What’s the best way to pick a winning horse? Aside from the different superstitious methods that some people employ, most gamblers would agree that analysing the form guide for the horse’s track record gives you the best likelihood of winning. And with good reason.
One of the world’s top psychologists, Albert Ellis, was famous for first saying; "The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour" – which is another way of saying – check their track record. This is often used when referring to human behaviours (eg. will this person cheat again), but it applies to almost all behaviours. Intuitively, we all know this.
Think about it, when we’re making a big decision, wherever we can, we first check the track record (we usually have different names for this). Recruiting or applying for a job? Standard practice is to delve into the resume, ask the applicant how they’ve responded to certain situations in the past, and quiz their references.
It’s the same when consumers make decisions about which businesses they engage. Recently, I was close to making a decision on a cabinetmaker and narrowed my search down to two contenders. The clincher was that one of them offered to show me some of their other work in a house being renovated nearby. I met him at the site, inspected the work and also had the chance to quiz the customer (privately) about what this company was like to deal with. The report was glowing and needless to say, they won my job.
In the past, it’s been very difficult for consumers to gauge the track record of a business (unless they dealt with a forward-thinking business like my cabinetmaker). Years ago, more decisions came down to who was getting in our faces the most with their advertisements, or sometimes, who offered the cheapest deal.
Of course, word-of-mouth always existed and has always been a massive force because it gives consumers some insight into a business’ track record… but it’s delivery has always been haphazard. If a friend tells me their favourite florist or a great nail salon, even though I trust their opinion, it’s just one data point. And I can’t always get their advice when I’m looking for it (that’s nice, but I’m actually looking for a good local dentist at the moment!).
Now though, the prevalence of online customer reviews means that business track records are on display for all to see – a fact I know freaks out some business owners!
With just a few clicks on their computer or phone, anyone can quickly see whether a business is in the habit of keeping customers happy.
This doesn’t mean that one negative review is detrimental, but it does mean that the overwhelming sentiment of customer reviews plays a huge role in customers’ decisions. (By the way, I chose the 2 cabinetmakers to quote my project based on their customer reviews!)
For good businesses, the uptake of customer reviews is a godsend. Now, they can finally get the recognition that they deserve! Instead of hoping that a happy customer might tell one of their friends about their experience, they can encourage them to leave a review online – adding to the growing track record online and winning over more and more new customers.
And if a business repeatedly lets customers down, no amount of advertising will offset the reputation they’ve developed. The only way is to win customers over and earn their reputation – which is good news for good businesses and even better news for consumers.
Customer reviews provide transparency and the ability for us to choose businesses based on their track record.
It’s a new type of economy: the Meritocracy!