November 9, 2015
Ever smuggled a hotel’s fantastically fluffy robe into your luggage? Squeezed one too many passengers into the back seat of an Uber, perhaps? Or been painfully picky about how you like your coffee: “I’ll have a hot weak decaf half skim half full cream cappuccino with extra chocolate and half a sugar“?
Well, now you may be at risk of being black booked as a PIA (pain in the ass) by hotels, restaurants and drivers, just to name a few.
The power-hungry consumer
In this digital age, we are inundated with other people’s opinions. This, coupled with our inherent need as consumers to ensure that we make informed decisions, has led to an increased reliance on third party review sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Zomato and Yelp. Such sites may be viewed as a godsend for those consumers who want guaranteed value for money before laying out capital. However, from a business’s point of view, these sites can be a point of contention.
The thing with reviews is that no matter how many positive reviews there are, it only takes one negative review to taint the twenty positive ones preceding it. And being the fickle consumers we are, we tend to be magnetically drawn to the negative review, often making decisions based on the mere presence of a negative review.
Granted, these reviews are a powerful source of feedback for businesses, and the constructive criticism can help them improve the service on offer. But, in some instances, individuals go too far by posting untruthful and/or unfair reviews that have a profound effect on the business’s reputation.
This makes you wonder: why can’t businesses tell their side of the story too?
Recently, businesses have begun fighting back with their own review systems where they - you guessed it - rate their customers. Contemporary taxi operator, Uber, first brought reverse reviews into the spotlight with drivers rating their passengers. With Uber as the precedent, we are now watching reverse reviews infiltrate other industries such as hospitality, where hotels and restaurants are starting to use similar models of reciprocity.
From April to May of this year, the Art Series Hotel Group announced a social experiment initiative called “Reverse Review” where they rated the guests that stayed in their hotels. Guests that were deemed ‘good’ (yes, that means no sneaking Pringles from the mini bar) were rewarded with room upgrades, gift vouchers and a free night of accommodation. And those ‘bad’ guests were outed on the review page for the whole internet to see.
In the food industry, Sydney’s online reservation system, Dimmi ResDiary, is now allowing participating restaurants to rate their diners on their dining performance. ResDiary allows venues to collate information on what they ordered, how much they tipped and if they made any demanding requests (beware dressing-on-the-side people!).
As the conversation becomes two-way and more transparent, businesses have claimed the right to respond to false reviews and defend their reputation. These systems are also helping to identify a business’s most valued and well-behaved customers, providing an opportunity to reward these customers accordingly. The resulting environment operates on mutual respect and accountability. No longer does the power reside only with the customers – businesses are using these tools to even out the power.
What does this mean for consumers and brands?
On a bigger scale, this speaks to the evening out of power across a number of industries with co-creation becoming the new norm of consumer interaction. While hospitality is challenging the “customer is always right” credo, companies in one-directional relationships with consumers are increasingly involving their consumers in more dynamic conversations.
Whether or not social media may be to blame, this trend is undoubtedly improving the effectiveness of products and services for those who provide them as well as for those who receive them.
Emily is one of our bright young sparks currently doing an internship at The Lab.