I do, we do, you do, review …
Do you? Review? I never used to.
You are inundated with requests, am I right? An email from Open Table: ‘How was Enoteca St Paul’s?’ Erm, fine thanks, I’d have said if it wasn’t, and besides, it was yesterday – already just a glimpse of a memory in the bottom of a dark stairwell. Swipe left and delete.
A notification from Uber: ‘Thanks for riding with Estefan. Please rate your trip. Please leave a tip. Please pay Estefan a compliment.’ Swipe up and ignore.
An email from Amazon Marketplace: “Jenni Emery, did White Marshmallows Bulk Buy – 1 kg bag meet your expectations?” Nnnnggg – perhaps I’ll reply when my mouth isn’t full of marshmallow ….
It wasn’t that I actively objected; I simply couldn’t see the point, to the extent that these various requests for feedback were simply background noise to be ignored along with so much else, and swiped away to clear the way for more important things.
Every so often out of some vague sense of guilt or desire to be a good citizen, I would click into a link with the aim of giving five stars and then leaving, only to find myself being sucked in to answering more questions, leaving free text comments, being redirected to a website, being asked for contact details, photos of my evening, my nickname from primary school, my deepest midnight fears…
You’ll gather I wasn’t a fan. But I have changed my mind, and for two very different reasons. The first reason is perhaps the more obvious – all around how reviews drive sales. There are lots of different studies, but all of them are staggering: 90% of online purchasers read reviews before deciding whether to buy – rising to 97% on Amazon; the sheer existence of reviews can boost conversion rates by up to 270%; 92% of consumers will hesitate to buy a product with no reviews … I could go on.
I could also rant and rage – and sometimes do – about how stupid and unfair this opinion-led economy is. Why can’t people judge for themselves? Popularity is no proxy for quality!
But it is what it is. And the people who are selling things – books, holidays, meals in restaurants, their time driving you around, marshmallows – are doing it to make a living, or to build a business, or chase a dream. Reviews matter. Your view matters. Having reflected, it feels now so important to participate, to have an opinion, to be active rather than passive.
If you want to live in a world where new ideas and new books and new products, and things of beauty can flourish, say so. If you want to give a leg-up to an entrepreneur brave enough to challenge bigco and the established way of doing things, say so. If you value great customer service, kindness, good banter, small touches … say so, say so, say so. Giving expression to your views and emotions having engaged with an experience, and acknowledging the efforts, creativity, goodness, and sometimes shortcomings of the people who gave you that experience – it is all part of humanising business.
The other reason is in a sense the inverse of that. It’s about the impact that giving a review has on me, rather than on the outside world. Somewhere in the depths of all the research I did for my own book – and I wish I could remember where, so that I can credit the author … and leave a review! – I read something that has stuck with me. It’s a tip or technique for dealing with transitions or endings, for those of us like me who find them excruciatingly difficult.
Instead of lamenting the end of a good book, or a great meal, or believing there will never be another holiday as wonderful as that one, or weeping because your smallest child can now tie his own shoelaces and knows the Amazon prime pin …. instead, this author recommends very consciously framing the transition by explicitly saying, or writing down, for someone else or for yourself, what it is you have so enjoyed and appreciated about the experience that is ending….
“I have enjoyed you being so small you could curl inside my lap and I could reach around you and still tie your shoes.”
“It has been a delight to wake for two weeks to the smell of coffee and the sound of seagulls wheeling over the harbor”
“Thank you for a wonderful dinner. The way the cool wine mixed with the smokiness of the food on my tongue, the way the light fell across the garden and lit your face just as you threw back your head and laughed – it was all wonderful.”
You get the idea. For me, leaving reviews has become part of this discipline, and part of my gratitude practice. Thanking the uber driver for a safe ride and a great chat about his grandmother; calling out the great service of a waiter in the pizza place because she was great with my kids; acknowledging the way a novel moved me to tears on a rammed rush hour train.
In a way, this is allowing business and my interactions with it also to humanise me. It’s a game changer, and I like it.
So, I do review. Do you?