This article was based on an article in Website Compass Magazine (Fall 2018).
Where do you go to find good reviews of products, services, or organizations?
These days a lot of information can be found online about products, services, and organizations. Much of it falls into the category of reviews. Reviews are opinions or testimonies about something, usually accompanied by a star or number rating. Reviews can be written by professionals or amateurs. Here are some tips for getting the most out of reviews:
Find Good Reviews
Good information comes from good reviews. So for starters, you need to find good, credible reviews for the product, service, or business you are interested in.
Product reviews can be found on manufacturer and seller websites as well as product research firms like Consumer Reports. Reviews might be written by consumers of the product along with professional testers and people from the seller/manufacturer. Service reviews can be found on the service provider’s website although they are likely to only show “positive” reviews. You might want to find unbiased websites dedicated to service reviews. Business reviews can be found on industry websites that rate businesses but consumer/customer reviews can often be found through Google or social media platforms the business utilizes like Facebook. Reviews from those sources are less likely to be influenced by the company but can be unduly swayed the other way by unreasonable customers.
We recommend looking at a variety of reviews to get a better picture of the product, service, or company. Here are some well-known websites that offer reviews:
Amazon – Shopping site with reviews of products you can purchase from Amazon
Yelp – Dedicated review site for service companies, restaurants, stores, etc.
Angie’s List – Dedicated review site of American home service companies
Edmunds – Dedicated review site for cars and trucks
Google – Search engine with reviews of businesses and organizations
Facebook – Social media site with review of organizations with Facebook pages
Trip Advisor – Reviews of flights, hotels, resorts, car rental companies and other travel-related businesses
Now that you’ve found and read some reviews, you need to interpret the reviews. That is, determine which one(s) are truly helpful and which you should probably ignore.
Who Wrote It?
Reviews are generally written by 3 kinds of people: (1) professional reviewers, (2) consumers giving honest advice, and (3) consumers being biased. The bias mentioned can be unfairly positive or unfairly negative, depending on the reason for the bias.
Professional reviewers are usually accurate and believable but they may not address your specific needs or review an item from your perspective and you don’t know (unless stated) how thoroughly they tested what they are writing about. Note: by professional reviewers, we mean those honestly writing reviews for their job.
Consumer reviews on the other hand may be more likely to address your needs and share your perspective but they are more open to personalities and emotions skewing their overall opinion. Many consumer reviews are honest and helpful but they can also be “fake” reviews — from friends or enemies of the organization that are trying to puff up or pull down the overall average by giving a less-than-honest assessment. With these, you can usually spot them by the wording they choose and how specific or vague they are in their assessments. You must also take into account the personality and expectations of the reviewer. A reviewer with unreal (or no) expectations can pull or boost a rating unreasonably.
What Site Is The Review Posted On?
What website(s) did you find the reviews on? Are they known sources? Are they friendly to the product/service? Is it on the product or service’s own website? Or a third-party review site? Or a website that competes with or is otherwise unfriendly with the product or service? A website knowingly friendly or unfriendly to a product or service doesn’t guarantee a biased review but it probably increases the likelihood.
Are Reviews Consistent?
If you just “step back” and take all the reviews together, does a consistent message seem to come out? Maybe it’s a common problem with a product or common praise or complaint about a company? By taking the reviews as a whole, it’s easier to drop those that are likely fake or skewed and see the real picture.
If you’ve had a good or bad experience with a product, service, or business, you might wish to share your experience with others. It’s great to warn other consumers about your experience and it’s equally great to embrace businesses whom you would like to endorse. While we can’t tell you how to write your review, we do have some tips so that your review is taken as an honest, valuable opinion rather than biased praise or undue bashing.
Test the product/service
It sounds silly, but there are a lot of review from people who haven’t actually tried what they reviewed. They wrote a review based on the box, the look of something, and their “expectation” of whether it will meet their needs. Use the product or service until you have a good opinion to give.
Try to have “reasonable” expectations
Take the price of the item and whether you are using it for its intended purpose into account. You can’t reasonably expect a $30 rain jacket to perform as well as a $200 rain jacket.
State the facts
Give the facts about the product or service. Those will be helpful to the reader as they are unbiased. Include how long your experience is with the company, product, or service; in what ways you tested it (weather, conditions, environment, etc.), and ways in which it performed well or poorly.
Supply detail if you give opinions
If you are going to include your opinions, state why you came to those conclusions. An statement like “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” is not helpful to the reader unless you explain further.
Be courteous and professional
While a company, product, or service might deserve a scathing review, typically such reviews can actually reflect more on the reviewer. They tell the reader this person has it out for the company/product/service and their review is biased because of it. So while you don’t have to hold back on what you don’t like, keep it in a courteous and professional frame. One way to do this is to include “something” positive (if possible) to show you are going to give credit where credit is due.
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Hopefully this helps you in reading or writing reviews to gain or share valuable information about companies, products, or services. If you have any questions, contact Ben Gumz at TCC at firstname.lastname@example.org.