The Los Angeles Times published an article yesterday on the Reviewer Card, the brainchild of entrepreneur Brad Newman to help people that write reviews get better service from the places they visit.
The theory is that if you flash your Reviewer Card at a restaurant or store, you’ll get better treatment from the employees or other special perks. My friend Erik forwarded me the article with a request: “Please promise me you won’t get one of these.”
Damn right I won’t.
As a blogger that often writes reviews of services, products, and travel destinations, I can’t imagine how something like this in any way improves the review process. In fact, 3 reasons pop up right away why it’s dumb.
Reason #1: Authenticity
Bloggers like myself strive for authenticity with our readers. We give our honest feedback about the products and services we test out. Having an authentic experience is important – if you treat me differently from a regular customer, then my review isn’t representative of a typical experience with your company.
I often have companies offer to send me a product directly. When they do, I will only write about the product as I receive it and use it – and usually skip writing about the company. Why? I didn’t experience their customer service. On the other hand, if they offer me a gift card to use to shop on their site, then I’m more than happy to provide feedback on how easy it was to search, what their product selection looks like, how fast the shipping was, etc.. Because I actually experienced their service the way a normal customer would. That’s important to me.
Reason #2: Usefulness
I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay for upgrades for VIP treatment very often. So when I read a review of a hotel chain, I don’t want to hear about how awesome it was in the Presidential Suite. I bet it’s awesome there, because the staff knows you’re shelling out a bunch of dough for a high-end experience. I’m much more likely to reserve the standard room with double queen beds, so that’s what I want to hear about when I read reviews. Were the standard beds comfortable? Was the standard room service prompt? Did housecleaning knock on your door at 6am interrupting you from an amazing dream about Channing Tatum? That’s useful feedback to me. Not stuff about upgrades that the average patron doesn’t receive.
Reason #3: Entitlement
Just because you write reviews on a website doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Sure, you have some implied power because your experience will be shared with a bigger audience than the average person, but that doesn’t mean companies should bow to you when you walk in because they don’t want you to give a negative review.
Here’s a little secret – when companies want reviewers to write good stuff about them, they plan for it. They invite media to cover an event and they’re ready for them when they arrive to ensure the experience goes well. It’s a planned marketing tool and it makes sense – show someone such a good time that they can’t help but tell their readers how awesome you are.
Every company should be doing a similar version of this for their customers anyway. Want people to spend their money on your stuff? Treat them well. Have employees that are empowered to answer questions and resolve issues. Train your staff to be pleasant and courteous no matter whom they’re helping.
The world doesn’t need people flashing Reviewer Cards expecting preferential treatment. The world needs more authentic, useful, honest feedback that helps consumers make educated decisions and also helps companies identify areas that truly need improvement.