Cake for Thought - Reviews

I know there are a lot of merits to the umpteen review platforms out there in the Wild Wild Web incl. social media. For a new business it's getting the word out, rallying up support and hopefully a buzz, and some SEO juice. For established businesses it's to remain fresh, relevant and display some legacy and authority. For consumers, like you and me, it's valuable as a quick reference - whether it's about going out for a meal or a manicure. And they all started with great intentions of revolutionising the way we think about consuming but sadly it is now increasingly used as a wicked tool, both by consumers and businesses alike.

Birthday Cake
I recently saw a bunch of glowing reviews of an established and long standing restaurant chain. This was after I had a bad experience there having had many great times previously. So I went on Tripadvisor and saw a heap of very samey positive reviews. Scrolling back about 20 odd I saw a scathing one, describing an experience not too disimilar to mine. Scrolling further back again and I see samey glowies. An obvious pattern of fake reviews being injected after a scorcher all over. Businesses are counteracting negative reviews with buying a bunch of fakes, and why not?? You can buy fake reviews and followers for peanuts now and if people don't think twice about harming your business with their review you shouldn't think twice about protecting it right?? Wrong. like fake currency, it'll devalue the whole system and people will no longer use these sites as reference. But how do you stop them?? Is the onus entirely on the business? Is the customer always right?

Birthday Cake London

Renowned food critic Jay Rayner tweeted something along the lines that negative stories are naturally more compelling. Is this why us consumers are more motivated to share negativity than positivity?? For the number of great times I've visited that restaurant, how many good reviews did I leave? None. But that one horrific time and I really wanted to shout about it. I didn't in the end, but the urge was there.

On the flip side I heard from a friend who had a rotten customer complain about receiving a damaged coffee machine when the customer himself used bootlegged refills on it. He threatened social media shaming if he did not get a refund or replacement. On the same day we get a complaint from a customer who damaged a cake themselves and threatened "public humiliation on Instagram to 30k followers". Why so toxic? Why are reviews being used to tear down, blackmail and manipulate? Whatever happened to sharing honest feedback, taking responsibility and chalking it up to experience? You could say I'm biased as a business but we are all consumers. I too have negative experiences and have my own way of dealing with them, which does not involve shaming to get my way.

I now turn to Instagram and good ol' word of mouth for recommendations. Even then, it's not always going to be a 100% hit rate because what works for Harry may not work for Sally but it's a recommendation based on an actual experience from consumers I have some form of connection with, which is umpteen times more valuable than fakes and rants online.

So who is to blame?? Businesses or consumers, for devaluing such a great thing? Both I believe. I'm also a believer of what you put out in the world you get back. As a consumer if I have a brill experience I will now make more of an effort to spread it. If I have a rotten one, I'll let the business know and move on (like I did with the restaurant and a dodgy haircut I had at a high street salon).

As a business I'm going to use every bit of feedback as a lesson - if it's constructive, I'll use it to better ourselves and reward those customers for adding value and being genuinely awesome to serve, regardless of feedback - like Analy!

If it's just plain ol' b!tchy, well, there's always this blog to rant on and a pint of ice cream to cool off eh? ;)


Reshmi xoxo

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