Building a Better Online Review System
These days online reviews are important, a business can live and die by the customer review. Just how much can you trust that 4.9 score of that business though? As we all know, there are multiple ways that both businesses and consumers can manipulate reviews for products and services. Either way, honest people end up getting a skewed version of reality.
Anyone who owns a business will tell you that the review system can be very frustrating, seemingly unfair and on some platforms almost like extortion. I’m looking at you Yelp. As for the consumer, reviews for a business can be an easy way to steer clear of a poor experience or shady practices. It’s basically the consumers looking out for each other..
If we’re honest though, there’s a lot of ways that the current review systems fall short for both businesses and consumers. I’ve often thought about how online reviews could be made a better experience for businesses and still maintain the benefits they give to a consumer. Here’s a few things I’ve come up with.
All-time Rating & Recent Rating
What I would propose to see is an all-time score and a recency score for any given business. Here’s how it would work. Basically, an all-time score would work how current ratings for businesses work. Let’s say you look up a local restaurant and their current all-time score is a 4.38. For those math nerds, that 5 stars (33), 4 stars (12), 3 stars (0), 2 stars (1) and 1 star (4).
Let’s take a look at what the recent rating should be. Along with showing the all-time review score of a business we should show recent ratings. Either take a 6 month rolling window of reviews and aggregate that score or the last 20-30 reviews and show that score. I’ll acknowledge that this can be an issue for some and I haven’t fully decided on which I like better. Anyway, about our restaurant. In the last 6 months they’ve (9) 5 star, (1) 4 star, (0) 3 & 2 star, and (3) 1 star reviews. Giving them a recent rating of 4.0.
Here’s the biggest issue with how we look at reviews right now… things change! Is that 5 star review from 2012 still relevant? Plenty of things can be completely different about that restaurant since 2012. There could be an entirely new menu, new management, new chefs, maybe they’re getting their product from somewhere different. What all-time rating is lacking is the most recent reviews that a business has received.
Like I said above, this isn’t a perfect system. It can help show consumers that a business can improve or decline over time. It also discourages a few things that hurt review systems in general. It discourages purchasing fake reviews and it also discourages consumers brigading a business with a barrage of bad reviews for other reasons. Which leads me into the my next thought to improve reviews.
Geolocation Verified Reviews
Yes, I know that verified reviews already exist but I’d like to see it utilized more often. As for on-site reviews, here’s the scenario. Grab your mobile phone right now and search for any random business type in any city in the world. Once the results are loaded you’re given the option to give a review for that business. You can give a 1 star review to a restaurant in France that you’ve never been to from the comfort of the couch. Is that particularly fair?
What I propose is using your mobile devices location services as part of the review. My mobile phone knows I haven’t been anywhere near any restaurants in Montpellier, France. Simply don’t allow me to review it. Alternatively, let me make the review, but since I don’t have any location history of this place my review will not get a Verified or On-Site Badge.
These badges would serve as an additional show of authority. These people have verifiably been involved with the location they’re reviewing.
Binary Reviews (Even Though We Already Have Them)
Be Honest. When was the last time you reviewed anything at a 2, 3 or 4. It seems that like everything these days we only gravitate to the extremes. That restaurant forgot your side? 1 Star! That business did exactly what you would expect and didn’t go above and beyond? 5 stars! In essence, we’ve already got a binary review system.
Get rid of the 1-5 stars. Make it 3. Or do away with it entirely and do what Facebook has done with the Recommendation system. YouTube did away with their star rating for videos in 2009 and replaced it with a binary system of Likes & Dislikes.
In the end, we need to admit that consumers can be influenced by the reviews they see before they buy. The problems arise when different sites use different review systems causing ratings to vary so much. Be skeptical of online reviews. They’re helpful but at the same time completely useless.