There is no doubt that allowing customer reviews on any website creates more sales. But, there's something else that is happening too...
Like you, I'm a huge fan of consumer reviews (or customer reviews or peer reviews - depending on who you ask). The statistics speak for themselves. In fact, if you haven't seen much info on the power of letting your consumers talk about your brands, products and services, check out this page from Bazaarvoice: Bazaarvoice statistics. Basically, most people seek out real reviews from their peers prior to making a purchase (and they take what is being said in those reviews very seriously).
But, it's not all about closing the sale.
Just today, I was interviewed for the radio show (and podcast), Spark, on the CBC with Nora Young. The segment revolves around a Bed & Breakfast owner who had one very negative review and could link it directly to the loss of several reservations. It took the owner a while to realize that those cancellations were because of a customer review online, and from there he did everything possible to rectify the situation.
Here are 6 top-level reasons why customer reviews matter more than you think:
- They force us to pay attention - the owner of this bed and breakfast would probably not have lost other customers had he been using simple listening tools like Google Alerts.
- You can't control them - even if you don't allow people to review your products/services on your site, they can do it elsewhere online (like Yelp, etc...). On top of that, they can simply use Twitter, Facebook or even their own Blog to review you.
- They force us to be better - it's hard to argue with the fact that we live in a world where anybody and everybody is now a published critic. This is not like the old days of a local news crew creating a sting operation to get someone their money back. Now, everything is (or can be) recorded in text, audio, video and images and published to the Web in real time. Simply put, your products can't suck anymore and they can't be inconsistent either.
- They force us to be naked - if your product isn't up to par, you will hear about it fast and from many places. On top of that, those critiques are now a permanent record on the Internet. They are findable, searchable and linkable... to put it bluntly - they are very simple to spread.
- They are a free (and huge) focus group - with over 1.5 billion people online and over 80% of people seeking out peer reviews prior to purchasing anything, it's clear that people ask their own online social network before buying just about anything and everything. Search has come a long way. Tools like Twitter Search, Technorati and Google Blog Search let you "listen in" to what people are saying - out of their own free will. You'll hear all about the products and services you sell as well as those of your competitors. You can even follow conversations around the industry you serve... and more. If that is not one of the most amazing tools ever created for business, I don't know what is.
- They force us to innovate - if your product does suck, you'll know why and even get suggestions on how to fix it. When was the last time you could actually innovate and push your products/services to the next level without a serious investment in consultants and the like? The amazing thing about great consumer reviews is they not only tell you what they like or dislike, they also try to help you be better through suggestions and ideas.
We know that brands who embrace consumer reviews get more sales. We also know that - statistically - most reviews are positively glowing (and not negative), so why are so many companies still on the fence when it comes to really opening up?