I find myself relying on Angie’s List more and more when choosing home contractors. Consumer’s Reports helps me decide on what appliances to purchase. When I am approached by a not-for-profit organization for a donation, I research the organization on Charity Navigator first. When choosing lodging, I rely on Trip Advisor. And when choosing restaurants, I consult Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor and to a lesser extent OpenTable. Amazon.com has numerous reviews of books and other merchandise. Goodreads also has book reviews. I go to CellarTracker to decide on which wine to buy. Add Epinions and CNET to the list of frequented review sites. Now I am researching sailboats. BoatU.S. helps with its reviews. And I find that I not only go to these websites to research brands and products, but I also contribute to these websites with my own detailed reviews. One can go to LinkedIn to read testimonials on individuals’ skill sets and professional strengths. On a business-to-business level, it is important what industry analysts say about a company. What does Gartner or Forrester Research say about your company?
The Internet has made the world and its brands, products and services much more transparent. Can these reviews be seeded? Yes. Can they be manipulated? To some degree they can. However, a brand can’t easily erase a bad review. And it is even more difficult to erase or overcome multiple bad reviews. The consumer is increasingly in control of brand reputations. Which means the brand experience itself has to be consistently outstanding for a brand to succeed in the long run. Good marketing copy is not going to compensate for bad customer reviews.
I am a huge advocate of these websites and the transparency that they engender. It leads to a quicker sorting of the “wheat from the chaff” and encourages continuous improvement of product attributes, customer service and the total brand experience. I tip my hat to these third party review sites. They hold all of us more accountable for what we actually deliver.