After a recent discussion with some industry insiders last week, I began to think about user generated review commentary. How do they factor and how much weight do they carry. Are user comments the meat of a review or is it the rating? What does a consumer value most?
How many individual comments do consumers read for each review? Example, if a review has fifteen user comments, will the consumer spend the necessary time to read each one or rely more on the ratings? What if they are comparing a large pool or products and/or services will they read each comment? If so, it would be extremely time consuming.
Being the head of the leading auto dealership rating and review site, MyDealerReport.com for more than three and half years, has led me to believe comments are considered supporting documents for ratings. There are many websites that have merely thrown up a weak rating system in hopes of collecting strong user commentary to support its model. These sites are nothing more than a consumer message board, not a rating and review site.
I read user comments to discover how a rating came to be. This is the reason why MyDealerReport.com allows users to view the questions along with the rating results. It is important that they know how each section of our rating result came to be. Was something wrong with the salesperson’s appearance or did he misrepresent the vehicle? These two questions carry different weight, therefore it is important for the consumer to be made aware of this.
The buying process or servicing of a vehicle is very complex, therefore the user commentary may not be uniformed. One consumer may complain about the salesperson, while another is praising the whole process? Maybe, one needed special finance attention and the other person bought their vehicle for cash, therefore they have two totally different experiences. However, if a consumer refers back to a well detailed structured rating, such as ours, they would be able to see how each area of the process was voted on.
Also what if a user doesn’t leave any comments or if they say something like “Great Job”? The review commentary would be lacking a balance argument. Maybe one person is more passionate about writing their comments or can express themselves better. This causes uncertainty in the overall weighing of the review. In order for the consumer to get a true picture of the user experience they would have to rely first on the rating itself, then the commentary.
When visiting other sites I have seen great ratings with negative commentary, at first I was confused. But I soon realized that some users did not leave any comments. I say it again I feel user commentary should be considered supporting documentation. You can not have commentary without a ratings, but you can have a ratings without commentary.
So, which is greater? Neither! They are complimentary to each other, with one dancing lead (Ratings).