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The Online Review

Is there anything left that we can’t leave stars against?

The Blogfather has left many an irate online review in his time (especially for outlets of Millets). Here he dives into and dissects the subject, for your reading pleasure.

Over the weekend I binged on Lucky Buddha beers (I recommend) and Mark Ritson (I doubly recommend); specifically his work on market orientation. Of the numerous nuggets of take aways, one that stayed with me is to stay humble; realise you are an idiot of consumption, you are not in the market, but we can connect with consumers to get useful insights and answers. 

After stumbling out of a basement club in Soho and wandering a while, I checked my phone to find my nearest tube station, and something bizarre struck me. 

People leave reviews for tube stations.

Even with Ritson ringing in my ears, and my head more market orientated, I couldn’t help but think; what kind of person, in the name of all things sane, reviews a tube station? 

Tube stations serve merely as a conduit to the places which you will experience and then review, surely? Like a restaurant or similar.

The tube station in question was Holborn. Holborn tube station has a Google review aggregate rating of 3.7 (not bad) from 142 reviews.

Here’s a little selection of the more enlightening reviews: 

“Good location.” – Caz 85

“Busy but useful. Well organized” – Ivan Bok

“Huge underground station with massive people going on” – Derui Zhu

“Nice place to eat.” – Sarah K

“Not the prettiest of the London stations, but does what it needs to do.” – Jonathan Dempsey

“It’s a station innit.” – Nhan Nguyen

And finally, perhaps my favourite:

...something bizarre struck me. People leave reviews for tube stations.

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‘Good location’. Surely that’s a gimmie with a train station? Is it actually possible to have a train station in a bad location? That’s its reason for being. Does East Acton, after it has emitted its last tube of the day, sit shrouded in darkness in a state of self-reflection, reading the works of Kant, questioning its existence? ‘I wish I was more like East Finchley”.

But we digress.

Of course, the digital internet age has meant absolutely anyone can give their two penneth worth on absolutely anything, but online reviews can be hugely important. Is there currently a more influential retail/shopper symbol in the world than the star? It’s affecting purchase decision behaviour everywhere, every second of the day.

But, as with most things digital, it is a murky realm. In his recent blog ‘The digital dark side’, Alex Murrell touches on the subject of fake reviews; shady Facebook groups that connect those wanting 5-star reviews with those that want payment for doing so. It’s well worth a read, but one pull-out stat is that, from a database of 58.5m reviews, 9.1% were labelled as ‘unnatural’.

Yet the majority will be genuine, and clearly, if you have an average rating for your service/product of 1.7 from 127 reviews, you’ve got a problem. It will turn people off, and a bad online reputation can be hard to undo once the horse has bolted. In the early days, they can even be seen as a form of free market research, so you’d do well to heed the feedback.

People have made businesses out of online reputation management products, and they can be useful, for example in the chain restaurant game, but the average company is unlikely to have the budget for them, yet there is stuff you can do yourself. 

From the get go, offer incentives for leaving a review. People are more inclined to vent steam/leave a review when they are pissed off, rather than happy, so offer a little sweetener. You can also cheat a little, it’s allowed. Get staff and friends/family to leave reviews when you start off, why not?

But bad reviews will still happen. To quote My Fair Lady, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?!’ if you could just delete bad online reviews? You can’t, so they have to be dealt with in the right way.

But, as with most things digital, it is a murky realm. In his recent blog ‘The digital dark side’, Alex Murrell touches on the subject of fake reviews; shady Facebook groups that connect those wanting 5-star reviews with those that want payment for doing so.

Here’s a few pointers:

• Don’t report a false review with Facebook. Nothing.Ever.Happens. Probably as they are all too busy trying to work out where your data is being leaked to.
• Is the riled girlfriend of an ex-employer who was sacked for getting his fingers caught in the till giving it large on your Facebook page? Don’t let it all get Jeremy Kyle, always nudge them to continue the conversation in private, via a direct message/email.
• There’s a; ‘Well, what have they got to say about that?!’ mentality with bad reviews. People expect to see a reply, not just those who left the review itself. So acknowledge all bad reviews (and good ones too; people love to be loved).
• A tip on tone. The great copywriter Bob Levenson, when he was asked how he wrote copy for all those Volkswagen ads, said; 'I always started by writing Dear Charlie, like writing to a friend. And then I would say what I had to say, and at the end I would cross out Dear Charlie, and I was all right.’

I’ll leave you with this final tip: Don’t name your bricks and mortar business after one of your worst online reviews, like this crowd.

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Unto our next meeting.

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