Do you allow your customers to post reviews on your website about your products or services? It seems that most businesses have a fear of what their customers might say if given the power to review. Unfortunately for them, customers have a way (especially in the Web 2.0 environment) to find a platform to say what they want to say and how they want to say it.
I was reminded of the vast power that Web 2.0 has on consumer buying and merchant selling processes just the other day. My wife is considering the purchase of a new car. She has the philosophy that car buying is a necessary evil and if you are going to buy one, buy something fun and drive it for 10 years. So she has been looking at, researching and test driving BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Acura, Lexus, Infiniti and Volvos.
I have to admit, after hearing the sales people give their pitch and experiencing the brands’ websites, you really get enthralled with these cars. But reality sets in when you seek the third party perspectives from user-content generated sites like Edmunds, miscellaneous blogs, forums and so on. Boy, the things you learn from reading customer, and to some degree editorial, reviews!
For example, BMW strongly advertises their four year or 50,000 mile maintenance-free program which means free oil changes and other maintenance. Initially you think, “Wow, take away the expense of oil changes and other maintenance over the first, four years and you’re lowering you total cost of ownership.” Then you read the customer reviews!
The BMW uses the new run-flat tires. Assuming the customer reviews are accurate, my wife learned that the run-flat tires typically have to be replaced every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Since she normally drives about 15,000 miles a year, you are talking about at least an extra $1,000 year for new tires! Carry that out over 10 years of owning the car and suddenly a $40,000 car turns into a $50,000 car plus the other maintenance after the initial four years, 50,000 miles. And I know with my 4×4 SUV, I only replaced my tires after driving 55,000 miles at a far lower cost. Thank you customer review for the insight.
Another example, we discovered (my wife and I aren’t experienced performance car buyers) that the Infiniti G35 only comes with high performance rated tires. Therefore if you live in an area that experiences some icy or snowy winters then you are going to have some serious driving issues. The remedy? Oh you have to get all-season tires. OK – so we ask the sales person if we can just buy the car with all-season tires? Nope – the sales person tells us that only high performance tires are available. You have to buy the all-season separately and have the dealer change them out once a year. Hmmm – and how much is that? Oh, a thousand or so for the tires and few hundred for the change! Thank you customer review for pointing that out!
Customer reviews, whether supported by the business or not, are sought after by consumers. If your business creates a great experience then customer reviews will only positively influence your selling process. However, if your business has a tendency for creating bad experiences and you may have no where to hide so you better work on building trust and credibility once a new customers visits your website.
I read a really good article in Catalog Success magazine (July 2007) titled “Four Reasons to Employ Customer Reviews” (John Deneen, page 23) that provided some great insights. You may be able to find the article at www.catalogsuccess.com/infocenter. The main point I want to reference from the article (and there are many good points) is this, “92% of online customers rated “customer reviews” as extremely or very helpful (the top rated website site feature) in a 2006 survey conducted by J.C. Williams/the e-tailing group.” That is a significant percentage and extremely worth your attention.
If you haven’t yet considered a strategy around customer reviews, you may want to start. Your customers are certainly finding them and reinforcing/supporting their purchasing decisions with them.