
20th Oct 2015 16:34

CIMA is not a practice qualification??????????

Char wrote:

Firstly CIMA is a qualification for management reporting and half of those listed are offering financial reporting services.  As such they are not qualified for the services you are listing them for and it is devaluing our worth in the industry as chartered practice accountants.  Secondly, how can you state you rate accountants yet all have a score of 4/5 and above?  

 

Where do you come up with your title?

Please read the excerpt from CIMA's Royal Charter.

http://www.cimaglobal.com/Members/Members-handbook/Licencing-and-monitor...

 

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By NH
30th Sep 2015 13:10

from my own perspective

I dont mean to sound arrogant but I know I provide an excellent service because I regularly ask my clients and they all tell me so.  I also have a steady flow of recommendations.

Over the years I have fallen out with a very small number of clients for one reason or another.  That is life, I dont lose any sleep over it.

I know for a fact that those latter clients would have loved to provide a scathing public review, all one sided, and even if I had been able to refute what they said publicly, mud sticks.

To get good reviews, I would most probably have to ask for them, they would be willingly provided, but why should I bother them?

Anyway a) I am not chartered and b) would never pay a fee so that I could allow my services to be reviewed.

So I guess I will never be on there!  What a shame....

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By mrme89
30th Sep 2015 16:20

I think only allowing CA's to appear on the site shows their lack of industry knowledge.

Nobody in their right mind would alienate such a large % of the industry they are trying to target, surely?

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By chatman
30th Sep 2015 16:23

Only allowing CAs on the site

Virtually everyone is a CA these days. They probably won't alienate many people at all.

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By Michael C Feltham
30th Sep 2015 19:35

Nice Idea: But no Cigar!

As anyone in practice with a website knows, we are a target for dumb brains offering to:

1.  Create a much better more compelling web presence (Yader, Yader, Yadder):

2.  Magically, ensure we are right at the top of Google listings:

3. Help us to leverage social media:

4. Show us "How to "Market" our businesss!";

etc.........

The core and salient reality these dumb bunnies cannot seem to grasp, is professionals come in two package sizes:

A. Top ten practices with, to quote the old Victorian addage, "Branches Everywhere!" (Usually Tree & Son - Ooops! Sorry!):

B.  Sole practitioners and perhaps > three partner practices.**

The reality as most of us know is our practices focus on the immediate locality: we don't, hopefully, set up in a small rural village enjoying 200 inhabitants!

Therefore, we cannot and will not rush all around the county to meet and/or service clients, anymore than clients will travel across a county to our office! It is not cost-effective and it wastes far too much potential billing time.

My own experiences with advertising channels (Yell; Local press etc) achieved precisely the same dismal results. Idiots seeking free advice and /or wanting Merlin The Magician replete with wand, crystal ball, willing and able to achieve miracles, instantly, and all for 200 quid! Lovely!

Core problem with all these clever blokes (ex banker; tells you bundles) dreaming up "Killer Apps" for websites to make them multi-millionaires in five weeks, is firstly, they are totally outside their own comfort zone of "core competence" plus second, always, but always they focus on the wonderkind of their idea and fail to carry out proper market research and thus create a viable USP.

However, what do I know? Been involved in the Web since its inception, have authored and created websites, CEO of a solutions provider/system integrater and founder and CEO of a small SME oriented software house; plus previously, an external examiner and moderator and ad hoc lecturer for a business school, mainly at MBA level. Thus clearly I know nozzing! (As Sergeant Schultz used to say, for those of tender years).

**Surveyed and applies to ICAEW, ACCA, AAT, IFA, CIMA et al members. Circa 90% of accountants holding practice certificates are SMPs.

 

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By Ainsley2
30th Sep 2015 20:50

Website not good at all

Started a search 3 minutes ago and it is still searching. People will give up after 15-20 seconds. So site needs attention!

 

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By jon_griffey
01st Oct 2015 08:40

What is the USP?

I dont understand the model. This is already a crowded market with review sites out there such as Yell and Google that nobody really uses. Any firms subscribing are going ensure that it is stuffed with gushing reviews from friendly clients they have specifically asked to put up a good review. People see through this. As accountancy is a personal service, firms will take poor reviews very badly and it will only take one or two for them before they wish to cancel their subscriptions.

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By vowlesj
01st Oct 2015 09:47

where is the institute/accounting web when you want them

I think the core idea of reviews is excellent - however what is wanted is a way of bringing all the firms and all the reviews into a central portal that lists everybody rather than just a few who are prepared to risk their advertising budget on a membership site.   I think the general public can tell that firms pay to be listed and that therefore whilst the reviews might be genuine the site as a whole only shows those who pay to be shown....and are sceptical for that reason.

Business reviews aren't new - Trip Advisor/Best of/CheckaTrade/ etc., etc.and why else do we have testimonials on our website, Google Plus or linked in profiles.    There are several search sites for accountants that come up on a google search and potentially all could add a review section.

So a central portal with reviews and links to reviews on other sites like linked in, etc., would be a useful thing if it had broad coverage. The issue is creating a central portal with trusted authority ... perhaps this a role for the Institutes or a commercial organisation like Accounting Web?   

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By Michael C Feltham
01st Oct 2015 21:27

Depends if...........!

vowlesj wrote:

I think the core idea of reviews is excellent -

If the reviewers are real and have some qualification for their assertions!

Quote:
Business reviews aren't new - Trip Advisor/Best of/CheckaTrade/ etc., etc.and why else do we have testimonials on our website, Google Plus or linked in profiles.    There are several search sites for accountants that come up on a google search and potentially all could add a review section.

Both ChekaTrade and Trip Adviser suffer two basic flaws.

With building works there are no independent tests of any supposed tradesman ability.

Trip adviser is noted for "puffing" by business listed and friends and staff writing ghost reviews. Additionally, I personally would not rely at all on the great British traveller or diner out, since they lack discernment and subjective perspective!

Indeed, my wife and I visited a local restaurant with Trip Adviser rave reviews. It was execrable! Family celebration and some other fool was paying! We ate little (and not much of that!).

I can just imagine reviews of accountants!These would vary between slagging off from aggrieved clients who were shall we say the authors of their own discontent (to parody the Bard): yet, as usual, blamed their adviser: to those needing ten professional hours of billing time on which we made a mistake and the clerk charged £200!

Worth perhaps remembering when the early site Friends Reunited included old schools and allowed ex pupils reviews of teachers, it ended in serial law suits for defamation against FR by outraged and very angry teachers and retired teachers!

As the late Sam Goldwyn was (perhaps apocryphal) said to state, "Include me out!"

 

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By Robert Lovell
01st Oct 2015 14:50

Business networking

I’d say one of the best ways for a business to find an accountant is through attending local business events and networking groups.

You can’t beat the more traditional personal referral to find an accountant - give them a try and if you're not happy move on.

Accountants should be able to rely on their existing clients to sing their praises

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By JSJ54
05th Oct 2015 17:14

Funding for Vouched For

Maybe I and a few others who've commented will be accused on not seeing the wood for the trees. I'm just glad it's not my money being invested.

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/ratings-website-receives-36m-cash-injection/...

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By kirstiej
21st Oct 2015 08:09

Agree with Michael about CIMA

CIMA members cannot audit, but they can certainly produce financial reports.  They must meet further requirements and register as a Member in Practice if they want to work in practice.  Whether or not any accounting qualification is evidence that a particular accountant has appropriate experience and training across the range of services that they offer is another matter. 

As a consumer I found Checkatrade to be a waste of time.  I used it a bit when I moved to a new area but found that while some companies were very good others weren't, but were very pushy about getting an immediate positive review.  If work was later found to be substandard, it was quite a palaver to get the review corrected.  Basically the service was paid for by the tradesmen and the reviews reflected this.  Much better to get to know the neighbours and get a personal recommendation.

On the other hand, tripadvisor seems to be full of people who just like to complain about random things e.g. the receptionist gave them a funny look.

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By Michael C Feltham
21st Oct 2015 15:41

Many Practioners!

Including AAT; Chartered Institute of Secretaries; AIA, (who also have last count, one - may now be more - registered auditors, albeit regulated by ICAEW); there are even some RAs who were registered as auditors prior to the FRC regulations. Amongst others.

 

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