Data: ‘Silent Majority’ More Likely to Generate Positive Reviews

Customer Lobby founder and CEO Ted Paff was one of our great speakers at LSA Bootcamp (for SMBs) in Charlotte, NC last month. Ted gave one of the more lively and popular talks of the day. It was called “Taking control of your online reputation.”

Among other things, Paff discussed handling online reviews and common reviewer personas: the “one-star assassin,” “the communicator,” “the status seeker” and the “happy silent majority.” He said that most customers fall into the fourth category.

Paff explained that based on Customer Lobby‘s experience and data that most SMB customers are happy but not well represented among online reviews. Earlier Yelp data seem to support that insight, asserting that 67% of reviews were four or five stars; only 33% came in at 3 stars or fewer. Below is a chart I created in 2014 showing that review distribution.

review distribution on Yelp 2014

At the Charlotte event Customer Lobby’s Paff was forcefully advocating that business owners should ask their customers for reviews. He said that most businesses are passive and don’t ask for reviews because they’re fearful of inviting negative reviews. Paff answered that concern by saying that the large majority of reviews that come in will be positive.

Below is his directional graphic showing the probable distribution of reviews, based on Customer Lobby data and experience. Indeed, Paff argues, being passive is all but guaranteed to keep those mostly happy customers from writing reviews.

Customer Lobby Asking for Reviews

This posture is a challenge when it comes to Yelp because the company doesn’t want business owners to solicit reviews. The fear is that it will quickly become an incentivized system with customers writing reviews to gain a prize or some benefit, which (the argument goes) potentially undermines the integrity of the review process.

However Yelp will prompt its users to write reviews where there has been a prior check-in at a business. In addition it’s OK to create incentives to check-in. So this is an indirect but permissible way of incentivizing customers to write reviews on Yelp.

Check-in offers

Of course there are many other review sites beyond Yelp, though Yelp is one of the most visible and powerful. In most of those other contexts it’s going to be generally OK to ask customers to write reviews.

What are your thoughts about what Paff is advising? Is it also your experience that the majority of those not currently writing reviews are going to be mostly positive? Are there any data you have one way or another on this question?

If these data are in fact true doesn’t this suggest that marketing services providers help outline a process for obtaining reviews that they teach to local business owners? This could be a very valuable additional service provided to SMBs.

3 Responses to “Data: ‘Silent Majority’ More Likely to Generate Positive Reviews”

  1. Good post, Greg. It seems so intuitive that SMB owners would simply ask customers for a review, either once the transaction is completed or in a follow-up reach-out via email. Perhaps they are afraid of bad reviews, but I would bet that it’s as likely that they are not aware of the importance of reviews. So yes, I think it is wise for service providers to coach SMB owners on how to incorporate the “request a review” phrase into their customer interactions.

  2. Greg Sterling says:

    Agree . . . most merchants “get” reviews but are ambivalent to fearful of them. And yes counseling them about how to request/ethically capture reviews is something that should be part of the programs of these local marketing services providers.

  3. David Mihm says:

    I agree not only with Ted’s assessment, but your assessment of Ted! Data that more SMB’s should know, from a guy/company more SMB’s should know. 🙂

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