Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Best Buy Says "Yes" to Customer Reviews Online

Best Buy Canada just announced that it would allow shoppers to rate products and write customer reviews on its Website. While some might think this is a bad thing (what if someone - *gulp* - says something bad about a product?) others will agree that it's actually a good thing. Why?

When customers can read reviews, both good and bad, from other "regular" people, it builds credibility. The same goes for manufacturer Websites. While you will have to bite your tongue and put up with a few negative reviews (let's face it: no product is 100% perfect!), this also leaves the chance for a happy customer to jump in and say "no, I bought that same product and had a great experience with it"). Aside from that, it shows the faith you have in your products, much like offering a lifetime warranty can do.

On that note, reading customer reviews can be as helpful for a retailer or manufacturer as it is for other customers. If you read comments from 20 people, all of whom say they wish product X had feature Y, wouldn't this seriously convince you to consider adding said feature into the next generation model? It can also help you to improve products and features from the get-go, while also better understanding your audience as a whole. After all, in many cases, the people writing the reviews make up the very market you're trying to target!

This brings me to another interesting point: policing these comments. This is an issue that we've dealt with first hand with our sister Websites and, to some degree, this blog as well. While you need to accept negative commentary about anything, whether it's a product, service, or company, where does one draw the line? What's more, you'll almost always receive a comment or two that simply says something like "X product sucks" without any reason given to defend the opinion. Should these be allowed, or removed from public view? After all, everyone is entitled to his opinion. But then again, an opinion that can't be backed up really is just nonsense, and really holds no value when it's shouted from the rooftops to every Internet surfer in the world.

Then you come to the educated, justified opinions that might also contain profanity, or malice toward someone. Maybe it's the salesperson that sold a product, or the retail store where it was purchased. Are these allowed? On the one hand, it has been backed up by a personal experience.
On the other, does everyone need their "dirty laundry" aired to the entire Web world? Back in the day, angry customers would write letters, stamp 'em, and cross their fingers in hope that the "big boss" would eventually read it. Today, log on, type away your rant, and hit "submit", and your opinion easily just reached millions.

The issue of online commentary has been an ongoing one, and anyone who permits customer reviews, comments, and forums on their site likely discusses it often. While I personally feel that any (or at least most) comments should be permitted, others I work with feel that anything that isn't backed up by an educated opinion shouldn't be permitted. To either end, where do you draw the line? It really does become a sticky situation.

Nevertheless, I give kudos to Best Buy for opting to take the risky route of letting customers say what they feel about a product. Hopefully customers will use the functionality in a way that will benefit other shoppers, and not just as a spot to rant about nothing.

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1 comment:

Lee_D said...

A perfect example of a retailing website that makes use of user reviews is Amazon.

Granted you have to filter out a certain percentage as you read, but you should be doing that as you research products anyway.