Ziptone Column April 2024: How Many Stars Do You Give This Reading Experience?

This column about the review culture appeared on April 8, 2024, on Ziptone..

Three years ago, my partner and I moved from the big city to a small village. Not a great distance, but just far enough to be outside the delivery radius of our favorite restaurant. It stung a bit because we ordered from there multiple times a week – yes, it’s that good, plus we are DINKS, so we could afford it.

The 20-kilometer gap created a significant void, but not an insurmountable one. If Mohammed don’t go to the mountain, we regularly get in the car ourselves. Because yes, it’s that good. We’ve created countless new fans by referring them to this place. Despite this love, loyalty, retention, and ambassadorship for the restaurant, I still get the same anxious email a few hours later: “How was your order?”

Recently, a professional unclogging service had to clear out my inbox because it was so flooded with requests for feedback. “What can we do better?”, “How was the service?”, and “How was the staff member who helped you?”

When I was little, I sometimes read the results of surveys and polls in the newspaper. A certain percentage of Dutch people would have an opinion on something. I used to regret not being able to participate because no one had asked me. Be careful what you wish for, because in the review culture of 2024, you can’t turn around without someone asking how you would rate the experience.

There are two versions: I can rate the service in a survey, which the company uses to improve their services. Or, I can air the clean/dirty* laundry online with reviews expressed in stars. Sometimes I get a lure (“Win credit!”) or I’m told what to fill in (“This car brand doesn’t accept less than five stars, so it would save me a lot of hassle as a seller if you just give five stars”).

Good reviews are hot. Not only do they indicate that businesses are customer-oriented, but they are also often a decisive factor for consumers in choosing whether or not to engage with a company. Organizing a dinner? Check the reviews. Unsure if a small business is reputable? Straight to the stars. The experiences of others, positive or negative, help us form an opinion on whether we want to trust an organization or not.

But there are limits, as I learned from our TV judges on public and commercial broadcasting. Negative reviews can harm businesses so much that they need to be removed. So, in other words, please let us know what you think, but not too negatively, because then freedom of expression conflicts with harming others and could give a false impression of our actual opinion, which others might base their choices on. Clear assignment.

I’m left with just one question: do you rate the font in this column with 4 or 5 stars?

*Strike through what is not applicable

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