Internet Reviews – Not to Fear
With the increase in online reviews for dental services and other local businesses, dentists sometimes raise concerns about the lack of control about what is said online. A recent survey of online reviews found that they are largely positive. Like word of mouth, a great experience or a very negative one is more likely to spawn a review.
Here are a few excerpts from a front page Wall Street Journal Article on October 5, 2009 that provide some interesting insights into online reviews.
On the Internet, Everyone’s a Critic But They’re Not Very Critical
Average Review Is 4.3 Out of Five Stars; Jerkface Fights Back and Gets Bounced
By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER and JOSEPH DE AVILA
The Web can be a mean-spirited place. But when it comes to online reviews, the Internet is a village where the books are strong, YouTube clips are good-looking and the dog food is above average.
One of the Web’s little secrets is that when consumers write online reviews, they tend to leave positive ratings: The average grade for things online is about 4.3 stars out of five.
Many companies have noticed serious grade inflation. Google Inc.’s YouTube says the videos on its site average 4.6 stars, because viewers use five-star ratings to “give props” to video makers. Buzzillions.com, which aggregates reviews from 3,000 sites, has tracked millions of reviews and has spotted particular exuberance for products such as printer paper (average: 4.4 stars), boots (4.4) and dog food (4.7).
If the rest of the Internet is filled with nasty celebrity blogs and email flame wars, what makes product reviews sites so lovey-dovey? “If you inspire passion in somebody in a good way or a bad way, that is when they want to write a review,” says Russell Dicker, the senior manager of community at Amazon.
His boss, Amazon’s Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, follows that pattern. He has posted five-star reviews for products like Tuscan brand whole milk and some “ridiculously good cookies” sold on the site. Mr. Bezos’s only non-five-star review: one star for a science-fiction movie, “The 13th Warrior.”
Culture may play a role in the positivism: Ratings in the U.K. average an even higher 4.4, reports Bazaarvoice. But the largest contributor may be human nature. Marketing research firm Keller Fay Group surveys 100 consumers each day to ask them about what products they mentioned to friends in conversation. “There is an urban myth that people are far more likely to express negatives than positives,” says Ed Keller, the company’s chief executive. But on average, he finds that 65% of the word-of-mouth reviews are positive and only 8% are negative.
Some suspect companies goose their ratings. This summer TripAdvisor.com, which averages just above a four, posted warnings that some of its hotel reviews may have been written by hotel managers. But review sites say the incidence of fakes is tiny, and many pay people to delete puffery.Other sites admit they have a positivity problem and are taking novel steps to curb the enthusiasm. One way is to redefine average. Reviews of eBay.com’s millions of merchants were so positive that eBay made 4.3 out of five stars its minimum service standard. Beginning this month, it is switching to a system that counts just the number of one- and two-star reviews. Sellers who get more than 3% to 4% of those ratings could get kicked off of eBay.
Another site, Goodrec, decided to ditch the five-star rating system altogether, replacing it with a thumbs-up and thumbs-down system. Amazon now highlights what it dubs “the most helpful critical review” at the top of its reviews page.
Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp.com, which posts reviews of local businesses in cities around the country, bragged in September that his site’s reviews were more diverse. The average review on Yelp is 3.8. Many assume online reviews are “only rants or raves, resulting in consumer Web sites composed solely of ratings on the extremes,” he blogged. “A broader range of opinions can give consumers a more complete view of a business,” he says.
What can we take from this? Providing outstanding customer service in your dental practice leaves you nothing to fear. Going beyond the expected to make their experience in your dental office exceptional and will likely eventually help you develop exceptional reviews online. Paying attention to your online reputation as a portion of your internet dental marketing strategy also pays off.