How useful are review sites?

If you’re planning a holiday, looking to buy a new laptop or even contemplating a new brand of washing powder, the chances are you will find a bunch of reviews online. But how useful are they and how do you use them? And if you’re a business owner, how do you handle them?

Ways people use them

  • I generally read a handful of reviews and come away with an overall impression.
  • A colleague always looks at the worst reviews only.
  • Some people read each and every review.

But would they actually change your mind?

Before booking a weekend break last year, I scoured the review sites to make sure my expectations were in check. I would much rather be happily surprised than disappointed. Having decided on a destination, it was time to research it! Ignoring the lovely brochure shots that were evidently staged and taken from flattering angles, I looked at the guest photos and reviews. Some of them were less than complimentary and highlighted some quite concerning issues – leaky taps, mouldy bathrooms etc.

However, you have to take into account the age of the photos, whether it’s a problem that has been dealt with since, or whether it’s someone simply being vindictive. It’s also worth checking other review sites and forums to see if there are any other discussions.

In the event, we were delighted – the reality was a mixture of the brochure shots and the guest ones, but there were no mouldy bathrooms or signs of neglect and we had a fabulous weekend.

As a business owner, do you respond?

If you run a company that has reviews written about it (whether you like it or not!), then I highly recommend you respond and ‘show your face’ every now and again.

It’s not necessary to respond to every single post, but at least make it known you are aware of any negatives and are dealing with them, or preferably that you are delighted to see that people are enjoying your services.

However, DO NOT get drawn into an online discussion. Take it offline and contact the person directly if a negative situation arises, but let the public know you are doing this. For example, if someone is complaining about a bad meal in your restaurant, you could say “I’m sorry to hear about your poor experience. Please contact me directly on (your phone number) and we will resolve this for you.”

If the review is simply vindictive, and has already been dealt with, it’s better to acknowledge than simply ignore it. E.g. “I’m sorry you feel this has not been resolved, despite our best attempts to compensate you.”

Accept that you won’t win over everybody. Some people love to complain. But others reading your comments will make judgements based on how you respond, so do it carefully.