Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Navigating the Review World

If you are planning an event, you know that there are a lot of different people that you will need to contact to help you pull it off.  It doesn't matter what you are looking for; a venue, a planner, a cake decorator, or an item you wish to purchase, reviews are an important place to begin.  According to an online survey, 84% of American consumers check reviews before purchasing services or products. Reviews help us to determine if the risk is worth the cost.  Higher reviews help us to feel that we are going to get our monies worth.  Poor reviews help us to ask the right questions to determine if we will have a similar experience.  How do you navigate these reviews to make an informed decision on your events?  Here are some things to keep in mind when you are looking at vendors and services for your next event:

  • Reviews are Subjective-We all know that this is true.  At least on a cognizant level, we know it is true, but subjective or not, we hold great weight by them.  One wedding planner can get 4 bad reviews in a 6 month period. Now, if she had 6 weddings during that time and those 4 reviews were for 4 different events, then you might want to look into another
    planner/coordinator.  However, when looking at these poor reviews, it is extremely important to look at the event dates themselves.  If she has 4 bad reviews and they are all from the same event or within a week's time frame, then you can assume that something was very off with that event.  Maybe everything went wrong with vendors, maybe she was dealing with something at home, or maybe this particular wedding party was unruly or hard to work with.  Don't always assume that the bad review had to do with the person or product, but it may have to do with the consumer.  Besides the dates that the review is left, here are a few things to look at when faced with bad reviews:
  • Was the person leaving the review obviously agitated?  This should not be ignored.  Angry and hurt people will leave reviews and most likely do it in a state of agitation.  That isn't a deal breaker, because they need to be heard, especially in the event planning business where your event might have been your wedding or your child's graduation party.  Milestone events are highly emotional and when things don't go according to plan, it is easy for the consumer to feel hurt and angry and therefore write things that are hurtful and angry as a review.  Try to determine why the review was left and move on to the next bullet point.
  • Are the reviews vague?  Emotions put aside, is the review specific about the things that went wrong?  Reviews that state, "Caterer was rude and uppity" are not helpful.  If the reviewer continues by saying "Whenever I would begin to ask a question, the caterer would interrupt me and cut me off without answering my question", you can understand exactly how frustrating and, in fact, rude, the caterer was.  If the reviewer cannot tell you how they were rude, then it could have been as simple as the caterer asking for their final payment when they weren't prepared to pay right then.  I once worked with a DJ who thought the caterer was rude when she asked him to not cut in front of guests to eat.  I don't find that rude, I find that tactful and the DJ's actions rude. Make sure that bad reviews are very specific and if they can give you an example, all the better.
  • Is the reviewer fishing for free stuff?  Again, this is not a deal breaker.  Most people who leave bad reviews do so to get something back.  Whether it is a refund, a new product, or emotional satisfaction, there is usually something to gain by leaving a bad review.  The hard thing to determine is if this person is trying to get something for nothing, or is truly entitled to a refund, a new product, or some other kind of compensation for their ordeal.  When wading through bad reviews, there is a little conjecture that you may have to wrestle with.  What does the intent of the review sound like?  Do they sound like they want to keep others from having the same experience, require a refund for poor product, or do they sound like they are fishing for something they do not deserve?
  • Is the reviewer posting a review that relates to the actual service or product?  I once read a bad review of a venue in which the writer of the review ranted for several paragraphs on the mayor of the town the venue was in.  The mayor did not perform any function at the venue, was not present at the event, nor was the mayor in any way responsible for venues staffing, policies, or procedures.  The reviewer just wanted a forum for his grievance against the mayor's politics.  Be sure that the reviews, good or bad, speak directly to the services or product that is being reviewed.
  • How was the review handled by the company in question?  When I read bad reviews, I want to know if the company felt that it warranted a response.  I don't believe that all bad reviews do. Sometimes, you can get into a "tit for tat" back and forth with a consumer that will leave both
    parties looking badly.  If the company does respond, I look for professional responses that are not reactions but well thought out and cohesive responses.  I don't expect them to be able to satisfy every customer, but I do want to see that they take responsibility where they can and own up to any mistakes on their part.  Even if the only thing they say is "I am so sorry that your experience with us wasn't what you hoped for.  We strive to make every customer's event perfect.  Please contact me at (enter e-mail address here) so that we can determine how we can correct this for the next customer".  This response does not admit guilt, it doesn't promise anything that they cannot follow through on and it let's the consumer know that the company respects them and wants to hear more about the problem at hand.
  • Is there an unrealistic expectation on the part of the customer?  Southwest Airlines got a review from a customer that disliked the casual attire of the stewards, was angry that there wasn't a First Class and did not like that the seats were First Come, First Serve.  Basically, everything she disliked, was what made Southwest Airlines the airline that it is.  The response from the top of the line was, "We will miss you".  When you look at a review, determine if the reviewer has unrealistic expectations of what is they are receiving.  

Reviews are a great resource for consumers if you know how to navigate them.  They are a good way to discern between companies that you are on the fence about and a way to narrow the playing field if you are looking at all your options.  Just keep in mind that not all reviews are created equal and not all of them should be given the same weight.  Move through those waters with care and with open eyes.  Happy planning!

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