Online Customer-Product Reviews
For companies such as eBay Inc., one of the largest online platforms for the sale of goods and services, online customer-product reviews play a critical role in eBay’s everyday business functions. On eBay, there are millions of items listed during an average day, and buyers from all over the world purchase items either in an auction-style format or at a fixed price through eBay’s Buy It Now feature. And you’d better believe buyers readily use eBay’s Feedback Forum to help them in their purchasing decisions. In addition, for the thousands of people that sell on eBay full-time, getting feedback from their buyers is critical to their success as a seller, and positive feedback can easily influence their ability to get into the next income bracket.
Today, online customer product reviews are simply part of the online experience, because if companies or sellers do not give their customers an opportunity to voice both their positive and negative opinions, they are missing valuable insight from their customer base. In fact, most would say that the return on investment of instantaneous customer feedback outweighs any of the headaches that come from maintaining a feedback forum. Furthermore, feedback forums give marketers greater access to and knowledge of their customers.
Nevertheless, these forums often can attract a margin of unhappy people. The old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” does not apply in this almost uncensored environment. Many people see customer feedback forums as an opportunity to reveal their frustrations, disappointments and negative outlooks on products or sellers. For example, on Amazon.com, one reviewer rated a camera with one star and said, “Here are the reasons not to buy this WORTHLESS camera: The flash works 7 percent of the time. Expect button jams 41 percent of the time, which means expect wasting two or three pictures per jam. The strap was a pre-frayed, stringy mess upon arrival. And four roles of 24 exposures equal 17 pictures—that’s an 18 percent success rate! After spending two weeks on vacation with this camera, we would have to give it an absolute zero. Paper cuts are more fun than this waste of time and money. I would not recommend this camera.”
This negative review could definitely sway a buyer not to purchase this product. However, reviews, such as the one above, are very common. For example on Chicago’s Metromix.com, people are free to write reviews on their favorite or not-so-loved restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other hotspots around the metropolitan Chicago area. Many people use this Web site to find fresh eats, new places to hang with their friends or find the perfect spot for a first date. (And I should know, because I am one of the thousands that religiously read reviews to find where I am going to get my next meal.)
For example, reviews of a Chicago North-side, family-owned 24-hour diner range from fantastic to nasty. Metromix reviewer, TN.D, a Chicago resident said, “Me and my boyfriend love this place! The atmosphere is great, the food is excellent and certainly generously given, and the prices seem excessively cheap! We visit at least once a week and I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like. I’m especially obsessed with their sweet and sour cabbage soup. I highly recommend this place.” Conversely, Chicago resident Jackie Green said, “Cheap food—way too much butter used in most of the dishes. Management seems abrupt and rude to own staff. I have written this place off.”
A discussion in CertMag’s Trainer Community forum concerning a certification provider is going on right now. So even non-product providers’ forums can serve as a platform for customers to state and discuss their opinions. CertMag.com member certUserXyz wrote, “Due to misleading information like ‘No extensions or rain checks. Sale ends 2/15/06,’ I feel bad about my purchase. I felt that I made a wrong step going to this company as a customer. I do not care if the product is good or bad, even if it is average, I will be happy and I always expect/prefer honest, good customer service and respected service.”
On the other hand, Certmag.com member tbfl5 wrote, “I used this company’s Windows 2003 training courses last year for my MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certification and they are very good. I would definitely recommend them if you are looking for good, low cost CBT (Computer-Based Training) courses. I also didn’t have any problems with them and they’ve answered my e-mails promptly.” Considering that so many Web sites now have a forum for customers to rant, vent and rave about products and/or services, in the end it is really up to the buyer to weed through the relentless rants of the “unhappy” people, the tireless promoters and the average Joes to make a decision. Supposedly, the customer is always right, but then again, it is really up to the companies or sellers to decipher what they need or want to improve or what will boost their performance.
-Cari McLean, firstname.lastname@example.org