Ratings, Rankings and Review Sites Episode 01

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Note:

This is an episode from out now-defunct podcast, Digital PowWow With Kiruba and Amar. I thought of adding this episode in a podcast meant for authors for one simple reason- everything we discuss here is relevant to authors, and applicable too!

Summary:

In this episode, Kiruba and Amar discuss the importance of review and rating sites such as Tripadvisor, Zomato and even Amazon. Amar shares anecdotes from his travels to different parts of India, and how the reviews on Lonely Planet and now Tripadvisor first came to his notice. Kiruba describes the importance of sites where customers or consumers can leave reviews, ratings for businesses or services. Sites such as Tripadvisor rank the hotels based on these reviews, which can then influence the popularity and business of these hotels. He also advises on what are some of the ways businesses can encourage their customers to leave reviews. Amar shares his experience with Amazon when he was able to remove a negative review for his book.

Key discussion Points:

Review, Ranking and Rating sites can make or break the visibility or reputation of a business today.
Amar narrates his experience from 2010 at a resort in Cherrapunji in notheastern India, where he and his wife (they were the only Indian guests) saw a very high footfall for a small hotel. The property was very highly recommended by Lonely Planet, which resulted in such a heavy traffic from guests at a place that was practically in the middle of nowhere.
Similarly, in 2015, Amar and his wife found a small hotel in Puducherry (Pondicherry) called Les Hibiscus, which had several 5 star ratings on Tripadvisor. The service offered by the hotel matched the reviews.
There are 350 million (35 crore) users on Tripadvisor. Every minute, nearly 200 reviews are posted on that site. 5.3 million businesses depends on that site.
Similarly, reviews on Amazon matter for an author. Reviews on iTunes for a podcast can result in that podcast getting listed under “New and Noteworthy” which will result in greater visibility and ultimately higher downloads for that podcast.
Review sites can greatly influence the “Moment of truth” in a buying cycle.
For hospitality industry, Kiruba has done a lot of work recently for two of the biggest holiday ownership companies. This helped Kiruba understand how these ratings and ranking sites work.
Tripadvisor’s ranking algorithm is closely guarded (similar to Coca Cola’s recipe or Google’s page ranking algorithm).
There are three major factors that determine the ranking on Tripadvisor:
a. Quality of reviews (on a one to five start or “bubble” scale). The higher the number of bubbles, the better.
b. Quantity of reviews
c. Age of the reviews. In particular, the recency of the reviews can affect the ranking.
If there are two identical property with a similar number of reviews (say 20), their rankings may differ because of the above factors. A Five star review is weighted significantly higher than a 4 start review.
For a small property faced with the challenge of having their presence on other sites such as Zomato, Air BnB or Stayzilla, they should only consider Tripadvisor.
Kiruba shares his experience with a small hotel near Salem. The owner, Visu Cariappa, purchased on old colonial bungalow and renovated it. He has over 400 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor, higher than those received by Taj Hotels & the Oberoi!
The quality of service affects the Tripadvisor rating (positively), which in turn can affect the sales, and increase the chances of conversion.
In case of books, an author can make their pitch by mentioning the number of reviews or the average star rating of their previous books on amazon, for example.
According to Kiruba, a good review is an honest, straight from the heart review. Consumers should leave reviews for “Pay It Forward”. If the past reviews have helped in a customer make their decision to spend their time and money at a property (that is, make a purchasing decision), then the onus is on this customer to leave a review so that future customers can benefit.
In order to avoid ‘gamification’ of the ratings, sites such as Amazon and Tripadvisor value their frequent reviewers. Tripadvisor awards a badge to reviewers who leave a large number of reviews. This is similar to Amazon’s vine program.
Businesses have a way to work with the rating and ranking sites if a reviewer has maliciously left a bad review. Businesses should respond to the comments, whether positive or negative.
Amar received a 1 star review for his book on amazon when a customer ordered an ebook thinking that she had ordered a print book. In this case, since it was a customer’s mistake, Amazon removed the negative review.Recommended Best Practice:
Hotels, or other vacation properties should not push a customer to leave a review. Sending a Thank You card or a reminder email one day later will help in getting greater number of reviews from the guests.Call To Action:If you liked the format and the discussion in this episode, please leave a review for this show on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.Ways to Contact The Hosts:
Kiruba can be reached via email : kiruba at kiruba dot com or on Facebook: facebook.com/kiruba
Amar Can be reached via email : amar at amarvyas dot in or via twitter : @amarauthorDisclaimer: The hosts or this show has not received any compensation in monetary or other terms from any of the review and rating sites mentioned on this podcast episode.