by Carlo Longino

Thanks To The Web, Everybody's A Potential Critic -- So Treat Them Well

from the business-101 dept

The rise of blogs and user-generated content sites has turned every customer of a business into a potential critic with a big platform. Word of mouth still serves as a huge boon or burden to a company; but like so many other things, the internet has made its spread much more efficient. Many consumers check out all sorts of businesses and restaurants online before they visit them, and while professional reviews still matter, blogs and sites that aggregate user reviews are growing increasingly powerful. The question for businesses is how to respond to and capitalize on this trend. Some try to bury criticism or attack critics, but some are pointing out, the best way to keep potential customers from finding out you don't treat customers well is simply to treat them all well to begin with. Professional restaurant critics typically strive to maintain their anonymity, and restaurants strive to find out what they look like to they be sure to put their best foot forward when they visit. But as more people put stock in what fellow non-professional critics have to say about restaurants and other sorts of businesses, it means they'll have to raise their game for everybody. After all, you may figure out what the Times reviewer looks like, but you're going to have a hard time keeping track of all the "normal people" reviewers.

Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. identicon
    sam, May 8th, 2007 @ 4:53am

    the whole thesis that you treat your customers right is a psuedo valid truism that makes sense. the issue that you have to address, is do you really want all customers.

    the answer is hell no!!! in business, all customers are not equal. this is why you have systems to help determine which customers you want to keep, and which you want to completely get rid of.

    the problem with the current state of "review" systems is that they are anonymous, and that anyone can hid behind them. if i'm the owner of a restaurant, and there's a review site that mentions my business, i'm going to do what i can to state that the public has no idea who the people are who are the actual reviewers... they could be my employees, they could be employees of my competition.. no one knows, or is even trying to implement this kind of system.

    the strength of the nytimes reviews is that you know that the reviewer is supposed to be vetted by the magazine/newspaper.... it has some semblance of legitimacy, even if it is not always apparent. if a reviewer screwed up, wrote something that was blatantly wrong, there was/could be a retraction... the systems based on crowd reviews have none of these kinds of checks/balances...

    if the systems started to tie the reviewer to some kind of id, so we'd 'know' who the reviewer is.. we could all have a much better feel as to the legitimacy of the process, and the people in the process...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2007 @ 4:57am


    Many companies do have their employees fill out fake positive reviews (imdb, yahoo, etc) and I have no doubt that many companies fill out negative reviews of competitors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, May 8th, 2007 @ 5:36am

    Professional vs. Normal critics

    It's a chance you have to take when if/when you decide to read what a reviewer says.

    For the most part a pro critic is in it for the money and attention and the cool factor of swaying the opinions of postential customers. But on the other hand that pro critic has much more experience in critiquing theaters, resturaunts, or whatever.

    You have a better chance of relating to the opinion of a normal critic since she/he is an average joe/jane customer like you. But in exchange you take the chance of reading a positive review that was planted by the restraunt owner or a negative review that was planted by the competition.

    Experienced reviever vs. like mined reviewer. Arrogant review vs. planted review. You just have to think about which one(s) you want to go by.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Nasty Old Geezer, May 8th, 2007 @ 5:59am


    I don't begin to value reviews until there are enough that to overwhelm any astroturfing -- rule of thumb, about 1000. Then I look at the percent positive and negative, and start reading the middle third. The "all wonderful, perfect" types and the "absolutely sucks" reviews are most likely to contain fakes, or just off-the-cuff knee-jerks.

    Less than three paragraphs of review means no real thought by the reviewer, so I usually bypass those.

    Now I have got something probably useful.

    This works for anything -- restaurants, tech products, vendors, movies, or whatever -- although your milage may vary, results not guaranteed, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    comboman, May 8th, 2007 @ 6:08am


    the systems based on crowd reviews have none of these kinds of checks/balances...

    To a certain extent, the crowd is the checks and balances. Sure, there are always customers you can't satisfy no matter what you do and they usually have big mouths, but guess what? Your competitors also have those kind of customers. If the crowd is large enough, the playing field is still even. The same holds true for disgruntled employees/former employees. Restaurant reviews are highly subjective anyway, even when done by 'professionals'. I once read a review of my favorite restaurant that complained because it was not in a posh part of town and the portions were too big. WTF? Heaven forbid a restaurant would save money on rent and offer more value to their customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Wolfger, May 8th, 2007 @ 6:29am

    Who in the world would ever abide by some complete stranger's word on a matter of taste? Unless I read an overwhelming number of anonymous reviews that all agree, they really don't amount to anything. Now a single review by somebody whose opinion I have come to trust? That means much more than even a half dozen "professional" reviews.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Overcast, May 8th, 2007 @ 7:23am

    Actually - professional reviews are meaningless.

    I say this because now - before I even consider buying something as pricey as a car the very first thing I do is check eopinions.com and read REAL people's opinion on it. I really don't care what 'paid' professionals think. I want to know what the everyday guy thinks about a product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Casper, May 8th, 2007 @ 7:24am


    You don't have to believe everything you read. Based on how well written a review is and the reasons stated for why the review concluded the way it did, often let you have a glimpse into the mind of the person writing it. Filling out a car that has bubbles for bad, fair, good, and excellent, hardly qualifies as a review.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Typical Reviewer, May 8th, 2007 @ 8:48am

    I think TechDirt sucks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    AngryYoung Man, May 8th, 2007 @ 9:07am

    Ruth Reichl's GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES shows just how dramatically different restaurants treat critics and everyday people, with Reichl going to them as first herself then in disguise, then writing a review about the combined experience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Dan Callahan, May 8th, 2007 @ 9:42am

    I'm doing it

    I'm a big fan of crowd reviews. When I went on vacation, I looked at al f the reviews for hotels in the area I was looking at on a couple different websites, and chose the best-reviewed one that had the criteria I was looking for. When I'm looking to buy a tech product, you know I'm going to see what the people on NewEgg have to say. Ordinary people actually using the goods and services have rarely if ever steered me wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Yelp Is Dishonest, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Our business has had 5 reviews so far. One is a negative review from a man who is lying about being a client; the other four are very positive. Yelp keeps only the dishonest negative review on our Yelp page, and filters out all positive reviews. Then, after complaining about this, they start hitting me up to set up a "business" account. I will never trust Yelp, again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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