Here We Go Again:
Amazon sues review sellers in salvo against bogus reviewers
Every so often, a news story pops up like this (click the headline to see the article). If you spend some time searching the Internet for more about this case, you'll see links to similar newsworthy items, as well as statistics about the problem that have surfaced over the past few years.
At GuestInsight/Database Sciences, we've been sort of obsessed with this issue for over a decade. Take a look at the piece below (click Read More) that we originally published more than 9 years ago. Considering how much our technological world has changed since then (Twitter and the first iPhone hadn't yet debuted), the same piece could be pretty much written today- biggest difference; online reviews are now much more important in purchase decision making.
Review Sites - No Method To The Madness
Originally posted 06/02/06 by Jeff Robbins, CEO, GuestInsight division of Database Sciences Inc.
As we all know, there is no shortage of travel sites on the Web, many with consumer "Reviews" sections. The problem with these reviews is that there are no checks and balances in place to ensure the authenticity of the survey process. Certainly, there are plenty of unbiased reviews on many of these sites, but consider some of the problems associated with the lack of science and sound research methodology behind these sites:
1) Anyone can respond.
Guests, non-guests; people who have an interest in higher ratings (let your imagination run wild), people who have an interest in lower ratings (allow me...unscrupulous competitors, etc.). The possibilities are endless.
2) Stuffing The Ballot Box
I like to call this the American Idol problem. Weekly, the producers of that show tout huge numbers of votes that have been tallied (i.e. recently the number was in excess of 30 million "people" who voted). But, did 30 million unique people vote or were 30 million votes recorded? I think we all know the answer to this.
Similarly, on many of the travel review sites, anyone can respond any number of times. Why is this a problem? See item 1. Lots of these sites prominently display how many reviews they get...for example, TripAdvisor talks about "4,000,000+ unbiased reviews and opinions you can trust, updated every minute, every day."
We don't doubt the number or the frequency of updates. We're not so sure about the rest.
Please see our post of October 25, 2005 for more on this topic. Briefly, though, the bottom line is that feedback repositories generally tend to attract the very unhappy, and very happy customers.
Is GuestInsight the remedy for these feedback maladies?
What can you do to deal with all this information floating around on the Internet?
Well, by investing in a program like GuestInsight you can do two things:
1) You can get an honest, scientific picture of how you're really doing. By controlling sampling; one guest/ one survey, you get a more accurate picture (and, if you're willing to incentivize your guests to respond, you'll effectively deal with the polarized response problem).
2) You can really learn where you can get better in your property(ies).
The bottom line is that GuestInsight is a tool for learning how to get better. There are plenty of articles out there that speak to the value of customer satisfaction measurement. GuestInsight has the added benefit of being a natural jumping off point (or tie-in to existing) e-mail marketing programs. Still, it's not a direct answer to the review sites out there. Rather, it is an in-house management tool that's being used by savvy hoteliers and innkeepers. The philosophy is that GuestInsight will help you take care of your own house, which will lead to better reviews in the Wild West of the travel review sites.
The blog of Database Sciences and its GuestInsight & ListenKeenly services.