Culture of Online User Reviews in India and Improving Credibility

If you are in India and hooked up to social media like Twitter or Facebook , you would not have missed out the controversial blog post by a group of youngsters who have cribbed about the horrible experience of having a brunch in a restaurant and being mistreated pretty badly and ended up being in a police station.

What is interesting to note is that the blog post was anonymous and it described in detail the trauma that the youngsters had to go through . And being the typical social media enthusiasts we are , without trying to understand both sides of the story ,the blog post was tweeted and re-tweeted back and forth that it received nationwide attention and it is trending for last 2 days.

User Reviews are all about bad experiences

It’s quite a harrowing experience when business treat customers badly using force especially and it is quite normal that we  crib about the experience by  writing bad reviews on popular sites , lower the ratings,talk about it repeatedly in social media sites so that the business gets your attention and tries to fix the issue.Most of the bad customer experience that every one of us had in the past coupled with power of social media try to bring brand and business on their kneels. Brands too keep an eye on social media and try to reach to you to solve the issue.

But of late online reviews and social media interactions are more towards cribbing about a problem and trying to claim noise. I hardly see any interactions about how good an experience was .Every bad experience could have always 2-3 good experiences , of-course not with the same brand or business but with some thing else. But are we talking enough about good customer service and appreciations ? Lack of good reviews is one of the main reasons why users tend to choose  some products or service since they don’t have much choices in many cases.

If we look at reviews in MouthShut or Burrp or Zomato , other than a select few reviews , most of them are generally negative and it is more about trying to bring the brand down.

It brings me to the question . Are we using social media or internet effectively that all of us get immense benefit from each other’s experience ? Every time a pleasant transaction happens , are we registering it some where so that it balances the negative reviews which can help in making an informed decision?

Where to write user reviews?

One of the reason why most of us ,especially in India , don’t write is because we don’t know where to record our happy experience. Many times a happy experience is recorded in the form of facebook status update or tweet that it gets lost in the abundance of data.Currently in India , to read about  food reviews , you need to be aware that there are sites like Burrp and Zomato ,for car reviews, there is TeamBHP or Auto Car India and dozen other sites for gadgets and for home appliances , there is MouthShut etc.

So to post reviews about a positive experience,as a layman internet user , we need to aware about where we  post our opinion which is bit difficult – where to post experience about hotels – trip advisor may be, to rate service for telecom providers or quality of movie halls – we are not entirely sure.Would people be more interested and get themselves into a habit of posting reviews  if there is a single common review site where in we can post reviews about anything and everything under sun – be it products,business or services and what not.Reviews can take time , some people write reviews passionately about products they love. But a majority of people are not interested in writing a review. So how much rating a service which can take very few minutes?

Single Unified Rating Portal(SURP)  for all products/services 

So whenever a user encounter a nice or bad experience , make it a point to register the experience there in that portal. What could be more relevant is that , if the site has facebook and twitter integration so that  friends can read reviews when they are about to engage with the same product or service. It will be more helpful when you get to know that your friend has bought this product and can always ping them for opinion.

Question is whether people would be open to such an idea if executed properly – a single credible website where in users all record all these feedback of products or service they are using or used in the past and that the whole world can see it ?

Complexities in developing SURP 

For each product or service , there are parameters that are different for each other . Ratings for a car and it’s service can be totally different from ratings from a movie theatre. So the attributes that defines that quality of product or service need to be properly understood and defined so that it helps to build credibility to the rating system as a whole.There should be different ratings available based on the type of product or service in consideration which means in instances , a product rating and service rating will help in improving the ratings. Reviews can be attached to ratings if needed .

Building such a system from scratch is a very difficult job and getting people on boarded to use the system will be challenging. And to remain neutral between the brands and customers , there cannot be any advertisements on the portal. So the investment required to keep this portal up and running has to be properly understood.

Leaving aside the technicalities ,would this kind of experience make people contribute better?

Some advantages of SURP

Be specific and objective

Consider the scenario of user has having experience with quality of service in big hotel. chain. Instead of rating the whole hotel as  bad , there should be ways to select that particular region/city and rate it lower. This kind of rating will help the brand as well to identify gaps and fix it.

Differentiate Product vs Service Rating

Normally reviews may claim the product and service to be excellent . But the  service may be good in one part of the country but not in other areas. So buying a product where service of prime concern can be addressed by attaching a service rating which is different from product rating and this service rating can be based on geography etc. This can be applicable to products like cars where service is as important as product. The car can get a good service within big metros and cities  but not in rural areas. Ratings can help to solve these problems.

Reduced effort to research internet

Effort invested in getting to know about the product by googling can be reduced to a great extent. A Facebook or twitter friend may have the same product and hence it is easy to find the rating and even get to talk to them in case of further queries. Since all the reviews and data is spread out all through the internet , the time taken to find and digest them will be minimal.

Be Consumer Watch Dog

Act as a consumer watch dog and make sure the interest of consumers are protected in case of faulty product by pressing for product recalls or extended warranty. In US and few other countries , VW has extended the warranty of special DSG gear boxes since they were faulty and problem was reported widely. But the same gear box in India does not have extended warranty because there is no efficient problem reporting system available  that can help in building necessary data to support the claim and fight against the car manufacturers.

Culture of Giving Back

It’s important that people in India who get a lot of information from the internet ,make it as a culture  of giving back as much information as possible . So whenever people  go out and buy a new product or avail a service , rate the experience immediately so that they can help others there by make the system more credible and make it a powerful entity and a force to reckon with.

 

So instead of JD Power coming up with ratings based on consumer survey , this crowd sourced SURP can grow as a credible alternative.It’s a win-win situation for both the business and digital consumers.

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