The Truth About Online Ratings
The internet has opened up new ways to gather information to help with brand decisions, whether you’re the buyer or the manufacturer. Most sites now include the ability to rate products or add written feedback. An increasing number of marketers and salespeople are using these sources to make decisions about product strategies. But should they?
The Benefits Of Free Internet-Based Feedback
It’s free – If you’re a potential customer, you can easily find out what others think about the product. And if you’re the company, you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars to get basic feedback about your products / services
It’s easily accessible 24/7 – Anyone can do a quick Google search on virtually any consumer product and find free feedback online to help guide their product selection. You don’t need a subscription to Consumer Reports, which used to be the only game in town. Evaluations of consumer services are harder to find, and business to business product ratings are even tougher to locate, however.
It’s current – If the product/service has relatively a lot of users, new ratings and comments are likely to be posted daily or weekly.
You can find out some interesting things that you might not otherwise have learned – Written comments from thoughtful product/service users can sometimes contain very interesting insights on unexpected topics that you may not have imagined might be important to know.
The “Dirty Little Secrets”
It’s not representative – Raters tend to skew to the “really angry” end of the spectrum, with a small portion of brand lovers. Unfortunately, the vast majority fall in the middle of those extremes, and they don’t typically take the time to post.
It’s not comprehensive – Commentary often focuses on a few top-of-mind areas. Sometimes, a “pile on based on someone else’s comment” phenomenon happens, blowing an issue out of proportion to its true importance. Other important issues may not even be mentioned.
It may not come from real users –Ratings and postings may be from “company operatives” – people being paid to say nice things about the company/product/service. Some companies stopped this practice when they were “found out”, others decided they didn’t want to risk their reputation, but there are still plenty who think it’s entirely acceptable to elevate their reputation this way. This is affecting some unexpected rating sites. For example, a company’s HR department solicited employees to put positive ratings on Glass Door because their rating was low and was affecting the quality of candidates they were able to attract.
You may need to dig through a lot of junk to find the golden nuggets – The best content tends to be in comments (not the actual numeric ratings, which are highly problematic given the reasons above). However, it can take time sifting through hundreds or hundreds of thousands of comments to find the best learning.
The Moral of The Story: You get what you pay for, so buyer beware.