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Zhoie Zimermann

Product Reviews

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It's been a while since I posted anything in the forums, but I really felt the need to post today. 

Product reviews. How lovely they are. Linden Labs says freedom of speech. Granted. Accepted. But what about equal freedom of speech for merchants.

Example: I am an angry person, i love to complain and I've had a bad day, I purchase a very nice product that works very well but because I fail to read the instructions or contact the merchant, I post a lovely review for all to see. Did I mention I am an angry person? I announce for all to see that this product does not work, right there in big letters, to put some possible doubt in the minds of all future people interested in that merchant's product. I give it a 1 star. It's great for business !

Freedom of speech right? Mhmm. 

So now I am the merchant...who sees this totally unfair review and wants to be able to leave a comment to let other people know that the product does in fact work and explain things. Freedom of speech right? Mhmm. My freedom of speech is much different than the angry consumer's freedom of speech because mine shows in tiny letters like this:

(1) comments

..in which someones has to first see this tiny font and then click on it. It's not visible really at all, certainly not like the angry consumer that just slashed the perfectly good product. 

I understand freedom of speech, I respect it. When used properly, product reviews are helpful things for consumers and they are needed. But let's face it, do all consumers use the product reviews properly or do some of them use it as their personal forum to voice their frustration at probably having had a bad day and of course loving the power they hold over the helpless merchant.

I certainly do not suggest removing product reviews. I do believe though that the merchant comments should be more visable. Is the merchant's comment defending a totally unfair review less important than the angry merchant who posted the review due to their own user error? How about the angry customers who don't read the instructions or bother to even message the creator for help. There was a time when we used to get notice of reviews so that we could contact the person and assist them, but that does not happen now. Now we stumble across reviews that may have been left ages ago, with no chance of making that customer even feel better, much less having any hope of them removing or changing their review. 

Note: i know that Linden Labs will always remove abusive or offensive reviews and do not imply in the least they do not assist us with this. 

I am sure some will think i am just blowing smoke, but I really needed to blow this smoke today. At the very least thanks for listening to me everyone.

 

 



 

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My philosophy is just to try to fix whatever generated the bad impression and offer the improved item as a statedly improved item. 

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hmmm, interesting. but fix what? fix the fact that they pressed a button in the menu which they don't understand because they didn't read the notecard? if i move that part to the top of the notecard something else gets moved down and really the ones that complain don't read them anyway. couple years ago i started putting signs on top of my furniture. Each time now someone rezzes my stuff they get a sign rezzed on top which says nicely "reading the attached notecard explains all the features of your product that you might not otherwise know about" sometimes you can't please everyone and sometimes there is nothing that can be fixed.

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Zhoie Zimermann wrote:

Linden Labs says freedom of speech. 

 

Not to be contentious, but where is this stated exactly?

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I agree that's a tough one.

Whether or not it's allowed, I might consider offering to the customer to "fix" the product if he/she will update the review to reflect the "fixed" product you're now providing. 

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This works well IF you happen to notice the bad review. I've changed 1 star to 5 stars this way by working to turn an irate customer into a very satisfied one & so they rewrite to something nice afterward. Quite frequently these people love the fact you took extra attention and become frequent shoppers.

Unfortunately if they only communicate by leaving bad review I never seem to get notification of this (there is no way to have review notifications right?) so occassionally I discover a problem like that 3 months later and then any reply is obviously useless out of place :catsurprised:

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I send out a notecard to all of my marketplace sales (though i've been behind lately due to real life issues) but it does a few things:

- introduces myself to them, building a start to a personal relationship which makes people more inclined to shop with me. People like to shop with people they know.

- Invites them to get on our updater list, which doesn't take up a group slot and only sends once a week if that. So it's not intrusive.

- Asks them to leave a review so that it can help support our store but also to let other customers know what other people think of our products.

- I also mention to them that if for any reason they can't honestly give us a good review because they are unhappy for any reason, to contact me and tell me how I can make it right for them. In fact I mention that merchants aren't notified of comments so if I don't know something is wrong I can't fix it for them.

- lastly, i tell them sometimes non-deliveries happen due to Sl issues and if they don't have their item within 24 hours to contact me.

This notecard, has pretty much left me with almost all positive reviews on products. I have had some leave a bad review and then changed it because either they made a mistake or I fixed my own mistake. But it's a great tool to cut back on the crappy reviews...since as you originally posted, there isn't much we can do about it.

 

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I wish there was a proper way to report reviews like this. People who fail to read descriptions; meh that happens too often...

 

I got a freebie rated with 1 star because the person didn't read the info I added on the picture, title, on the listing description AND on the notecard after the purchase, oh and I added the info on the box picture as well. I'm like for realz u srs? This customer didn't even check what she was buying yet took the time to go back there to leave a bad review, lol. I really thought it was some sort of vendetta on a freebie because...really? xD I wasn't sure what to do so I just left the "feedback" there. Maybe other people that don't read descriptions before buying stuff will see the one star and will actually take their time to read the other info as well.

 

This week I also left a comment on something I purchased, it was a nice quality item, but someone left an unfair review on the seller listing because she didn't take the time to properly use it. Most of the time I don't go back just to leave reviews but I went back there and left 5 stars to remove half of the unfair bad rating.

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There will always be people who want to p*ss on your parade. 

No matter what LL does about it, they will always find a way to get through.

But most bad reviews are probably not of that flavor.

The bad reviews and complaints I have had have all so far led to positive opportunities to demonstrate excellence in customer service.

I know I can't always give everyone everything they want.

But I can always show them that I consider their satisfaction to be a serious matter.

Normal customers, more than anything, just need to feel respected.

In fact, some of my best customers have started out with disappointments that I handled diligently.

People don't come back to buy more just because everything went OK the first time.

They come back because they have no doubt about how well I will be committed to making things work out by the end of the process. 

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In my humble opinion is not the point of the post if you provide good customer service (or not) when you got a bad review (wich not guarantee that the review are going to be removed or modified...) As well, not always there are something needed to "fix" when you got a bad review.

Merchant responses to a review should be clearly visible or at least as visible as the review itself. Is NOT the case and that leaves us at a disadvantage, somehow.

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The fact that you can no longer rate an item you bought with out also leaving a signed review means you only get the most exteeme ratings normaly, that means those who are mad or those who are absoloutly delighted.

Just something to think about.

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I vote with Josh for more conspicuous comments. All the negative reviews I've received but one are from people who can't be bothered to read instructions before they buy even though they are either in the product description or available as a PDF on the same page.

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Happens the same to me zhoie, they used to help us before on this matter, clarely more whne the reviews were offensive using bad language or untrue and fake about the product as MP guidelines says

Nevertheless right now they refuse to help or delete any review of this kind

As you well said all reviews are welcome, when true, when respectful, even bad ones

But this shouldnt happen anymore

We are the ones who pay toLL for the sales th eocmission, and also for all the enhacements, the money they get they get it 100% form Us, so, why not to give us a hand instead of encouraging this abusings premanently as they do now?

I´d decided to actually cancel my premium mebership ebcause of this, I am paying for years not to LL and I get ZERO support everytime I ask, (see my new post, flagging works?=)

Hugs zohie!

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I've got a lot to say about Product Reviews. Let me start with a little story that will introduce you to why I think the current rating system is even worse than the one before:

I'm selling a product which I listed when the old review system was in place - the one that asked customers to "rate" (click 1 to 5 stars) a product, "review" (write something) a product or do both. I sold pretty exactly 500 copies of this item during the time the old system was in place and I in the same time I received 50 reviews on it, most of them being just "rating", i.e. without text.

Then, LL decided they only want written reviews from now on, so they changed the system: now you can only rate and write, a review without text can not be added. 500 sold copies later (now with the new system), I have gained exactly 1 more review. One. The same trend is true for my other items, though I have no other item with that much sales.

So, the bottom line of the story is: with the new system, customers are way less likely to leave a review. LL reched their goal to only get written reviews, but at the same time, there are less reviews now.

 

Now, is this necessarily a problem? What is a rating system for, anyway?

The primary target of a rating system - I guess we don't need to argue about that - should be the possibility of a customer to give some detailed insights about the product from a customers view, so that other customers can inform themselves even better. Also, knowing that a bad product will result in bad reviews and therefore in way less sales, it motivates merchants not to sell faulty / low quality products in the first place.

From this point of view, having only a few reviews doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. However, on the SL Marketplace, reviews have another consequence.

 

No reviews - no sales! (Fair approximation)

I had a close look at the way reviews seem to affect the position a product will have in the search results and though I don't know what really is going on behind the scenes, there is one thing I can say for sure: a single review seems to have a huge, sometimes monstrous impact on the search result position of a product. An example? Here you go:

I started to list a Product, and to check it's position, I entered the very same search string into the Marketplace search for several days. The Product started on the very last result page (63, in this case!) and didn't move a single bit. After several weeks, it was still there, but someone finally managed to find it and bought it. The next day (Marketplace seems to refresh it's search stats once a day), the product was to be found on page 24. Hey, what a huge improvement! However, several sales later, I found that it only climbed to page 21, so that wasn't too much of an improvement, really.

I decided to ask every single customer to write a review - and one of them did. The next day, I couldn't believe my eyes: my product was on the second result page. The 2nd!

Bottom line: while sales actually will get your product to a "more reasonable" position, especially the first sale (without it, you're absolutely invisible, really), it's the reviews that hold the power to instantly boost your product to a somewhat prominent position. A single review seems to have a way larger impact than a dozen sales. And that means: reviews are not only important, they are vital!

 

The impossible customer

Most of my listings are very reasonably priced, yet I put a lot of work into them. Every product comes with instructions, my descriptions on the Marketplace are thorough. It even says that people can contact me anytime - and I do check my IMs as often as possible. With all this in mind, I thought it would be practically impossible to get a bad review.

It is not. People actually manage to amaze me over and over again. I got several one-star reviews - most of them complaining about mysterious or stupid things. One time, it read: "vanished from inventory! useless!". I was angry, because the customer didn't even try to contact me - and the problem turned out to be the customer's fault. I spent 3 hours chatting with the customer (I initiated this, of course), in order to get things straight - and I had to ask the customer to at least remove the bad (and wrong!) review. All this effort for an item that is listed for L$9!

Another time, a 1-star review read: "its mesh, my viewer cant display mesh, totally useless! at least point out that its mesh in the description!". Well, guess what: the description said it twice (!), the info box on the right read "100% Mesh", the title of the product began with "Mesh" and the accompaning notecard had 2 paragraphs about the product being Mesh. I had a hard time to talk the customer to remove the review. I think those examples are enough, but believe me: I've got plenty more.

What does this mean? Well, people are most likely to write a review when they are either overwhelmingly pleased with the product, or not pleased with it all - for some reason. And that might not even have anything to do with the product, but - as the thread opener said - could also be because the customer had a bad day or just feels like f*cking you up for no obvious reason whatsoever. And the problem about all this is: often, you can't do much about it or you have to spent lots of time, just to get rid of a wrong bad review that could cost you lots of sales - could possibly ruin you, even. Being unable to state a direct, clearly visible answer to the customer's review surely is a problem here. Not being informed about new reviews is one, too.

Bottom line: where bad reviews can have a huge impact on other customers and the product's position in the search - plus given, that there are lots of "impossible" customers - it is vital to have a better chance to react to these reviews - and do so in an equally prominent place, not hidden in the comments. Agreed.

 

Was this review helpful?

I couldn't help but notice the two buttons underneath any review that give you the possibility to tell Marketplace wheather a certain review was helpful to you or not. I clicked those buttons a lot - not only on reviews written on my own products. However, I was not able to figure out what they actually do and to be honest, I doubt they do anything at all. Does anyone know anything about this?

I hoped they would make "unhelpful" marked reviews go to a less visible position (in case there are more than one "pages" of reviews), vanish or something like the "This comment got too many negative ratings" feature on YouTube, where comments with lots of "thumbs down" are hidden by default and can be made visible by a click. This would be a very nice feature to see on the marketplace, because it would show other customers that a certain review might not be very reliable and can therefore be ignored. This, combined with "hidden" reviews having a lowered impact on the overall rating - and therefore search result - would be a huge improvement already! Why isn't this in place right now?

Bottom line: elsewhere successfully used features that help to weight the "reliability" of users' feedback could easily be used on the Marketplace, too - the buttons are already in place.

 

But wait, we can do even better!

I'm not here to write this endless post only to complain and criticise. I'm here to make suggestions, as I just did. And here is even more.


Reviews are vital for merchants and customers and regardless of whether their current "weighting" is okay or not, it would be desirable for all parties (customers, merchants, LL) to...

  1. ...get as much of them, as possible and
  2. ...having them reflect the actual facts / product quality as good as possible.

For the second point, I already suggested something (make the buttons function!).

So, in order to adress the first point, we need to motivate customers to write reviews! Since LL already stated that they will insist on written reviews, no matter what, we have to think about some additional measures which will make customers write those valuable little snippets of text. And there is no need to invent the wheel all over - good examples are already to be found all over the web.

One example would be my local food delivery website. It's a site where local food delivery services can register themselves and they will then be listed on that page, which makes a very good job with listing all these services, sorted by kind of food, area code of the customer and so on. Now, as a customer, you can leave a review for every single order you placed, so other customers will know if it's common for a certain food service to deliver merely cold food, if the usual delivery boy might be rude most of the times, or if there usually is too much salt on everyting. Therefore, reviews are important and helpful.

However, the site was confronted with the same problem as Mplace: customers are lazy, so they tended to only write reviews when they were disappointed. The site had a genuine idea, that even had a great side effect:

They introduced a ranking system for the registered customers, where you would gain certain ranks for certain amounts of reviews you wrote. The ranks were simply colored dots that would be displayed in front of the username everywhere it appeard. So, a customer that had written 0-20 reviews had an orange dot, for example, then it would turn yellow for 20 to 50 reviews, then green for 50 to 100 and so on. Now, although there was no reward connected with your "rank" (other than the dot itself), people started to write reviews like hell - stats showed, some even seemed to order food more frequently now; apparently just to be able to write a review again. And - again - there was no discount or any other benefit connected with a high "rank". However, reviews - positive and negative alike - started to come in and thanks to the dots, people would automatically know if a certain review-author was an "experienced" food orderer or not.

Now, let's think about how a system like this could work for the Marketplace:

The before mentioned buttons could not only be used to tell if a certain review might be "out of place", but also in order to tell if a certain customer seems to be a realiable review writer or not. For example, for every click on the "not helpful" button, the author would get -1 "review reputation" points, of every person who rates one of his reviews "helpful", he would get +1 "review reputation" points. Writing a review in the first place could, for example, add 2 points. Now, reflect a customer's "review reputation" with a colored dot or some other kind of icon in front of his name, and merchants and other customers could easily tell if this person is likely to be reliable or not.

This sure is just a first thought and would need to be thought trough and refined, but I think it could be extremely helpful. Also, I can already think of a lot of things that could be added in order to further motivate customers:

How about adding a benefit for those customers with a high "review reputation" balance? Like a discount or bonus coupon or whatever. I guess the possibilities are endless here.

Bottom line: there sure are ways to motivate customers to write reviews and to make sure they don't use reviews in order to vent their unrelated anger, but to actually write something reasonable that will be a useful feedback for other customers, as well as the creator. The above idea is just one possible approach.

 

Okay, fancy. But let's not forget about the simple things!

Most customers just don't realise that they haven't yet written any reviews on most purchased products. How could they? There is no prominently placed info message about this found. So, LL could just implement a nice message at some prominent place, that would remind the customer: "There are still 12 products you haven't reviewed yet. Click here to do so now!". I'm certain this would already help a lot!

Also, what about this: when a customer chooses to give just one or two stars, the Marketplace could react with a dialogue, asking: "You're about to rate this product very negative. Please make sure to first contact the Creator, he might be able/willingly to solve the problem. Do you still want to rate with 1 star? [Yes] [No]".

They could also put a link in there to a document where a more thorough description is found on how to proceed when one is unpleased with a product, a delivery failed or whatever. This might avoid some awfully bad reviews, for example those that were written just because the customers didn't even bother to ask the creator for help / a fix first!

 

tl; dr - so here is the short version!

Problem:

  • It's extremely hard to gain reviews
  • Most reviews are extremely positive or negative
  • Negative reviews are often unjustified and you can only do little about them
  • At the same time, reviews heavily affect a product's listing position 

Possible solutions, general:

  • Motivate customers to write reviews
  • Make customers think twice before they write
  • Eventually reduce the impact a review has on a product's listing position
  • Give Merchants a better way to react on (negative) reviews

Possible solutions, tangible:

  • Make the "Helpful Review?" buttons have an effect, i.e. hide a very unhelpful review and exclude it from the overall rating of the product
  • Implement some kind of "ranking" system for customers, where writing reviews and getting people to rate your reviews as "helpful" will make you advance - possibly combine with a benefit for the most creditable customers
  • Show a merchant's comment to a review directly underneath
  • Ask customers to first contact the creator (or generally, think twice) when they attempt to leave a 1/2 star review
  • Remind customers to write reviews with a prominently placed message

 

Alright, that's it (finally). I know, the initial topic wasn't as general as this, but I just had to write it down, so I did. Oh, and to let you know: when there was this survey on the Marketplace, where merchants could tell LL what they like/dislike and so on, I wrote about the same thing to them, although in way less words.

Cheers!

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Domsson Lean wrote:

500 sold copies later (now with the new system), I have gained exactly 1 more review. One. The same trend is true for my other items, though I have no other item with that much sales.

I agree with this.  Ever since Marketplace and the current review system, my top seller which sells multiple per day, has not had one single extra review in what must be now 18 months?  (I forget exactly when MP took over from Xstreetsl).

On this basis, I now consider ALL reviews fake, unless written by me :)

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Domsson, your ideas are brilliant, and I agree with everything you said.

I would like to add though, that it annoys the hell out of me that the marketplace wiki even suggests that buyers leave a good review for customer service - ok, if the merchant was helpful with a problem then fine, but if the merchant had to fix a faulty item, then surely it's the merchant's fault.

I test my items thoroughly, and so I am being penalized when another merchant gets a shining review that they 'were quick to fix an item that didnt work properly', and that seems very unfair to me.

Then we come to the 'make an alt, leave a review for yourself' crowd - I know it happens, but I have yet to stoop so low to do this, although after hearing the effect a review may have, I am really starting to wonder if my morals are just too high for this jungle!

AND .. lol, I also know there are merchants who offer discounts and other prizes to people who leave good reviews, I have got the notecards about it from some groups, which also makes the actual reviews suspect.

Also, 50 reviews for 500 sales is good, my best seller has sold 1900 times on the MP and only got 7 reviews ... you could say people are sucked in to buying it and then they dont like it much after they got it, but they can see it in-world, so I dont really go with that version.

Thursday rant over, thanks for letting me vent!

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This is not a new idea as we have been complaining about the rating system for years.  It's a ridicules idea that rarely has merit and there are many ways it can be corrected or it jus needs to go away.

To start, there should be no anonymous ratings and everyone should have a tracking report to show how they rates merchants.  This way if someone consistently down rates a specific merchant, that will be noted and we can tell if someone is sabotaging us.  The second reason for that is to see if this person constantly gives bad ratings.

However, I would just like to see if go away.

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By the way, do you think it would make sense to put my little essay (plus your additions) in a Jira, or maybe even a letter to LL? I know, they've got hundrets of more critical Jiras (bugs, actually), so it is highly unlikely that they would start working on stuff like that anywhere in the near future, but still it might be good to put all the ideas in one place, bring them in a nice format and deliver them to LL's hand as such a nice, tight bundle - not?

To be honest, most of the stuff is probably already in the Jira - I've got no overwiev regarding that - but still, maybe it needs some kind of Meta entry?

Just a stupid question/idea, waiting for your input. :)

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We've waited a year and still waiting for them to add the two lines of code required to send an email to the merchant when a review is left.

Lets not add to the burden of 200+ JIRA entries eh? :)

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I gave someone a bad review, but it was removed and I was not refunded. They flagged my review, I presume, and had it removed however I was not contacted and I only found out by accident when I saw the item again while looking for other products. I was partly to blame because I didn't read the whole description but I was genuinely unhappy with the product and the way I was treated. I would love to tell you the designers but I think they have more friends than me. Until you experience something like this it feels like a two way street but it is not. SL BUYER BEWARE.

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