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Managing online reviews now a vital part of marketing as well as customer service

Online reviews have become a vital part of the loyalty ecosystem. Some customers like to share their experience, and some companies reward them. 

Unfortunately, reviews can be difficult for several different reasons. Some hotel chains have been inundated with over-the-top reviews from people who expect VIP status in return. Bad reviews can be undeserved. Paid reviews are getting easier to spot but will always be an issue. 

Managing our customer reviews is a job that needs to be shared between marketing and customer service.

NY Times: Why You Can’t Really Trust Negative Online Reviews, 2018-Jun-13 by Caroline Beaton

The credibility of all reviews — even real ones — is questionable. A 2016 study published in The Journal of Consumer Research looked at whether online reviews reflected objective quality as rated by Consumer Reports. The researchers found very little correlation.

Why? Reviews are subjective, and the tiny subset of people who leave them aren’t average.

People who write online reviews are more likely to buy things in unusual sizes, make returns, be married, have more children, be younger and less wealthy, and have graduate degrees than the average consumer, according to Dr. Duncan Simester’s 2014 study. Online reviewers are also 50 percent more likely to shop sales, and they buy four times more products.... 

Finally, pay attention to contextual details and specific facts rather than reviewers’ general impressions and ratings. The number of stars someone selects often has “very little to do with” their review text, [said Dr. Ulrike Gretzel, a communications professor at University of Southern California.] People have different rating standards, and written explanations are inherently more nuanced.

Focusing on the most thorough reviews may also protect against getting duped by fake ones. In experiments where Dr. Gretzel and her collaborators presented both real and fake reviews, readers distinguished between the two better when reviews were longer.

And if you’re still not sure whether a review is fake, scan the reviewer’s profile. [Dr. Eric Clemons, a management professor at University of Pennsylvania Wharton School] said that “someone who’s paid to write reviews probably isn’t doing a lot of writing under the same name.” His own research omitted reviews from profiles containing fewer than 10 reviews, “and that took care of a lot of paid nonsense,” he said.

All that said, real reviewers are usually genuinely trying to help: Research consistently shows that people are most motivated by helping others make decisions.

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