Wednesday 15 April 2020

ABC of Reviews: 1. Do reviews matter?

There are two straightforward answers to this question:

1. From a consumer perspective...

Consumers have come to rely more and more on reviews, especially for critical purchasing decisions. Critical purchases? You guessed right, we are not talking shoes or pizzas here (although consumers do read reviews of those) but the likes of financial, medical and legal services. In this context four things matter...

  • The location of the reviews: they must be as easy as possible to find - on the business's own website and then Google (more on this vital topic later).
  • The business's score: if this is under 4.5 out of five and there are alternatives for the consumer to choose from that are scoring 4.7 or 4.8 almost all potential customers will instinctively opt for the latter.
  • The number of reviews: studies confirm that fifty is the optimum number as the first step towards credibility (and the more over and above that number the better). Significant numbers of well-written reviews negate the cynical consumer reaction: 'they're just written by friends and family'.
  • The content of the reviews: great content convinces consumers to take the next crucial step - making contact. 
So: consumers want reviews. And consumers are influenced to use - or, at the very least, make contact with - businesses that host reviews on their own websites and look great on Google.

Reviews matter to consumers.

2. From a business perspective

Businesses now accept that great reviews - and the resulting reviews score  - drive business, but why did it take so long for the penny to drop for so many of them?

The answer is simple and can be summed up in one word: fear. Fear that inviting consumer reviews would damage their brand. A man walks into a bar and criticises a business and maybe two people are influenced; man writes a review like this on Google and just about every potential customer is influenced. Scary, no?

This is what we call a 'killer' review. It has not been written by a 'keyboard warrior' - it's her first-ever review - but by a customer who, on the face of the evidence provided, has every reason to be dissatisfied combined with every reason to want to warn fellow consumers. It helps provide the answer to the question of whether or not to engage with reviews: the business in question has not engaged, but that did not prevent this - highly motivated - customer posting her review where it would be seen and read by thousands of their potential customers.

Many (most?) businesses looked at reviews and saw two possible ways ahead, either ignore them completely or engage but ignore the consumer regulations - the law - and the reviews sites' own T&Cs.

Ignoring reviews leaves a business open to having its online reputation (for that read simply 'reputation') dominated by its unhappy customers - rightly or wrongly. Breaking the law, most often by hand picking satisfied customers to write reviews, not only leaves a business open to sanction by the regulators but is also obvious to its competitors,. Take this estate agency, for example...

...if they had a small handful of reviews it would be possible to conclude that they had all been written by genuine customers unprompted by the business. With 27 over the last four years and then four in a month one is forced to come to the conclusion that they have proactively invited only selected customers to post a review - which is in direct contravention of the CMA regulations (more later) and leaves them open to - perhaps justifiable - criticism by their competitors along the lines of 'of course they look great, they only invite a highly selective sample of their customers to write a review.'

  • not engaging, besides missing a great opportunity to drive business through search and your website, leaves the way clear for a tiny minority of your unhappy customers to dominate the impression created
  • engaging is a must, but just how to engage and stay the right side of the law? That is the $64,000 question
And one to be answered in a future article, now we have established the answer to the question posed in the title of this piece.

Reviews matter to businesses.


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