How to Get Rave Reviews on Your Customer Reviews

It’s no surprise that a customer will eagerly look for a review or a recommendation prior to making a purchase.  It’s not a surprise either that the Internet has made that so easy.  Nielsen tells us that consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising.  78% of us trust consumer recommendations above any other form of advertising.  What I find more interesting is that only 61% of us trust consumer opinions posted online – a 17% difference.

Why the difference you ask?  Even if you didn’t ask, here is my take:

“It comes down to trust, and the most trusted source for information about a company and it’s products for consumers comes from someone like themselves. (AdAge)”

So the key to getting rave reviews on your customer reviews rests in your ability to provide customers the ability to determine how much the review writer is like themselves.  So some do’s and don’ts:


  • Have your marketing people write your reviews, or put up a “sponsored” review that reads like a marketing message.  Consumers can see through that “overly glowing” review and will not trust other positive reviews on your site, or any other messaging for that matter.
  • Remove negative reviews from your website.  Consumers understand that not all reviews will be positive.  Have no negative reviews can often raise warning flags.  Let customers see the nature and content of the negative reviews.  Give your customers credit for their ability to discern what is fair.
  • Don’t reply to negative reviews with excuses.  Instead, reply by acknowledging the customers complaint and respond with a fair solution.


  • Summarize the scoring of your reviews and let customers see the distribution of reviews.  Let them see if all reviews were 5’s and 4’s or if they were all 5’s and 1’s.  These two views of customers reviews for video game consoles tell different stories.  The one for the Wii has a much higher percentage of 5’s and 4’s and a lower percentage of 1’s than the one for the Xbox.

  • Let reviewers tell customers a little about themselves so the customer can know how much the reviewer is “like themselves.”  Your products/services can’t be all things to all people.  The review format from Sierra Trading Post does a nice job of letting a customer know more about the reviewer by asking them to describe themselves and their “gear” style.

  • Let customers vote on reviewers content, as well a flag potentially problematic reviews for things such as profanity, spam, duplication, content problems, etc.
  • Use customer reviews to improve your product/services, and let customers know it was their reviews that helped.

Remember to focus on building trust, demonstrating transparency, and being an advocacte for your customers (doing what’s best for your customers) and you’ll be well on your way to getting 5 stars for your reviews.


Who Really Shapes Company Reputations?

all_for_one.jpg  According to a recent study by Deloitte not only is there a significant amount of information on the web to aid purchasing decisions, but these reviews also shape company reputations.  Well, that’s really no big surprise to readers of this blog.  According to the survey:

62% of consumers read consumer-written product reviews on the Internet. Of these, 82% say their purchase decisions are influenced by these reviews, either influencing them to buy a different product than the one they were initially considering or confirming the original purchase intention.  In addition 69% of consumers who read reviews share them with friends, family or colleagues, thus amplifying their impact beyond online.


What I did find interesting is this quote from Deloitte’s Pat Conroy in their press release:

“This increasing market transparency can adversely impact the margins, market share and brand equity of consumer products companies,” said Pat Conroy, vice chairman and US consumer products group leader at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.  “In the past, clever marketers and advertisers shaped brands, but now consumers are increasingly empowered, everyone has a voice, and information and opinions are instantly dispersed. Consumer product companies need to determine how best to capitalize on this new landscape. Clearly, there will be consequences for those who don’t.”

Is it really ‘increasing market transparency’ that is adversely impacting the margins, or is it a lousy product or a lousy customer experience?  Marketing transparency has always been there, it just happens much faster these days as the result of all the online tools that speed up and increase access to word-of-mouth.  Companies are now faced with developing better products and better experiences because “the word” can get out there faster and be “heard” by more consumers than ever before.  Marketers need to understand that shaping brands is now a “partnership” with current customers where their voice should be heard, because potential customers are certainly listening.

This reminds me of the quote by Morris Hite in 1988:

“Nothing will put a bad product out of business faster than a good advertising campaign.”

So maybe know we need to change that quote: “Nothing will put a bad product out of business faster than honest word-of-mouth.”  So companies take note  – do your customer research, create relevant products and great customer experiences, and welcome this market transparency.  It could be the best marketing campaign you ever created.

Wal-Mart to Online Customers: “Don’t Call Us – Ever!”

no_phone1.jpg  According to a story from NPR, Wal-Mart doesn’t want it’s online customers calling them so much.  So they removed the customer service phone number from their website and want customers to use the online help instead.  This sounds a bit like Sprint’s firing of those “pesky” customers who called Customer Service too often.

I don’t have the details on why Wal-Mart decided to do this, but I imagine it was a cost-savings decision.  According to NSP Strategist, Sprint’s “pesky” customers where costing them $750 per month each. 

At some point a business needs to find out which customers it can service most effectively.  If you are thinking of firing customers or taking away support options, please ask youself these questions before you do:

  1. Why are these customers calling so often?  Do you have a real problem with your products/services that is causing them to call?  Many customers won’t call, they will just switch to your competitor. 
  2. Do you have a communications problem?  Maybe you need to find a better way to communicate the information that is continually requested.
  3. Who are these customers?  Are they profitable?  Could they be profitable?
  4. Are there other options you could provide?  What do your competitors provide?
  5. What is the impact of negative word-of-mouth going to be?  What is your strategy to minimize it?  Here is an interesting case of negative word-of-mouth where the court has encouraged consumers to air grievances online.

One would have to venture that both Wal-Mart and Sprint have some idea of what is most valuable to customers, and the role that customer support has in that value equation.  If they really don’t know, they will learn quickly from these actions if they choose to – but at what cost?  For smaller businesses who may not have that level of insight, before you make a decsion to cut support you need to know the answers to the questions listed above.  You need to know what customers value, and which customers are most valuable to you.

The Customer Strikes Back

referring.jpg No, it’s not the title of the next movie in the Star Wars series. It is part two in a three-part series from Accenture on customer service in the technology industry. The survey mentions several review sites such as,,, and Are they effective? The report states that:

“According to Henderson research, there are now more than 25,000 websites dedicated to poor customer service, and there were more than 100 examples in the past year of actions individuals took to virally communicate their displeasure via the Internet resulting in a company’s changing its policy.”

Average customer service is not good enough. The report findings show that there is a direct relationship between how satisfied customers are with the service they receive and how likely they will be to continue to patronize a provider. According to report “only about one-fourth of customers said that they would buy again from a company that, in their minds, provides only average service, and just 19 percent said they were likely to be more loyal to such a company.”

Service is more important than innovation. According to a customer service survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Verint Systems, consumers overwhelmingly prefer good customer service over the hottest, most innovative product offerings, and most consumers will tell others about their customer experiences – whether bad or good. Some 88% reported that they find a company with good customer service much more enticing than one with the new and innovative products.

The take-aways:

  1. Be sure to gather customer feedback about your customer service and know that good enough, isn’t.
  2. Add customer service to your competitor analysis, and include website customer self-service tools in your analysis.
  3. Monitor consumer review websites for feedback about your business and your competitors.
  4. Take all your customer feedback seriously, even if you only get a few responses. Many customers will not directly tell a company about their experience, so be sure to both clarify and quantify any issues that get reported from customers.

Word of Mouth and Our Ego

Results from a recently released study titled “Word of Mouth the #1 Influence on Business Buying Decisions” by the Keller Fay Group showed that word of mouth is the #1 influence on business purchase decisions and is best leveraged through face-to-face marketing efforts. There was one little tidbit included in the press release that didn’t get much mention, but I found it particularly revealing. That is that “fewer than one in 10 conversations advise avoiding a brand.” It made me question that old adage that said one unhappy customer will tell nine others. Maybe a little insight into consumer, and human behavior might explain this new finding. With larger purchases and especially business purchases where the stakes are higher, we have more invested in the decision, and at times it can become personal. If that purchase goes wrong many of us may not tell others because we don’t want to admit to others that we made a bad decision. Granted there are times when the company totally blew it and you just need to vent to anyone who will listen, or sometimes you just don’t want to spread negative talk. But I wonder how much of this finding is the result of ego. What’s your take on this?