From movies to plumbers, restaurants to building supplies, online reviews are taking over more and more industries. It makes sense: as more business is transacted online, people use reviews as a way to share their experience. For a customer, an honest review is invaluable, whether it’s positive or negative. But is the same true for a business?
A Good/Bad Review
Even if the customer was disappointed, gave you a low star rating or complained about your staff, the review may still have a positive effect. Detailed reviews often list features that you wouldn’t have thought to advertise or didn’t have space to mention. As negative reviews are often read more attentively than positive ones, other potential customers may realise that their needs will be met. Even brief reviews are often a mix of good and bad points. As an example, a disappointed customer might post “* – food great but not open on Sundays”.
Another benefit of low-scoring or poor reviews is that they set expectations. In the hotel industry, one of the pioneers of e-commerce review systems, premium hotels often receive worse scores than budget ones. Having paid more for their stay, guests demand an impossibly high level of service. Guests at budget hotels have lower expectations, so are more easily satisfied. Setting reasonable expectations is an advantage for the business, as it reduces complaints. Petty reviews and minor complaints also set a standard: readers will assess the problem, and if it’s minor assume that the rest of the service was fine and is worthwhile.
Online consumers are savvy, and know that they should look a gift horse in the mouth. An e-commerce store or review site that only has positive reviews lacks authority and trustworthiness. As many businesses choose to buy good reviews, or to positively review their own product, ten reviews running the gamut from one star to five stars will be seen as more reliable than ten 5* reviews.
Libel, Swearing and Obscene Content
Most e-commerce and review sites monitor the content they host. Occasionally, someone will post something wildly inappropriate and the content will make it through the filter. Typically, these posts are no good for anyone, as they are damaging to both the review site and the business or product being ‘reviewed’. Many sites have a ‘flag this content’ button, allowing any user to report inappropriate content. If it’s your business that’s affected, contact the site owner or their customer support team and explain clearly and politely why the content should be removed.
The Wrong Product
Everyone makes mistakes, so you may spot a review that’s not actually for your product. This will only cause confusion, so it’s best to contact the site and ask for the review to be removed or transferred to the correct product. If you can respond, post a polite note explaining that the product is not yours, and give the details of your own version, if you have one.
Online reviews can linger for years. If your product or business has changed significantly, it may be worth requesting that older reviews are removed or clearly labelled, to avoid confusion. In this case, positive reviews can be more damaging than negative ones, particularly if they mention offers or features that no longer exist.