Fast Lane: What Airbnb did to encourage bad reviews – and why you want some too

Fast Lane: What Airbnb did to encourage bad reviews – and why you want some too

Is there such a thing as too many good reviews? Accommodation sharing site Airbnb thinks so. 

While businesses have cottoned onto the importance of online reviews and testimonials, the guiding sentiment has been the more positive the better.

Smart50 finalist Oz Trampolines emails all customers to ask if they are happy three months after purchase.

Oz Trampolines then has a widget on its website which shows the last four reviews and customers can click to see more.

“My theory is that if people are going to spend $300-$900 on a trampoline they will do their research and ensure the company and product is worthy of the price, especially as they are purchasing online and not walking into a physical store,” founder Richard Haby told SmartCompany earlier this year.

But Airbnb has discovered too many glowing reviews can be a bad thing.

In a talk entitled “If you don’t have anything nice to say, please say something” at last week’s Import.io Data Summit in San Francisco, Airbnb data scientist Dave Holtz emphasised the importance of the negative.

Inc reports overly positive reviews were skewing Airbnb’s system, which relies on reputational data to function properly. 

To address this, Airbnb implemented a simultaneous review reveal process so neither Airbnb hosts nor guests could view a review about themselves until they had written one.

Airbnb also offered a $US25 Airbnb coupon to renters as an incentive for writing something about their stay in order to combat people’s natural uneasiness with criticism.

Most businesses won’t be as keen as Airbnb on getting negative reviews.

But there are some salient lessons here.

Firstly, reviews which are too glowing and gushing are just not believable.

Positive reviews with the occasional negative comment or criticism thrown in seem much less likely to be written by the business owner or their family.

Customers understand that you can’t please everyone and if the bulk of reviews are positive, with some negative reviews, that serves as a more authentic recommendation.

Secondly, negative reviews are where you can really learn how to improve your business.

Sure some negative reviews may just be from those impossible to please people but there are also likely to be some genuine complaints which can be addressed.

You could take a tip from Oz Trampolines’ book – Haby gets to work on dealing with any issues raised in its follow up email.

If there are no serious issues then Oz Trampolines asks its customers to publish the review. 

It seems that in every negative there is a positive.

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