Online consumer reviews have emerged as an important part of the consumer buying process. In fact, in a recent survey of undergraduate students, 78% of respondents reported that they read one or more user reviews before making an online product purchase. This percentage exceeded all other behaviors, which included talking to friends to get advice (58.5%), reading one or more expert reviews (35.4%), and visiting the store to see the product (20.7%).
Online reviews typically include a rating (on a 1-5 scale), coupled with an explanation of the rating (the review) and a report on how useful the review was for previous readers of the review. The usefulness data is generated from those who answer yes or no to the question, “Was this review useful?” Prospective consumers can sort the reviews by valence (e.g., one-star vs. five-star) and by usefulness score.
Interactions with unfamiliar sellers contain an element of uncertainty and risk, but modern consumers have access to various forms of information to help resolve this uncertainty, including online consumer reviews. Taking control with a review management process will help your company make the most of these online opportunities.
Review Management Process: Monitoring Online Presence
The foundation of the Review Management Process is the implementation of a very robust listening system that captures every keyword mention you are interested in. This listening process must find anything you want to monitor on blogs, discussion groups, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
This can be accomplished using free or fee-based Web services built for this specific purpose. The assembly of this process then is merely selecting the tools that will best do the job within your budget. Additional thoughts to consider:
- The choice of tools is critical in that weak listening tools will only find a small percentage of mentions online and may defeat your purpose. There are also enterprise class tools that have monthly fees with free tools and add-ons. Make sure you choose wisely.
- When you apply these tools, be sure you are listening for the right things. It is important to at least monitor the names of your executives, organization references, products, and competitors. The keywords you are tracking must be given thought so you are seeing what your customers/clients/partners are seeing as well.
- Depending on which tools you select, there will be varying degrees of shared team listening. We never suggest using only one listener without a back up because when the former is not available, you will be in the dark. This needs to be a consistently shared process.
- If the search terms you want to listen for are common names (e.g. Smith, or company name Apple) we suggest you use a fee-based system with tools built specifically to help you listen for common terms. These systems use advanced rules to weed out unnecessary information.
- Whoever is tasked with listening must have a clear understanding on what to do with the mentions they find online.
Review Management Process Goals
- Gain control over constituent impressions of you or your organization – As Internet access and social channel usage increases online reputation will have a profound influence on your success or failure. No longer can constituent impressions be left to chance. You must institute a consistent strategic process and develop the supporting skills necessary to make improvements wherever possible.
- Maintain 100% awareness of any online mention that could be pivotal – Because the Internet is searchable and your content footprint can remain accessible, it is important to mitigate surprise in learning of a post or mention before it is too late. Be it positive or negative, you should always know about a posting before someone else tells you about it.
- Establish a measurement system that provides a clear, goal-driven analysis of the status concerning your online reviews – In order to have an accurate idea what your online reputation is doing for/against you, or to gauge real-time progress, you need a thorough measurement system in place. What gets measured gets done, so the added benefit of a solid ability to measure your online will provide focus to those responsible for upholding it.
- Develop an ability to use Review Management as a customer service and product/service development tool – One of the benefits of the review management process is the new ability to gain broad scope insight of what your constituents think of you, your products or services. In many cases, the comments and opinions you will find will be unfiltered and unguarded, something which can be a blessing in better understanding true perceptions and directly improving performance.
- Gain an ability to monitor your competitors – The same tools you use to monitor your review operation can be used to monitor your competitors. For the same reasons you should want to know what consumers are saying about you and your products, knowing what the same groups are saying about your competition can be very useful in learning strengths and weaknesses to replicate or avoid.
Desired Outcomes From Review Management Process
The most important outcome of this review management process is to never be surprised by what correspondence transpires on the Internet regarding comments about you or your organization. Another positive outcome will be the ability to use the information you glean from this process to improve your products and services. You will also be able to identify raving fans and serious critics like never before.
Whatever the case, the Review Management Process will provide a level of control over your social relevancy so you are not victimized by negative comments or powerless to get a fair and accurate story across. The final desired outcome is that this review management process will be integrated in an inexpensive, efficient, and effective manner so it is of low drag and high reward to the organization.