The DHARMA of Online Reviews. Do you follow it?
Over the last decade, E-commerce has evolved significantly to become an important module of modern-day trade and commerce.
Today, online stores empower thousands of small businesses with a strong product, service or idea to overcome the challenges that conventional business channels posed, and provide quick exposure to a global audience. This is very akin to how mediums like youtube have helped discover hitherto hidden talents like Ranu Mondal, and turned them into a music sensation. E-commerce gives the same power to businesses. And one of the most important pillars that e-commerce rests on is Reviews.
Reviews are probably the critical factor for online stores that help convert a potential sale into a transaction. Reviews also help to keep the e-commerce ecosystem clean & competitive. Sincere sellers who realize its importance always try to put their best foot forward. Unscrupulous sellers, with insufficient focus on product quality & customer support, find it impossible to establish a foothold in this landscape.
However, there are also numerous horror stories of how genuine and hard-working businesses suffered, or even went bust, because of poor ratings and reviews. It is not uncommon to hear such businesses claiming the reviews to be unfair, sometimes even an attack by competitors. So while reviews can be a boon for many online stores, they can also be a bane for some. In this post, we are not looking to judge the fairness or otherwise of online reviews. But we aim to draw your attention to a bias that we suffer from as online-shoppers which can make the system of reviews lop-sided and unfair for many sincere and hard-working sellers.
Here is the problem. If we reflect on this honestly, we will concede that many of us are reminded of the power of reviews only when we had a bad experience. We often don’t find the willingness, or the time, to review the positive experiences, of our own free will, without the seller imploring us to do it.
Take courier companies for example. Online review forums are overflowing with stories of how tormented people felt because of a delay in their shipments, and why one should never use a particular courier company. I am sure these reviews must be coming from real bad experiences. But are the experiences always bad? They cant be. Do we find enough reviews of people commending their efforts when they carefully delivered the shipment in record time?
You might be aware that there are consumer ratings agencies in many countries which rate users for their financial prudence. For instance, in India we have CIBIL. A poor score can severely jeopardize one’s chances of getting a new credit card, among others. Such consumer ratings keep us on our toes. Similarly, many app-based taxi services use the concept of reciprocal-reviews, where both parties to the transaction, the driver and the rider, review each other after the ride. This is a simple but effective mechanism which ensures that while the drivers provide a comfortable ride, we as customers also behave ourselves during the ride. Users will low ratings are pushed them down in priority of getting a cab when they request it.
Unfortunately there is no such equilibrium in the e-commerce land-scape, making many of us use the power of reviews irresponsibly. While genuine sellers have to plead customers for positive reviews which are very difficult to come by, disgruntled customers are always too generous with negative reviews which, interestingly, are almost always longer than positive ones.
For sellers, this problem of our not receiving enough positive reviews, despite giving a great experience, is turbo-charged by another prejudice. Often, the weight of a single negative review far exceeds that of a hundred hard-earned positive reviews. Unfortunately, negative reviews almost always get more user traction than the positive ones and end up showing on top on many review forums. Not always fair. To overcome this challenge, many hard-working and customer-centric sellers are forced to offer incentives or send repeated requests urging customers to review, in order to stay in business.
Sometimes negative reviews may have ulterior motives. But for most shoppers, the above behavior is caused by negligence. It is because we do not realize that by not leaving enough positive reviews, we may be acting irresponsibly or even selfish at times, where we enjoy the benefits but don’t contribute.
Now, here is one way we recommend we use the system of reviews. Ask ourselves. What is my own rating as a consumer? There is a simple way to know it. As an online-shopper, my own rating is the average of the ratings/reviews I have left for sellers. Lets call this rating we give to ourselves our fairness-score. This way, for every 2-star rating you leave for a bad experience, if you leave a ten five-star rating for the good experiences elsewhere, your own fairness-score is a very healthy 4.7. One doesn’t have to calculate the score accurately or in numeric terms. Just an idea of where we stand will achieve its objective. When we are not leaving enough positive reviews, we bring down your own fairness-score. And to bump it up, all you need to do is to leave enough positive reviews for all the wonderful experiences you had. Trust us, all of have enough good experiences for every bad one. Even if we don’t review all, we can still maintain a very high fairness-score.
As a manufacturer, and seller of genuine handwoven textiles who also happen to operate one of the most loved e-commerce stores for sarees, we at HolyWeaves can guarantee this to you. Every time you leave a positive review for a business, you put a smile on many faces, a happiness that lasts the whole day, irrespective of the size of organization or the nature of business.
None of the above is to say you should not leave negative reviews if you honestly believe you got a raw deal. Perhaps people need to know about your bitter experience and unscrupulous sellers need to bear the consequences of selling a sub-standard product or service. But BEFORE, you must review the good experiences you have had. People need to know that too, and the sellers deserve it.
As a responsible member of the e-commerce eco-system, we at HolyWeaves urge you to do your duty to always review a seller that succeeds in putting a smile on your face, and earn your right to denounce one that falls short of your expectations. It could be a hotel, restaurant, courier service, saree store, or any other business.
It’s time to follow the dharma of online reviews, and raise our own fairness-score as online shoppers.
PS: At HolyWeaves, we have had the privilege of serving customers who have been extremely forthright in their encouragement and have given us so much love and support. We feel immense gratitude for every customer who actually showed the concern to leave us a review. Those of you who missed it in the past but wish to do it now can visit this link- https://www.holyweaves.com/pages/reviews- and click on the Write a Review button. Thank you.
Please do share your feedback and experiences in the comment section below.