While on my most recent road trip this past weekend, and finding myself making an array of important “road trip” stops along my journey from Indianapolis to just north of Madison, Wisconsin, I realized that over the last few years I have developed a dedication to leaving reviews for any of the businesses I visit along the way. This habit has not only turned into a fun way to remember places I’ve visited in the past, but provides myself and others with honest feedback about the goods and services being provided. Let’s talk about some of these benefits, and why this is a system all honest and conscientious patrons should employ for the good of the order!
#1: Remember Your Stops I think my favorite reason for leaving reviews is having a history to look back on. I tend to use Google Maps to leave reviews because it is easy, convenient, and heavily used by the general public. For the most part, Google Maps is essentially an impartial database of all businesses that exist, overlaid on top of a very useful and detailed visual map (more on this later), making it a convenient intersection for this type of activity. Since I am actually logged into the Google Maps app on my phone (not a big fan of anonymous reviews, more on that later as well), it keeps a nice history of the businesses I’ve visited and the experience I had. Of course, capturing the experience I had is fully dependent upon what I share, so I tend to provide details such as what was purchased, the time of day, and even who I interacted with.
In reflecting upon some of the ground rules I use, here is a thought: when it comes to mentioning names, I guess I tend to only name someone when my experience with the person was positive. Of course, this is completely up to you, but I guess for me I feel this is a reasonable and civil approach. In the extraordinarily rare case in which an employee or representative of the business is egregiously rude or incredulously inept, I suppose I may be willing to make an exception if I feel it will help the cause and, more specifically, ensure a similar situation doesn’t happen to someone else.
#2: Hold Businesses Accountable While my favorite reason for leaving a trail of reviews is to have a personal history of my experiences, the opportunity to help businesses improve what they offer and how they offer it is what presents the brass tacks! In continuing with some thoughts I shared earlier regarding my tendency to use Google Maps as my reviews medium, the bottom line is that Google Maps integrates seamlessly with Google’s business listing directory, which at the moment is called Google Local+ (I say at the moment, because Google has established a history of morphing and maneuvering this product). Businesses cannot pay Google to promote their business listing on top of others like they can with Yelp or YP (known as Yellow Pages prior to their strangely executed rebranding to two letters), nor can business owners control which reviews show and which do not. This I like.
I have noticed through the years that business owners take bad reviews very seriously, and often not with grace and poise. They become very frustrated when they receive a bad review, especially with one that seems unfair and only telling of one side of the story. How a business should react to this is something I will address in a future article, but for now, I will simply state that often the best recourse a business has is to encourage future positive reviews by immediately addressing the issue and cultivating new reviews that reflect positivity in the business. Thus, leaving thoughtful and accurate reviews is the best way to affect positive change in the businesses you frequent.
Further reflection on some ground rules: I am a big believer in being thoughtful, articulate, and fair when leaving reviews. If all you do is emotionally spout off complaints, you might get an equally vicious response from the business owner, but the general public will have a harder time taking your review seriously. The point of this is to affect positive change, right? Let’s keep this in mind when we leave reviews. Mention some of the positive aspects of your visit: c’mon, there’s always something. Maybe the food was mis-prepepared but the place was clean. Maybe the staff were rude but the food was good. You get my drift.
Final Thoughts I mentioned earlier I would share some thoughts on leaving anonymous reviews: I’m not hard-lined against doing this, but I feel that leaving a review you can attach your name to is much more constructive and helpful to the cause. It encourages you to put more thought into what you say, thus increasing the quality of your review. It’s not like you’re providing your home address and social security number…just your name or handle proving that you are real. Plus, unless you’re signed in you can’t take advantage of my favorite reason for leaving reviews, which is remembering your stops.
My hope is that going forward you will improve the quality of your reviews and build your own history of business you’ve visited. You’ll surely find it fun and help other patrons along the way!