As I mentioned elsewhere, I write reviews as part of the Vine program and so I pay close attention to how customer reviews are received. So you can imagine my puzzlement when I started to read about reviewers being sued over negative reviews. And then I had to amend one of my own reviews for a Krups Espresso machine that stopped working after seven months and I got it. Reviews are power.
After all, we don’t really need the Gallup Poll to tell us that manufacturers regularly make promises that can’t possibly be true. (Although it is nice that the Gallup gave its imprimatur of authority to this well-known fact). But before reviews came along, unless your paper of choice was the Consumer Reports, you probably would not know if the product was any good or if it was worth the money being asked. You would have to find out the hard way.
Now, there are reviews that tell you about customers’ subjective experience with a product or service. Now, those reviews are, by definition, subjective. Our espresso machine may have been a one in a million (or it may have been like a BMW—everyone loves it until it goes catastrophically wrong and BMWs go catastrophically wrong with depressing regularity). But now that review is out there and the manufacturer has at least one three-star review to contend with. (I have always been a high scorer so a three star review is, for the most part, as low as I will go. In this case it’s because people did work hard to design and build the machine and it did make amazing coffee for seven months.)
Reviews are also advertising. According to Nielsen, trust in consumer reviews of products has been growing rapidly. This makes sense. We tend to trust friends’ and neighbors’ advice over that of “professional reviewers”. But as our society grows more atomized, friends in real life are increasingly hard to come by. And so we turn to “virtual friends and neighbors” which is to say to reviewers. And all of that is real power–for ordinary customers.
As people realize that (even if subconsciously) the culture of reviewing takes hold. It is now acceptable (and even expected) that you will review a product you have (whether you think it’s great, terrible or just OK). Furthermore, it is increasingly common for people (such as myself) to read attentively at least half a dozen or so reviews of a product before making my purchase whether I am buying it in a brick-and-mortar store or online. (And the more expensive the purchase, the more reviews I will read.) Incidentally, I will read the reviews; not look at the number of stars given. This is because I know that different people “score” differently. What may be four or five stars for me may be two or three stars for you but despite the “grade difference,” it is likely that we will say similar things.
So there you have it—a world in which everyone gets to have their two cents. If they want them. Where it will end, I have no idea. I doubt anyone does. But for me it’s fun to be a part of it.
If you’re not reviewing your stuff yet I would encourage you to. Try it. It’s fun.