I’ve written a few blog posts recently surrounding open review sites and their well-known pitfalls published in the media and verified by some of Mindshare’s own independent research. This is a topic that I am very passionate about.
Why? Because I believe that brands deserve to get credit for their customer service efforts. I believe they deserve to get the word out about the great experiences they provide to thousands of customers, through honest, authentic, timely and accurate ratings and reviews. I believe that consumers have the right to access this information in order to make an informed purchase decision about the brands, products, and services they research and select.
Open review sites today simply don’t allow this to happen and it’s because they are missing the following three essential elements that a review site requires in order to be reliable and effective:
1. Accurate, quality feedback
Typically, people only go to an open review site when they are extremely satisfied or dissatisfied with their brand experience. However, open review sites have no mechanism to validate that reviews came from actual customers, which makes fraudulent reviews a heavily scrutinized topic in the media today.
Brands have no true way of identifying who is really leaving a review for their locations – it could be a competitor looking to sabotage with negative reviews or the brand itself could be posting positive fake reviews to reinforce a weak reputation. Either way, brands or the customer experiences they deliver are not being accurately portrayed, making it difficult for anyone to truly trust what is said on an open review site today.
Putting the proper mechanism in place to ensure that reviews are authentic and validated will eliminate the nagging question of whether the review is fake or real.
2. High review volume
When it comes to customer reviews, the “less is more” approach just doesn’t jive. Why? Because they are the lifeblood of review sites and having a substantial volume of reviews is the foundation to a relevant and representative destination.The trouble is, consumers need to be enticed to voluntarily leave a review. With people typically compelled to visit a review site when they have either a horrible or a great experience, the average experience is often not reflected, which is what consumers are looking for in a review because it is likely what they can expect.
Offering an incentive to leave a review will entice consumers to offer their feedback, whether positive, negative or neutral.
3. Review recency
Review recency is as important as review quality and quantity. The timing of when feedback is submitted on a review site is extremely important as consumers need to understand what a hotel, restaurant, or store is like now. With review sites not getting enough new reviews, old reviews are kept on these sites for long periods of time, often several years. In return, there is a veritable plague of stale data circulating. The more recent the review data, the more accurately it will reflect what the current state of the customer experience is really like.