Why, oh why with all the information available to companies, is asking for reviews still seen as a sketchy strategy? Part blog, part rant.
Why is asking for reviews a "grey area"?
A lot of advice is plastered across the internet regarding review collection, publishing, and benefits (myself and other bloggers here at Reviews.io have contributed to that ever growing collection), but the one thing I've never understood is the hubbub that surrounds asking for reviews.
Articles often list the do's and don'ts, and then theres this garbled murmur when it comes to asking customers to leave a review.
In the torrent of advice, Yelp is often cited, and also self-proclaims (this article especially sparking this blog), to not ask customers for reviews. Apparently it all comes down to those who do ask are more concerned with "quantity over quality".
How is this substantiated? What is the relationship between asking your customers for feedback, and the quality of review left? I'd genuinely love to see some statistics, because I'm always up for a good debate.
The nitty gritty of my grievances
Supposedly, those who do go about asking for customer reviews aren't bothered with the trust or accuracy of the reviews collected, yet in that same breath, Yelp announce that they don't showcase all the reviews on their site.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought being open and honest was the best way to gain trust? Laying all your cards on the table isn't a wise move in poker, or any card game for that matter (maybe snap), but when it comes to gaining customer trust and loyalty, candour rather than concealment seems wise to me?
Show me the fruit
I don't know about you, but if I went to the greengrocer and was offered a selection of fruit, then I saw the vendor smuggle something under the counter, I'd be slightly suspicious.
What's that under the counter?
It's none of your concern - it's fruit but you don't need to see it.
Well I think I do!
I'm going off point, but what I'm trying to say is, I don't think asking for reviews is at all shady and in no way compromises the quality of the reviews left. What I do think is slightly off-putting is that to "improve quality", not all reviews are displayed.
I want to make something crystal clear though. There's a difference between moderating and removing fake or abusive reviews which will not appear on a site, and choosing not to display all genuine reviews whether positive or negative, to "improve quality".
The article goes ahead and posts a review left by a customer who used a removal company, which states:
“Impressively quick to unload our fully packed 17′ U-haul in only 90 minutes. They were pretty careful and didn’t break anything. Would be 4 stars for good service, but -1 for being unreasonably pushy about a yelp review and making me write it in front of them.”
This isn't simply an email invitation asking for a review, nor is it a polite in-store request, this is harassing and bullying the customer into doing something until they say yes.
That is not what asking for reviews is about, and certainly not how we operate at Reviews.io. When you are advised to ask your customer for a review, it is not midway through their meal, nor whilst they're trying on a dress in the changing room. Customers should be asked in a respectable amount of time after dispatch or purchase, kindly asking for their experience.
Our in-store review collection app is an invaluable tool, especially for tradesmen who don't generally collect customer emails. Even though they have to ask their customers there and then, we do not advocate emotional blackmail to get a review, and as you can see it only backfires.
You get what you give, and if you deal out harassment, that'll be reflected in the review. A friendly "would you mind" is sufficient, and if you get a no, you need to thank them and move on. The above example is a forced extreme, which does not demonstrate the true nature of asking for reviews.
Another bad example is their statement of:
"Asking for reviews at all, even if the business breaks norms and attempts to ask more than just their happy customers, can create a bias away from organically motivated reviews.".
They're suggesting that companies only contact their happy customers, rather than everyone for a review. But this isn't what I take offence to.
Now, unless they have a time machine which can whizz them into the future to determine whether their customer is happy or not, this sentence is baloney. Isn't this the whole point of asking for and collecting a review? To assess whether your customer was happy or not, and gain insight to your service or product?
Let's be fair
I'm not here to rip the article to shreds, I'm just here to highlight the normality and actually sensible attitude of asking your customers for a review. So with that said, the piece of advice they do offer, which I, and every other respectable licensed Review Partner would bob their heads in agreement with is to never pay/bribe your customers for reviews, nor offer compensation in exchange for a positive review.
Now we're singing from the same hymn sheet.
Why you should be asking
I've ranted enough about the ridiculousness of why some believe asking for a review is the root of a business' downfall, I best get onto actually explaining why asking for reviews is beneficial.
As the maxim goes: If you don't ask, you don't get. Although that's not entirely true, and you will get organic reviews flooding in, why can't you get more from people who may have simply forgotten, didn't have a chance at the time, or are normally a bit shy in offering their opinion?
Asking is free, and the worst position you'll be in is the same one you started if you don't get responses. And that's fine! If you're worried about asking and receiving negative feedback, don't fret. Not only do those who are asked generally leave more positive reviews (more about this in a bit), but negative reviews can be your friend because they are authentic and give you a chance to right those wrongs, and improve your business.
Check out our other blog post on how negative reviews are a blessing in disguise.
In most instances, when are you likely to leave a review off your own back? I for one know that the majority of the time I've been compelled to jump on my keyboard is when I've been hard done by. Im annoyed and I want the company or service to know I'm not happy.
Unfortunately, it's hate and anger that push us forward to keyboard bash, and a rare selection of us that choose to share a wonderful experience, unless prompted. Customers who have a bad experience are twice to three times more likely to write an angry review, than customers who had a great experience.
The science behind our negativity
This phenomena when whittled down is thought to be simply known as loss aversion. (Loss aversion in a nutshell). Loss aversion is much more complex than just our motivations to leave a negative review, but it helps explain the process a little.
Long story short, we're more likely to be ticked off and express such dissatisfaction about losing £20, than we would show or share satisfaction for gaining £20.
Scientists believe it comes down to a region in our brain called the 'insula'. The insula plays a part in our emotional responses, which may help explain why we're more motivated to write a negative review voluntarily, and need a bit more of a push to express a positive experience, generally.
Further support for asking actually lies in the research paper attempting to support their argument, which states that organic web based reviews are normally more negative, which is in line with loss aversion, whereas email solicited reviews tend to be rated 0.5 of a star more. Fair enough, all those half stars may add up to unrealistic representations.
What the original article doesn't highlight is their supporting research goes on to say that organic reviews - the mostly negative ones - can be influenced by "social signals". In theory, if you see other people have complained, you might be inclined to reduce your rating, which seems less representative as led to believe.
It gets better. They then say that on the contrary to organic collection, email prompted reviews have less-to-no bias as they are taken to an isolated page. I interpret their secondary findings as email invitations produce more realistic content of a consumer's experience, which is not swayed by other reviews left of the same product or service.
So in essence, although email invitations elicit more positive experiences, through isolation they aren't tainted by group opinion, and if you ask me, really capture an individual's true thoughts and feelings. Doesn't that tip the scales in favour of asking for reviews?
You may interpret the article and the research paper however you desire, I simply wish to dispel the myth that asking for reviews is evil. So, if you've ever been asked for a review, have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of being accosted or hounded? I'd like to think we're all grown-ups and can easily ignore or delete an unwanted message
I've never felt pressured into leaving a review, let alone to increase my rating, and I'm still of the belief that simply asking for reviews is just common sense. You don't know unless you try. However, if you've felt pressured into leaving a review from being asked, I'm sorry for your brad experience, I'd love to open up the floor to discussion so please leave a comment.
That said, I like to think many of you understand the benefits - or do now after reading the blog - of asking for reviews, and are in a large majority that see the sense in the harmless, if not less biased nature, of email invitations. I hope this blog has been able to unmuddy the waters surrounding asking for reviews as a collection strategy, and leave no-one murmuring about asking in the future.