Monday, June 6, 2011

How Transparency Benefits Your Industry (yes, even health and medical businesses)

We've heard through the grapevine about some health profession bodies warning their members (ie practitioners) about the 'dangers' of customer reviews. It seems that their concerns mainly hinge on some confusion about the differences between 'reviews' and 'testimonials'. Because testimonials are known to be so powerful (although not as powerful as reviews), and testimonials are under the direct control of the practitioner, they have traditionally been prohibited to protect public interests. However, while these are the grounds that are stated, it appears that some industries are afraid of transparency in general.

Savvy Consumers are Becoming the Norm

Like it or not, transparency in our society is increasing (and will continue to increase). However, we should look at this as a positive phenomenum - not only for consumers, but for businesses as well. As Seth Godin argues, increased transparency leads to increases profitability. While the tendency is to think about the possibility of negative reviews and to come up with reasons why consumers are wrong and/or don't know enough to comment, the reality is that customer reviews put more focus on service and quality outcomes.

Transparency shifts the Focus to Quality

As Seth points out, when book reviews are available, book sales go up. (Coremetrics research has proven that when people read reviews, they are 30% more likely to purchase.)

When consumers get used to transparency, they get more interested in the quality of your service, and are more willing to pay extra (or wait longer, or drive further). This means that as good service providers start getting all the customers, other (lower quality) service providers either decide to lift their game, or are forced to exit the industry. So the standards and overall quality of the industry rise, while profits also increase.

Stop Hiding and Own Your Service!

Businesses that embrace transparency and encourage real feedback will find they're soon getting a huge amount of new customers. (In fact, many businesses tell us they're amazed to find how many consumers are searching online for reviews on all kinds of businesses.)

Real reviews generate trust and help people know whether you're the type of business that's right for their needs.

But equally importantly, you'll need to live up to your reviews. When customers choose your business based on reviews, they understand the influence that reviews have on others. Whether they leave disappointed or thrilled, they'll be likely to share their experience online. Which means that when there are significant numbers of reviews, it's safe to say that good businesses shine (without needing a perfect track record), and shabby businesses are outed.

Reviews on doctors won't mean that people stop seeing doctors - but it may mean that they'll be prepared to give up more to see a reputable one.