Verizon opens their catalog to user reviews, probably a bad move

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This ought to be interesting. Apparently never having felt the wrath of a dissatisfied buyer with access to the internet, someone over at Verizon has just decided to enable users to leave public reviews on any phone in their catalog. Users can rate their handsets on a scale of 1-5 for ease of use, display, features, and battery life, then manually add their own pros, cons, and comments.

Openness is good. Helping people make educated purchases is good. But this just seems like a bad move.

If I’ve learned anything from gallivanting around the internets in search of cell phone knowledge, it’s this: the majority of people taking the time to talk about their phones hate them. Now, that’s not saying that most people hate their phones – just those willing to take 20 minutes to throw down 300 words about a handset on a forum. It’s good ol’ Silent Majority/Loud Minority; though the vast majority of consumers can be neutral or positive on a product, a quick glance around the internet will make it seem like everyone despises it.

This tends to be less of a problem on e-commerce resale sites, especially those which see lots of return buyers. Sites like Amazon have built entire communities out of the reviewing process, thus enticing folks to return and leave reviews for all products they buy – not just the ones they hate. People connect with the process and leave reviews both good and bad, and others seem to follow by example.

With Verizon, it’s a whole different story. With 2-year contracts as a part of nearly every phone sale, the volume of return sales just isn’t that high. In 10 years, the average soccer mom might buy/trade up through 5-6 phones. That’s 5-6 opportunities to review, across a decade. Are they going to connect with the review process and tell of the good times they’ve had with the handset? Or will the only ones who bother be those looking to unleash their buyers remorse and all of their pent up frustration from spending hours dealing with customer service?

Verizon has put up a safety buffer: they’re manually approving reviews, which may take up to 2 days. But what’s the criteria? Are they simply filtering out the messy, profane garbage, or will they nix reviews they feel are being too harsh? The masses (read: angry consumers on social sites) wouldn’t respond too kindly to the latter.

What do you think – a good move toward openness, or a good way to doom handset sales?

[via PhoneArena]

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