Monday, June 23, 2008

Word-of-Mouth Goes Online

Ever wondered how some people seem to find all the best businesses? Word-of-mouth has always been a sure-fire way to find great businesses and avoid the worst. In fact, word-of-mouth is often said to be the oldest and most effective form of marketing. But recently a new website has begun revolutionising the way word-of-mouth works in Australia. It’s called and it stands for Word Of Mouth On the Web. is somewhat like a business directory (excepting that it’s written by users, all businesses are rated, and businesses don’t pay to be included), and similar to a web forum (except that it’s more structured so that information can easily be retrieved by others). The result is a unique tool that’s already changing the way that thousands of people find and choose businesses – and it may end up having a dramatic impact on the business landscape.

Just imagine, you’re looking for a mechanic that won’t rip you off, or a hairdresser you can trust to give you a great new look, or you need to organise a funky dinner venue for a bunch of friends… what you want is a recommendation. Jump onto and search. There you’ll find businesses that have been rated by real customers – many with lengthy descriptions that give you a really good idea about the business.

Say you’re looking for a mechanic…

About Town Mobile Mechanics (Melbourne) by Jablue
“It might seem as I'm generous in my praise in that I've rated Rob & About Town in the highest category for all criteria - but that was honestly my experience. My car had been broken down for some time & after chatting to Rob he agreed to come to my home on that day to diagnose the problem. He arrived on time, found the problem (starter motor) very quickly, and had a replacement fitted for an agreed price. I was able to pay by bank transfer, and he even checked a problem my sister was having with her ignition while I was on the computer. Couldn't be happier !!!!”

Or a cleaner…

Theema Cleaning (Greensborough) by MelissaL
“Have used Theema Cleaning twice for a spring clean at my house including windows. When it comes to window cleaning they really know their stuff in terms of different types of glass and what products to use. They use environmentally friendly cleaning products and have a great team that come in and get the job done in record time. I also used Theema for cleaning the blinds at my office and they did a fantastic job at short notice for this as well. Would highly recommend.”

Or maybe a physiotherapist…

Rating for Coburg Physiotherapy by krees
“I have a chronic back injury, and I've been to many physiotherapists before, but none have fixed me like these guys. They are never late with appointments, are open later than other places, so you don't need to leave work early, and is a great experience. Compared to other physiotherapy centres, they are also quite reasonable priced, and also cover work cover and pensioners.”

Traditional directories let you find businesses, but how do you know if they’re any good? The businesses that pay the most are always the most prominent, but you know nothing about their service (other than they’re paying a lot for advertising). WOMOW co-founder, Fiona Adler, believes that “good businesses deserve to be rewarded for their efforts and WOMOW helps them by amplify their word-of-mouth reputation”. Product reviews are everywhere on the Internet so it’s about time we had an equivalent resource for finding out about local services. And what if businesses provide poor service? Adler says, “people need to know about that too!” In fact, does more than help people find great businesses, it gives consumers recourse in the event that they’re treated poorly - in effect, giving more power to consumers.

But the real strength in WOMOW is that it provides an incentive for businesses to treat customers well. “Give people a great experience and they’ll thank you with a positive rating on WOMOW – and before you know it, more people will start trying your business, giving you more opportunities to show what great service you can provide.”

And it already seems to be working for some businesses...

Misty Singer from Misty’s Diner in Prahran says that "In one night alone, new customers from WOMOW accounted for almost a third of our revenue! It gives me goosebumps when I read some of the great things our customers are saying about us." (You can see the actual ratings here -

And hairdresser Lee Davies from Salon Lavan claims that “Business is booming – in the last 2 months, we’re been getting several new clients a week – just because customers are writing nice things about us on WOMOW.” (You can see Salon Lavan’s ratings here – has been up and running for less than a year but already has more ratings for all kinds of businesses than any other site in Australia. In fact, users have already entered over 16,000 ratings and traffic is growing at around 25-30% each month! There’s a real sense of community coming through too. People are realising that by spending a couple of minutes submitting a rating and sharing their experiences, they can contribute to their community by helping their neighbours get great service and supporting the customer-focussed businesses in their area.

With more and more people turning to WOMOW to rate their favourite and least favourite businesses, we could be seeing the beginnings of a people’s movement for better customer service. And that’s got to be good for everyone – except the dodgy operators that is!

Check it out at

Key Facts about WOMOW
  • went live in July 2007 after winning three out of four categories in the Melbourne Universities Entrepreneurship Challenge in April 2007.
  • As of June 2008, WOMOW’s users have entered over 16,000 customer ratings with a new rating currently being submitted every 6 minutes. WOMOW already has more ratings for all types of businesses than any other website in Australia.
  • Traffic is strong and growing at 25-30% per month.
  • WOMOW began in Melbourne but now operates throughout Australia with localised ratings for each major centre.
  • WOMOW covers all types of businesses – eg: tradespeople, hairdressers, gyms, doctors, physiotherapists, child-care centres, restaurants, activities, cleaners, vets, dentists, mechanics, accountants, computer repairs, wedding services, beauticians, and lots more (basically anything you’d like a recommendation for)