Customer Reviews and Blogs: Do They Matter?December 14th, 2009 | Online & Small Business Resources,shopping,Small Business,Small Business Tips | 3 Comments »
There are a lot of websites and blogs that track the good and bad customer experiences with online sites and service providers. The general notion is that these past experiences will help predict what future experiences will be. The concept makes a lot of sense, but it presumes a few things to be true. I just finished reading SuperFreakonomics, so I think I’m more than qualified to address these issues in a rigorous manner (did I mention that I am a scientist? Yep, I graduated with a degree in political science, so you’re in good hands):
Sample Issues: The review sites and blogs are very much slanted towards those actually inclined to share their experiences, and those who actually know how to share them. There is a large bloc of people not interested in telling the world about how they were ripped off by an unknown online seller (it’s called “loss avoidance” and most of us engage in it at some point…see I told you I was a scientist). The sample of these comments are further vexed by the fact that some people don’t know how to voice their opinions (or which sites to do it with) — so the sample will likely skew towards more positive and be made by those familiar with technology/online industries.
Fraud: This is also a concern, and likely why most ratings skew overly positive…online sellers/service providers rate themselves (via fake accounts or their friends). It’s not “fraud” in the sense of defrauding someone out of their money, but it’s not honest and defeats the purpose of customer reviews. It’s similar to how I used to inscribe my own yearbook to make it seem like I had more friends.
Low Visibility/Little Negative Impact: An online seller isn’t likely to promote their customer reviews unless they are positive, so it takes a consumer extra effort to research the negative reviews. And once you do come across those reviews, what do they mean? If you’re about to save 20% on the new plasma t.v., it’s likely that you’ll take your chances — it’s likely the previous customers were just complainers.
Time for the anecdotal: My wife bought a new light fixture online. She receives it and finds out it can’t be used in a bathroom because of a potential fire hazard. The contacts the owner of the site, he tells her “she should be fine putting it in the bathroom”). After realizing she is not going to be able to return the item, she threatens to “blog about her experience”. Of course, she has other things to worry about and in time she moves one — no negative review, no blog posting, no negative effect for the online seller.
Of course, we here at KikScore think we’ve solved the issue, but until we’re ubiquitous, we’ll have to determine whether customer reviews are helpful. What are your thoughts?