The Lack of Reliability of Product Reviews

When purchasing the newest technology gadget, consumers – depending on the expense and total investment – will most times carry out an extensive internet search seeking the most recent, relevant reviews before following through with a purchase. However, given freedom of speech, the internet has become a platform for open opionating. Since the advent of the internet, the need for validity has wavered to the point where all accessible information – and mind you, all information is in fact accessible on the world wide web – is considered to carry some form of weight, due to the majority of consumers being neophytes in some shape or form. Whether it is a mother reviewing a new vacuum, or an employee from the vacuum company itself offering their two cents on the product, each opinion, in many consumer’s eyes, are viewed as equal. This intense reliability and trust in the anonymous is perhaps a product of two culture phenomena. First, many consumers, when reading reviews, aren’t curious enough to take a quick peek at the writer’s profile. What is important to consider is, with every persons opinion or critique shared, there is inevitably a bit of ethnocentrism that is almost impractical to remove. However, often times this is not considered. One consumer reads another consumer’s review, and more often than not take it at face value. Secondly, many reviews are in fact written by individuals who either a) have some sort of intimate relationship with the company (i.e. owner’s wife, friends, employees, etc) or b) are professionals paid to provide a write up with a positive spin in favor of the product, in effort for the company to keep their ratings high.

What use to be an outlet for freedom of speech and unfiltered, uncensored participation, has recently become muddled by more and more people becoming savvy enough to know how to tweak their online image, company and product in their favor – because it isn’t that hard to do. Therefore, when it comes to product reviews, whether it is a result of the “anything goes” mentality or due to reviewers with conflicts of interests, product reviews are damaged. However, this isn’t to say there isn’t any validity when it comes to product reviews. You can get a baseline idea of what the product is going to be like, but if you truly want to know all the pros and cons (warning, is you find a review site that has no cons, don’t drink the kool aid), it is best to discuss with friends or seek out a reliable forum to inquire about the newest technology gadget you plan on purchasing.

Aside from quality control, another major downside of product reviews that tends to be gleefully over looked is the lack of any mention of a company’s customer service. Customer service, while it might not be a priority when making your initial purchase, will most likely be of importance when something goes wrong and you need external help. In fact, customer service is what you would expect to rely on, which is often times why it goes overlooked. However, this is of critical importance when shopping for any technology, because as we all know, technology has its defects, and after spending $1000 on something we think will bring convenience to our life, we want some quality help when that investment becomes more of a burden.

Quality, speed, response time, experience and reliability are generally the expectations we have of customer service. More often than not, we want all five of these attributes, because quality service without a fast delivery just won’t do. Granted, maybe there is no such this as 100% hassle free service, but I believe we all expect something quite close to it. However, at this point in time, oddly enough – even with the plethora of product review sites available on the internet – there has yet to exist a “one-stop-shop” for customer service reviews, as mentioned in Brian X. Chen’s article in the New York Times. And I must agree with him, with all those those tech-savvy, start-up pushing, entrepreneurs out there, this presents a pretty excellent untapped market to jump on. And yes, while collecting data on customer service does seem like an extensive project, I believe there would be some very happy shoppers out there who would be grateful to be more informed. Takers?