All Ratings and Reviews Are Not Created Equal!

March 26, 2007

I was on a conference call last week with some industry executives, when the question of rating value came up. One of the executives wanted to know the monetary value of a single rating. He mentioned an recent conversation with a home improvement rating and review site executive. The site executive had created a hacked formula for assigning a value to a single rating. He took the recent acquisition price of InsiderPages.com, $13 million and the number of ratings they collected, 600K, mixed it with a little magical potion and came up with $2.00 per rating.

I am sure he put a great amount of thought into his calculation of this value. However, in my professional opinion he is not totally correct with his conclusion. We as humans have a need to instantly assign a value to everything. There is nothing wrong with doing so, however I believe value is based upon one interpretation of gathered information. For instance, the InsiderPages model could be considered voided, due to the popular opinion that the acquisition was nothing more than a LIQUIDATION PREFERENCE. If they were sold merely because the VCs decided they wanted out, then you can not consider this an acquisition, but more like a yard sale. Therefore, I can not accept this as a reliable resource for calculating the value of a rating.

The inability to assign a value to ratings does not ended there. The rating and review industry is broken into two areas: general and targeted. Sites like InsiderPages are considered general. They allow user to rate various consumer related experiences. Where sites like MyDealerReport.com targets auto consumer related experiences. And to further complicate matters, the surveys themselves are not uniformed, therefore one must determine the value of the density and quality of the questions.

So let us examine these specific factors. Are targeted website ratings more valuable than those of general websites? Probably! A good illustration of this argument would be the health industry. The family physician versus the specialist. One treats your overall general health, while the other focuses on a specific targeted area of your health. If you had a heart disease which physician would you prefer to be treated by? I hope you said the heart specialist. Now with that being said, which physician is typically the higher paid of the two? The specialist. Nevertheless, they both are physicians. Case and point, a single targeted rating has greater value than one that is general.

Where does density and quality factor. There are multiple forms of surveys being utilized by rating and review websites. Most of these sites ask one to five questions. MyDealerReport.com provides a more comprehensive 24 question survey. This leads us to the question, does survey density create greater value? The answer is yes and no. Low density rating produces a vague depiction of the user’s experience. While, a higher level of density may give a more comprehensive view of the user’s experience. However, too many question can dilute the experience, as well. It is my belief that low density surveys are designed for low impact life experiences, such as movies, dinner and books. Higher density is necessary for more complex purchases, such as insurance, home improvement and purchasing, auto purchasing and repair. Most general rating and review websites do not provide different density level surveys for different experiences. Instead they provide one size fits all. This creates a generic environment were a steak dinner and a car purchase are wieghed the same. Same type of concensus must be established within the overall market regarding the standards of rating and reviews or users will continue to be subjected to dubious rating results.

The market also lacks the standard of quality. All surveys are not competent. The types of questions presented to the user may affect the results. You must be careful to ask a question and not imply an answer. Example: Sallie needs a tissue, so she ask Frank the following question, ” You don’t have a tissue do you?”. Sallie has just implied that Frank does not have a tissue and if Frank is not motivated to help her, he will just give Sallie the expected response, NO. The quality of a survey’s questions are extremely vital. Users must consider the quality of the questions in a survey, before relying on the results. MyDealerReport.com allows our users to view the questions that were used in the calculation of our ratings.

So what is the monetary value of a single rating? Well, I think we will have to leave that up to the end users. Ratings are like art, it value is based on one’s personal preference. Therefore, users will let us know the monetary value in due time.


What Home Depot and Car Dealerships Have In Common.

March 15, 2007

“There’s no way I can express how sorry I am for all of the stories you shared,” Blake wrote in a message posted Tuesday on the Internet board. “I recognize that many of you were loyal and dedicated shoppers of The Home Depot … and we let you down. That’s unacceptable.”

Home Depot and JetBlue, two companies that built profitable businesses centered around customer service have admitted to losing focus. One thing is certain customers will remind you that the crowd rules, not Wall Street or CEOs. This recent Home Depot event sparked an debate among the staff here at MyDealerReport.com. Who knows the most about what auto consumers want, salespeople or owners?

Michael Dell created a computer empire because he was among the people, the customer. But now he finds himself in a similar position as these other guys. Salespeople are the greatest form of market research for auto dealerships and manufacturers. They interact with multiple customers everyday. Yet, salespeople are treated like children, they are told to be seen, but not heard. While, management continues to plot outdated old fashion dog and pony shows to bring in customers. As I said in a previous blog “the dog has been shot and the pony is dead”.

When I was a salesperson, I constantly encountered the god complex of management. Management hates to be questioned about anything. Their philosophy is just shut up and do it or you can walk! If a customer tells them what they want, management will tell the customer what they need. Now, I can not speak for all auto dealerships, just the multiple dealerships I have worked in the past. Salespeople are perceived as heartless evil villains. However, they are human. They able to relate to one’s anxiety, fears and desires when purchasing a vehicle. But many of them are taught not to feel, but to dominate, by any means necessary.

Most dealerships hold a weekly meeting to discuss performance, goals and deliver sales instructions. When do they hold meetings to uncover the need of their customers? Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot had to go directly to the customers on the Internet board, because they lost control of the matter. If Home Depot was utilizing their store staff for customer feedback, they would have been proactive instead of reactive.

It would be nice if auto dealerships would conduct weekly meetings with their sales staff for customer feedback. But what would be even better is a monthly meeting with customers. I allured to Michael Dell’s success in the computer business earlier. He was successful, because he customized computers for customers. Customers told him what they wanted and he built it. It sounds like the Big 3 in Detroit can take a lesson from the old Michael Dell.

Why fight with customers? Why force them to take a square peg, when they want a round one? It is a lot easier to give customers what they want, because if you don’t they will find someone who will.

This should be a wake up call for the auto industry, learn from the mistakes of Home Depot, JetBlue and Dell computers. And remember the crowd rules.

Customers tell auto dealerships what you want or don’t want by visiting MyDealerReport.com. Dealers discover what your customers want by visiting MyDealerReport.com.


Value and Trust Takes Time, Ask MySpace and YouTube.

March 13, 2007

You can not be everything to everybody and beware of the person who tries to be. Lately, we have found ourselves in an unique position. The “rating and review” arena is starting to become a highly desired frontier and especially for many larger corporations within the auto industry. We have been in discussion with multiple entities that desire to enter into this arena. While this is flattering, we must be cautious about potential partnerships. In a partnership each party must have respect your each others proposition of established trust and value within their industry.

When I think of the words trust and value I think about our slogan “Who do you trust? Know, before you go!”. I feel these two words are developed over a period time. MySpace and YouTube are great examples. They created a great following over time by developing value and trust among their users. One’s users will determine if you are trustworthy, not an ad campaign or a name. You can not buy trust and value, but as proven with the acquisition of MySpace and YouTube one can purchase a company who has earned it.

You must ask yourself something. Why did NewsCorp purchase MySpace? Why did Google purchase YouTube? NewsCorp and Google have well trusted established brands. However, value and trust is not always transferable. We have seen or heard of multiple entities who were well established in one field, only to be unsuccessfully entering another. I might trust Starbucks with making my vendi Carmel Macchiato with non-fat milk extra hot, but I would be apprehensive about them making donuts or bagels. However, I would not object to purchasing Krispy Kreme donuts at Starbucks. By doing so I would be receiving the best product(s) from two different entities through one well established channel. Now this would allow Starbucks to increase their value by sharing Krispy Kreme’s trust factor.

NewsCorp and Google were smart. Why should they go through the trust and value building stages, when they could acquire it? They could have purchased or developed a concept in a box, but the box would have been missing two important pieces, value and trust. It not a matter of development or technology, most concepts can be duplicated or cloned. But a concept’s value and trust can not be cloned.

Typically people comprehend the word trust, but the word value is so more abstract. I think value is created by the degree of difficulty to acquire something. But value also belongs to the eye of the beholder. This is the reason why two analyst will perceive a company’s value differently. One might appreciate the degree of difficulty to develop a concept, while the other dismisses it. Certain jewelry and art are more valuable than others, due to the perceived level of difficulty to discover or create them.

Let us look a MySpace and Youtube again. They developed great social networking communities, each in their respective areas. Along the way they had to test the waters and course correct. Their value was created through the development and somewhat perfecting of the system, their Know- How.

Therefore, everyday I examine ways MyDealerReport.com can increase its value and trust factor? I also examine how our partners are continuously adding to these areas? We appreciates every user that has deem us trustworthy and valueable. There we must continue to perfect the system, through healthy partnerships.


The Auto Industry’s Forgotten Consumer.

March 7, 2007

There are roughly 60 million vehicles sold each year, 17 million new and 43 million used. Used cars generate a greater average profit per copy than new cars, the term copy meaning unit sold. However, the U.S. is preoccupied with new car sales figures, due to the mass media. I understand the strong emphasis on these figures, due to the economics surrounding manufacturer production output. But it appears if manufacturers are solely concerned with the new car market. However, the used car market arguably has a greater impact on the overall auto industry.

There are more than 34.8 million used car retail transactions performed each year. But who really cares? Do auto dealerships care? Do auto manufacturers care? Yes! However, they have made an oversight or an assumption regarding their used car consumers. Remember, actions speak louder than words. They conduct customer service satisfaction surveys on their 17 million new car purchasers, but ignore the bulk of their auto retail consumers, used car purchasers.

Franchise dealerships bend over backwards to receive a good CSI score, Customer Satisfaction Index. It is great that the industry has tried to make dealerships accountable. However, the industry currently can not gauge the temperature of the used car consumers satisfaction level. What about the accountability for the treatment of the these consumers? Better, yet what about the accountability for all the independent dealerships? Who is looking out for the 34.8 million forgotten consumers?

I consider the used car consumer, the backbone upon which the auto industry stands. Car auctions, warranty companies, service and repair centers, insurance companies and banks would be negatively affected without the used car market. Franchise auto dealerships receive 58% of their profit from service, parts and repairs. There are nearly 238 million vehicles in operation in the United States with the median age being 6 -9 years. What affect do you think this has on the independent auto service and repair industry? I would think significant.

I feel this big oversight has cause a furry depiction of the auto industry’s customer satisfaction results. You can not complete a puzzle without all the pieces. And in this case a large number of pieces. The auto industry and the media must start considering the forgotten auto consumers. Our industry’s survival depends upon it.

Visit MyDealerReport.com and show the industry your satisfaction is important.


Is Social Networking Good For Consumer Ratings?

March 5, 2007

MyDealer Headline

Yes! Social Networking is good for consumer ratings, but not all consumer ratings. Social networking provides an atmosphere of free flowing communication. It like hanging out with your friends, neighbors, family members or co-workers, shooting the breeze. Some say it reminds them of an old English pub where you would gather and learn of the day’s news. As we already no word-of-mouth is the most powerful influencer for consumer purchasing. And the local pubs and neighbor hang outs have always been a major engine behind facilitating word-of-mouth.

However, all opinions are not created equal or should I say seen as equal. We receive tons of opinions concerning every facet of life. And you know what they say about opinions, everybody has one. So, am I saying that you can not trust word-of-mouth or ratings from social networking sites, No! It okay to hang out and talk about the latest movies, restaurants and the hot night spots. After all there is not much risk involved with picking the wrong restaurant or movie, yeah you will be disappointed and out of a $8 to $70. However this is not a life changing event. You will get over it and decide to never listen to the person or people who recommended that restaurant or movie.

But when it comes to a life changing decision you become more selective in listening to word-of-mouth. You carefully choose those few friends, family members and co-workers to gather opinions from concerning your decision. When making a major decision you shut off the social chatter and Bigfoot talk, in-order to get focused. This is were Social Networking ceases and Clear Intelligence begins.

Purchasing a home or an vehicle is a life changing event. The wrong decision can cause a life-time of personal and financial misery. Purchasing a vehicle is the second largest expense for most people. We are not talking about a dinner and a movie, we are talking about thousands of dollars at risk. Where, Social Networking provides the typical 4 -5 question survey, if that, specialized intelligence sites like ours must be more in-depth. Our company provides consumers with a 24-data point survey. It is our duty to seek quality along with quantity.

MyDealerReport.com‘s data separates facts from fiction, no Bigfoot talk here. Everything has it place and time. Remember, what your parent use to tell you, there is a time for playing and a time for homework. We are not totally against providing social elements, but our number one job is to help you with your homework by preventing you from making a 5,10,20,30,40,50,60… thousand dollar mistake.

Visit MyDealerReport.com today and do your homework!


Why Consumer Generated Ratings Count?

March 1, 2007

Rating and Reviews sites are popping up all over the world wide web. From social networking styles site to local directory style sites. This has started a debate on the creditability and the viability of consumer generated ratings and reviews.

Many have said that you need to provide incentives for people to rate products, companies or services. Some have said ratings are easily manipulate. I recently read an article about the famous Zagat Ratings, Zagat Math. The article attacked the creditability of Zagat’s ratings, due to the lack of sampling numbers in certain cities. Nevertheless, these specific cities had ratings, but not significant enough to be a sample of the city’s population. So this brings up another question, scientific ratings versus consumer generated ratings.

You know were I stand on this issue. First, consumers are not laboratory rats. They do not need a treat in order to express their feeling. The quality of service or a product motivates consumers to express their likes and/or dislikes. Secondly, all data is subjected to manipulation. It is our job as the collectors to protect the integrity of the data, through security measures. Thirdly, how many times were you sitting on the couch watching a news program or listening to the radio and heard some statistical facts on how consumers feel about a product, service and event? I always wondered, who asked me. What people did they talk too? Yes, I was excluded, not chosen to participate in the survey, just like many other relevant consumers. Is this considered to be a form of a scientific surveying or scientific control?

If you want the true consensus of the people, ask the people, all the people. Give consumers the opportunity to express their views. It appears to me those who criticize open ratings and reviews have a control issue. They lack faith and trust in consumers’ ability to express themselves without someone holding their hand. Whether there is one rating or six hundred ratings, each rating counts. Every consumer experience matters, it is up to other consumers to interpret the relevancy of the data. Yeah, they are smart enough to do that also.

Website like ours, MyDealerReport.com are needed. The auto industry specifically needs comprehensive consumer generated ratings. To all the nay sayers, consumer are smarter than you think.

Visit our site, MyDealerReport.com and let your voice be heard, because you count.