Can you honestly remember the last time you went somewhere or bought something without reading a review first? Once upon a time, you’d hear from a friend of a friend of a friend that restaurant X is amazing, and then you would go, have an awful experience, and think to yourself, can I really trust the opinion of just one person? Remember the dry cleaner you tried on a whim that ruined your favorite shirt? And how about your lackluster overpriced spa treatment, or the restless stay at a hotel infested with bed bugs? The battle with customer service at any place was a daunting task and where did you end up? Most likely, your complaint was regarded as just another grievance and was added to the rest of the pile. But that was then—the “Feedback Frenzy” is now.
Today, the trend of consumer reviews is booming more than ever, with sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor paving the way for customers who want to report back on their experiences. Consumers from Paris, France, to Paris, Texas can review local hot spots and international destinations from the comfort on their own home. Additionally, companies including Amazon, eBay, and numerous clothing retailers now encourage user generated feedback and reviews directly on the page where products appear for purchase. On most review sites, customers can rate the “star quality” of an item or place and share their thoughts and experiences, all while potential purchasers can ponder these opinions before making a decision.
So how is the era of reviews affecting companies worldwide? Drastically. In a 2007 study conducted by comSCORE, research showed that customers were willing to pay at a minimum, 20% more for a 5-star/Excellent rated product as opposed to one only having a 4-Star/Good rating. In addition, 24% of those who use the Internet stated that they consulted a review before making an offline purchase, such as going to a restaurant or seeking medical or legal services. As one of the biggest testaments to the “Feedback Frenzy’s” effect on business, 75% of those in the “review culture,” reported that online reviews considerably impacted their decision to or to not make a purchase. According to Experian Marketing, in a 2011 report, online reviews of products and places is the third most influential item in affecting a consumers decision to purchase.
Now the question is: is the “Feedback Frenzy “ a good thing? Without a doubt! For years companies seemingly had the upper hand, especially when handling a dissatisfied customer. Without venting space, it was too easy for customer concerns to fall by the wayside. Today, the “Feedback Frenzy” gives consumers a voice, and a loud one at that. Companies now have more at stake, and thanks to reviews, are held to a higher standard.
However, companies also have something to gain from this. Reviews provide an excellent avenue for companies to connect with customers to better understand what’s working and what’s not. It’s free insight into their brand that they can make something of. Reviews give companies the opportunity to make necessary improvements to build a consumer base and retain current customers. While there may be those who argue bias, or contribute reviews merely to frivolously besmirch a company’s good name, unsubstantiated reviews can be flagged and removed to maintain fairness within the system.
One of the biggest mistakes companies and customers can make in today’s review crazed world is to not actively participate in the frenzy.