Five Questions and Strategies to Consider When Analyzing Online Reviews


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Any business worth its salt usually has online reviews. With a flick of your fingers on the keyboard, you can immediately discover what customers or prospective customers think about a brand, a business or specific products.

After all, reputable businesses like YELP and many custom review sites make a healthy living looking out for the customer by creating a platform that allows them to share real world commentary from a host of sources.

And while we all appreciate being able to educate ourselves about what customers think and believe about a brand, a company and its products, it’s important when searching reviews and review sites to keep it all in perspective.

For example, if you were looking to join a health club and searched for specific reviews, and there were 150 complaints in the past quarter from unhappy patrons, you’d likely conclude there’s a serious problem there. And, when reading the comments by that number of dissatisfied members, you’d likely find some repetitive commentary regarding specific areas of complaint.

On the other hand, if you were considering a few hotel options for an upcoming vacation and checked out their online reviews, it probably wouldn’t alarm or surprise you to find a few negative comments here or there. You would likely weigh those comments against the overall rating of the hotel, along with the hotel’s response if applicable, before determining whether or not it was an option.

The bottom line: we’d all likely agree that reviews are an important consideration when analyzing choices, especially when making a major investment. However, while reviews are one part of the equation, they alone shouldn’t be the sole key influencer when making a serious decision.

When researching reviews, here are five key questions to consider in order to fairly value and weigh the content.

1. How many complaints … and over what period of time?

2. Are the complaints recent?

3. If it’s a business with multiple locations, are the complaints focused on one or two locations, or multiple? This helps to identify if it’s a broad-based problem or perhaps limited to a specific underperforming location.

4. Are the complaints focused on recurring unresolved topics or problems? Or is it unique or fairly limited?

5. Did the company have an option to respond to the complaint on the site you are reviewing? If they did have the option, is there an outcome noted?

It’s a fact that no matter how awesome a company or its product and/or service may be, none is 100 percent fail proof and are subject to human error. On occasion, a customer or prospective customer may be disappointed or angered by an unfortunate encounter; and it is often in the heat of the moment when they will post a review.

From a customer research perspective, it’s important to understand how a company generally responds to concerns and complaints, which is often equal to or more important than the reason behind the letdown and negative review.

Another important strategy to consider in your search is comparing complaints vs. comments made by satisfied customers.

ASK: How do the negative reviews compare to the satisfied customers?

We all know that happy customers often don’t take the time to respond or post on social media. So, be sure to check the company’s website to look for and review its customer testimonials. Listen closely and carefully to what customers have to say.

Another strategy is to attend an event where existing customers may be gathering, or to ask a contact at the company for a list of customers with whom you might speak. Ask them! In addition, ask around to see if you may have friends or colleagues who know others who have invested in the goods or services offered by a business. Receiving an unbiased opinion from an individual you know personally and trust is always a smart move.

Another powerful and highly recommended strategy is to have a direct conversation with the company if you have serious concerns based on something you have read or heard. Give them the opportunity to respond to your concern and hear it right from the horses’s mouth vs. relying on what others may say.

While we have been addressing reviews in general, let’s drive down to Freedom Boat Club.

If you are considering a Freedom Boat Club membership, for example, and you have stumbled across a negative review that concerns you, ask about it and give the club manager or owner an opportunity to address your concern.

Freedom Boat Club is all about transparency and is generally quick to step up if we’ve made a mistake to make it right. Our owner and CEO provides his email address in every newsletter we publish and is happy to speak with any member who has a problem or concern that hasn’t been resolved at the local level. If after researching a scenario and we disagree with an allegation made by a member, we explain our position or outcome when given the opportunity.

Keep this in mind: when you consider that Freedom Boat Club has 15 thousand members throughout North America and a 93 percent national annual retention rate, it means the club is doing something right.

In 2016, Freedom Boat Club members took 186,000 boating trips from our clubs’ ports of call, using our combined fleet of 1500 boats.

We are fortunate that we have an awesome franchise team who shares our strong corporate commitment to customer satisfaction. It‘s exactly why Freedom Boat Club is enjoying exponential growth.

We greatly appreciate that our prospective customers are researching reviews on boat clubs and seriously considering the Freedom Boat Club. We encourage your research and comparisons. We firmly believe that the more educated you are about the boat club concept and Freedom Boat Club in general, the more you know what distinguishes our club and what you should expect from your membership. That’s a win-win for everyone!

In closing, our corporate team and franchise owners welcome the opportunity to address any and all concerns you may have and to answer all of your questions. Please, don’t hesitate to contact us and to reach out anytime.

CLICK HERE to read the Freedom Boat Club testimonials on the corporate website.

CLICK HERE to watch a video on how to effectively read and analyze boat club reviews by Freedom Boat Club franchise owner Lisa “The Boatanista” Almeida.

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