How to make ratings work for your business


Ratings are increasingly recognised as a crucial part of how people buy many products and services, whether TripAdvisor’s reviews of hotels or reviews of your neighbourhood restaurant.

We all aspire to 100% positive reviews – but in the real world this is impossible. Some customers will always be dissatisfied, however hard we try.

So if we are to do something about our ratings, what should we worry about?

Thanks to Steve Martin, the renowned expert on the science of influence, for pointing out this study from Nicholas Laurie and Zoey Chen at the University of Connecticut & Georgia Institute of Technology.

The study, based on 65,531 Yelp restaurant reviews, examined what types of reviews people found useful, based on ratings of usefulness from other users of Yelp.


The study had two findings that are particularly relevant for marketers

  1. Negative reviews are more influential than positive ones.
  2. Positive reviews are more likely to be interpreted as useful if they have been posted recently.


How can marketers apply these lessons?


  • Monitor your reviews online:

Even a few negative reviews are likely to have a substantial influence. Use this review information to improve your product and services, as well as attempting to mitigate it, for instance by solving the individual problem.

  • Prompt your happy customers to review you.

And if you are confident that the vast majority of your customers are happy then it might be sensible to follow Amazon’s lead and prompt all of your customers to review you.

Surprisingly few companies prompt their customers to review them either automatically (e.g. after check out at a hotel) or manually (e.g. after check out but with a hotel front of house checking for inappropriate requests).

  • Ensure the date is mentioned.

Don’t just prompt people to leave reviews – make sure that they mention that the experience was recent. For instance if you were a hotel, you could give your customers a pre-drafted comment where you wrote ‘I stayed at the London hotel on 15th February, and I thought….’ leaving the customer to fill in their own opinion, but ensuring that it is clear that the review is recent.


Rob Blackie is Director of Social at OgilvyOne. Rob has created award winning digital strategies for clients as diverse as Facebook, McDonald’s and The Body Shop. From 2011 – 2013 Rob was EMEA Managing Director of Barack Obama’s digital agency, Blue State Digital. Previous to that Rob founded the digital team at Blue Rubicon, leading it to win or be shortlisted for 13 awards in two years.

Rob has extensive expertise in creating word of mouth at scale, using digital data to understand people’s behaviour. Rob has worked on behaviour changing campaigns from obesity, alcohol, drugs and crime through political campaigns to brand and B2B campaigns.

Contact Rob Blackie