by Tony Vidler
Experience reviews…consumer reviews…I blame TripAdviser for it; but maybe it wasn’t them…Whatever, everyone out there now expects to be able to give a review of any business, and read others reviews of that business. In fact they can’t wait to provide their opinion of your business. It has become the norm.
Positive reviews of a business are a pretty serious driver of trust and credibility for any brand…and negative reviews are business killers. That is part of business marketing today.
Review systems have already arrived in professional services of course, although they are not necessarily taken all that seriously by the professionals themselves. Net promoter scores, adviser review websites where their own staff rate them anonymously for the benefit of the public, or consumer ratings of advisers….all are out there today for consumers to find and use. Plenty of professionals don’t like that much, and often for good reason as consumers are generally lacking objectivity when making reviews of professional services (and hence tend to rate their experiences at ridiculous extremes), and there can be a propensity for “game playing” in these systems by consumers, the professionals themselves, and employers. So generally professionals don’t like these ratings systems.
The thing is they are taken seriously by consumers, and consumers are apparently looking at a heck of a lot more reviews than we realise. So if it matters to consumers then it needs to matter to us. Even if the methodology is often rubbish….it still matters, especially when there are more and more ratings websites and systems being launched for consumer access.
A company called BrightLocal conducted research over a number of years to determine the shifting trends in consumer research of service providers. The focus of the research was to determine changing consumer buying behaviour, and it certainly highlighted the shift by consumers to increasingly review service providers online before they decided to engage or buy. Over a 5 year period there was clearly a rapid increase in consumers deciding to check online reviews.
That didn’t surprise – but 2 other things did:
It is the second which is the most important aspect here: the volume of reviews that consumers check before deciding to engage is way higher than I would have expected. I was not surprised to see that some 88% of consumers check reviews online, however 53% are checking between 4 and 20 reviews. Apparently the majority are satisfied after reading 10 reviews…..
That is a fair bit of checking when you think about it.
For us in professional services it highlights the importance of being willing to engage with review systems and play the silly game, but more importantly it highlights the need for us to move beyond our own dislike of these ratings systems and actually embrace them – warts and all.
We have to because they matter to consumers and are essentially trusted by consumers. We are in turn obtaining initial (limited) levels of trust courtesy of the positive online reviews…. And…consumers read a fair few of them it turns out.
Smarter marketers in professional services will be moving rapidly beyond mere acceptance of ratings systems, and will be actively promoting their use. Ratings systems inside and outside of the practice will be considered and used as part of creating the transfer of trust which consumers are looking for in their online search. It is just smart marketing.