There’s a few review platforms out there aiming to deliver the benefits of online reviews for businesses but failing as they do not actually focus on the key, as well as tangential benefits, of online consumer reviews. In essence they send out a message to customers on behalf of businesses asking for either a thumbs up, or a thumbs down for the service. At one level I can understand attempting to simplify the review process but I do not understand diluting it down to nothing. What does that oppositional choice do for businesses and how does it give consumers any peace-of-mind or motivate them toward a decision?

NoCowboys has been in the review business in New Zealand since 2006, when most people did not know what online reviews were and were either still holding on to traditional media platforms to grow their business or were looking to hire services by scrolling through bulky print directories. We were pioneers in the acceptance of reviews as a vital component of online commerce. We created systems that authenticated reviews and we have adapted and initiated new features to keep in step with the growth of the internet. In short, reviews are our business and we take them seriously.

Furthermore, we understand the frustrations that business owners sometime feel when customers promise feedback and don’t end up doing it but in the main, a percentage of them will and initiating processes to ask for reviews works extremely well. We do not believe that it would be beneficial to act on those occasional frustrations by throwing away what works and replacing it with something of no value.

A simplified yes or no, or smiley or sad face, or thumbs up or thumbs down would be a disservice to business owners and consumers alike. Furthermore, the system to garner the feedback is itself deeply flawed. If you text a number and get a thumbs up, then who is it from? Where is the provenance? Where is the trail to validate that that phone number belongs to an actual bona fide customer? There is none, and it is a very easy procedure for scammers to create fake numbers solely for the purpose of generating fraudulent reviews.

The purpose of a review is to inform, to share opinions and experiences within a community of strangers. Would I buy a vacuum cleaner because it had 5 smiley faces? Would I commission a painter who had ten thumbs up and a thumbs down? No, of course not. I have zero information to inform my choice. I need the surety that comes from a mix of stars and text. I want to read actual experiences.

So, when I read something in a recent article online it affirmed all that I already knew or felt about oversimplified symbols dressed up as feedback. “It’s the text of the top reviews that made a difference. This swaying effect only happened for the text reviews. Without text, people are not swayed. It’s the concrete details that are driving this impact.” (Source: “Study finds top reviews, not average ratings, sway consumer decision-making,” www.sciencedaily.com).

Online reviews are an essential element of the choices we make online. They guide us and they benefit us. Sure, they are not always perfect, nothing is, but we cannot replace with them with watered down symbols that aid nobody but the companies that make money off their usage.