Reviews: The Good, The Bad, & The Objective

I don’t know about you, but it certainly seems like online reviews and ratings have become increasingly important, particularly within the last 2-4 years. It went from the classic “Let me speak with the manager” to completely avoiding a conversation and writing them up online instead.

The barista gave you a latte that was a little too hot? 1-star. You waited an extra 5 minutes to get the check? 3-stars. Your Amazon delivery was left on the porch and not in the mailbox? 2-stars.

Thanks to social media, everyone now has a voice & is able to freely share their feedback (positive or negative) for the world to see. Businesses recognize the social influence of these reviews and are even encouraging customers to leave reviews as part of their promotional strategy.

But before asking your customers to leave a raving review, keep in mind that the details mentioned in the review may be as crucial as a high rating in affecting their purchasing decisions.

What Do We Want to Know?

After a painstaking review of over 6 million reviews and 4 lab experiments, researchers discovered that people tend to care less about customer reviews when purchasing experiences compared to purchasing material objects.

That’s because when it comes to experiences, a customer’s opinion tends to be much more subjective and therefore people are more likely to be less interested in their opinion. What people really care about are the objective characteristics of a product or service.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Review #1

Review #2

While both 5-star reviews, review #2 is much more effective in influencing the purchasing decision as the reviewer places a stronger emphasis on the objective characteristics of the product and service.

So…What Does This Mean For Me?

Key takeaways:

  • Experiential products / services — Focus / reframe your customer testimonials & reviews on the objective characteristics (wait time, price, quality of materials, etc.)
  • Mixed products / services — Given that many products and services have both material and experiential aspects (a bed is material, a good night’s sleep is the desired experience), you should use reviews or testimonials that focus on the material attributes, not the experience.

Assess your products and services, and see what types of objective characteristics you can highlight. If you haven’t already, you can also request reviews that specifically focus on these attributes — You’ll thank yourself later!