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Earlier this year, L.L. Bean Inc noticed that its Supima cotton Fitted Sheets (a top seller) was receiving negative customer reviews. They quickly determined that a wrinkle-resistant treatment was causing the cotton to unravel. L.L. Bean immediately removed the item from its website, destroyed the remaining inventory, and offered new sheets to the 6,300 customers who had purchased the set. Through customer reviews, Walmart realized a problem with a prepaid wireless Internet stick. This product received an outpouring of negative reviews. The wireless carrier had neglected to activate the sticks. The problem was quickly fixed and Walmart restocked the Internet sticks two days later.

Companies like L.L. Bean, Walmart, and Amazon are now using online reviews as a quality control tool. Traditionally, it would take businesses months to become aware of a product problem, but now, customers can let businesses know instantly online. Customers tend to only write reviews in extreme circumstances, like if they are very satisfied or completely dissatisfied with a product. These companies are able to receive real-time feedback from customers and that helps them make product and quality improvements more quickly. Amazon will not remove products from its website if it receives bad reviews, but L.L. Bean and Walmart will remove products with bad reviews until the problem can be solved.

While customer reviews are a great way for companies to gain feedback and for customers to have a voice, they are also an opportunity for fraud. Some companies post inflated positive reviews about their products in order to drive sales, or they will post negative reviews about a competitor’s product. Companies like Bazaarvoice help businesses weed out the fraudulent reviews from the sincere reviews.

Source: Shelly Banjo, “Firms Take Online Reviews to Heart,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2012

 

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