Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take Consumer Feedback for What It’s Worth

Articles in the latest Harvard Business Review gives pause to retailers who think it wise to structure their businesses around what customers say they want:
  • A case study has as a central theme the impossibility of innovative businesses asking consumers to evaluate offerings they haven’t fully experienced yet. 
  • Researchers at Cranfield University in the UK and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands point out how quickly shoppers forget vital details about their store encounters. 
  • Richard A. D’Aveni at Dartmouth College says that it’s dangerous to economies to do what’s best for consumers. He concludes with, “…the customer is not always right.” 
     And in an article titled, “Who Gave That Hotel Five Stars? The Concierge...,” professors at University of Southern California, Dartmouth College, and Yale University describe the ways in which online reviews of businesses are falsified. They used a database of 2,931 U.S. hotels.
     Fortunately, they also suggest research-based ways to filter for fraud. Here is my adaptation of the advice, using findings from their analyses and other research:
  • When it comes to comparing ratings of your business to those of others, recognize that small, independently-owned places are more likely to have the owners or employees plant positive reviews and criticize competitors. The USC/Dartmouth/Yale researchers found less of this with larger hotels than with small-management properties. 
  • Compared to faked reviews of hotels, the genuine ones use more concrete words, such as “bathroom” and “check-in,” and fewer context-setting phrases, like, “it was our vacation,” and “my husband asked why.” 
  • The review sites that require people to register as customers are more likely to have accurate reviews. A related point is that, according to Stanford University researchers, a review is more effective when the reviewer identifies herself, qualifies herself as an expert and then presents the conclusions with a bit of uncertainty. One way for a reviewer to qualify herself as an expert is to give specific points of comparison of the product with alternatives which would fulfill an equivalent function. 
  • With hotels, check the details against your records, such as to see if a party of the size mentioned in the review did stay with you. Other types of retailers will have different types of details to check. If the reviewer is identified, contact them to get details. If there’s no identification, and if the review site allows you to do so, leave a posting asking for details. 
Click below for more: 
Make Your Product Reviews Credible 
Encourage Reviewers to Identify Themselves

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