People that sell products accepted years ago that customer purchases are heavily influenced by messages they do not directly control. These messages are usually summarized in a simple metric: number of stars and number of reviews.
Say, like me, you decide to buy a new bike lock on Amazon.
I bought by the numbers. I paid zero attention to what any of these companies had to say about their product.
Those of us who sell things more complicated than a bike lock — such as professional services or business software — have felt insulated from this trend. What we say matters.
Not for long.
An Object Lesson in Losing Control
Recently a Warner Brothers movie producer complained that Rotten Tomatoes was to blame for the poor box office results of recent blockbusters. What he meant was that consumers are now buying movies like a product; aggregate scores the studio could not control are outpacing even the most sophisticated — and expensive — marketing campaigns.
We all know buyers are highly likely to read and trust online reviews for a product or service. Yet until recently a movie’s marketing power had largely resisted the influence of bad reviews. What changed is a lesson for every other industry that currently feels immune.
First, Rotten Tomatoes achieved scale as the go-to review site for the industry.
Second, and critically, the Rotten Tomatoes score was integrated into the point of purchase/point of decision.
Thinking about buying a ticket for a movie at Fandango?
Have a free evening to stream a flick?
This Will Be True for Everyone
You can bet someone is working on becoming the go-to review platform in your industry. Google, Yelp and other big players are headed into services. G2 Crowd recently launched consulting services reviews. Clutch is focused on software development, part of Highland’s offerings. Sites like Thumbtack combine a transactional platform with reviews for all sorts of specialized services, from vocal coaching to home contractors. The collective effect may be minimal at the moment, but when one or two sites emerge as the go-to location, beware.
Your customers already trust third party opinions more than what you say about yourself. Once a scaled, trusted, third-party consolidation of customer reviews exists, what you say won’t matter anymore.
What movie studios should do is obvious. Instead of blaming the reviews, make the experience great by producing better movies. Then the power of Rotten Tomatoes works in their favor instead of against them.
The same is true for your business. You can’t control your message for much longer. What you can control is a consistently excellent customer experience with your service, product, and organization.
The good news is that there are methods and tools to understand your current customer experience and imagine and create exceptional ones. Experienced practitioners — like Highland’s CX team — exist.
As more industries come to terms with the fact that they will lose control of their message, these methods will become common practice. For now, leading companies are using them to create a gap that will expand as Rotten-Tomato-like reviews take over your industry too.