In today’s age of connectivity, it is easier than ever for people to share their thoughts and experiences. “Word of mouse” is the new standard, as people are taking to social networks like Facebook and Twitter to make their voice heard, rather than the more “traditional” way (you know – like actually talking to people). Interactions are now less personal and more public. These platforms, and countless others have dramatically increased the rate at which information spreads. While this has many implications on the business landscape as a whole, the aspect that we will focus on during this article is the power of online reviews.
Using reviews to develop your product
One of the most powerful characteristics of a product or service review is insight of how your product is performing out in the wild. By the wild, we mean that the user experience is no longer under control. Rather, the experience is bound strictly to the product’s design and the customer’s understanding of it. This is important because it speaks to its ease-of-use and overall quality. A common example of this is testing and reviewing products in beta mode in order to get feedback before taking a product to market.
Positive and negative feedback unveil contrasting viewpoints of your product, and thus different takeaways may be derived from each. Take each seriously, as both are gold mines for improvement. Negative feedback is most effective in helping to pinpoint flaws or weaknesses in your product. This is important because it allows the development team to make product adjustments and alleviate the issue before more users encounter the same problem. The foundation of a thriving business is consistent improvement, so this process will likely be repeated continuously over your company’s life span.
Positive reviews, on the other hand, reaffirm what you are doing correctly. More importantly, they provide a satisfied customer that would likely to be willing to give further feedback (especially if given incentive). What better way to improve your product than to take suggestions from people already using it? This gives you the opportunity to ask deeper-diving questions, like “What are some features you would like to see added to our product?”. This type of feedback is invaluable as it may spawn product ideas that you yourself would never have thought of. It may also reveal aspects of you target audience’s customer journey that you were not previously aware of.
Using reviews to market your product
Despite popular belief, negative reviews may actually hold more marketing value than positive ones. Simply put, negative feedback is something that every business professional has or will experience at some point in their career. However, the manner in which you respond says more about your business than the feedback itself. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the customer is always right. If their poor experience is due to their own wrongdoing (misuse of the product, etc.), it is your responsibility to walk them through what went wrong and how they can have a better experience the next time – without placing blame. If, on the other hand, the poor experience is the company’s fault, the situation should be handled differently – refunds and discounts are some more common forms of compensation. Rather than placing judgment, future customers will feel more comfortable with your brand as they know that potential hiccups will be well taken care of by customer service.
Utilizing positive reviews also plays a great role in marketing and brand-building. While posting positive reviews as anecdotes is a common marketing technique, letting reviews speak for themselves is often the most effective method in building trust amongst your target audience. Although there are tools and methods that can be leveraged to drive reviews, offering a great product is always the best rule of thumb – along with continually exceeding your customers’ expectations. Reviews will likely build slowly in the early stages of a company, as this is the nature of business. Due to the network effect, reviews will grow exponentially over time; tending to reviews early on in your business’ life cycle will help establish a positive trajectory for future customers to feed off of.
Once your company has built up a common trend of positive reviews and great customer service, you have essentially built up a marketing platform that will cost you absolutely nothing. Furthermore, this marketing “campaign” of sorts says more about your company than any advertisement ever could, because it involves people’s real life experiences with your product. This network of reviews will serve as many of your customer’s reference point – if potential customers are looking to justify their purchase or compare you with the competition, the quality of reviews may likely serve as a differentiator in their purchasing decision.
The underlying message in this post should be clear: Reviews are an extremely valuable asset to any company looking to improve. Hopefully this has provided some understanding of how to properly leverage your reviews, both negative and positive. It is important to keep in mind that the value of your reviews is directly tied to the action you take based on these insights. If you are a business owner and have not been utilizing your feedback to your advantage, we strongly suggest you begin today – it could make all the difference in the way your company is viewed.