Asking trusted sources for reviews or referrals for a product or service is nothing new. It used to be a lot less complicated than it is today. I remember the first time I needed to buy a washing machine and a dryer, I went to the source I trusted most – my father. He told me to do the obvious. Buy a Kenmore from Sears. It was what he’d always done and what his father did. So I did too.
Fast forward several years, and it’s a different ballgame. Today, if I want to buy a washer and a dryer, I’ll still ask family members for their opinion, but I will also go online to read reviews. I’ll check Consumer Reports. The BBB’s site. Google and Yahoo reviews. I’ll search for variations of the product or service to see what I can find. Here’s the interesting thing: I’m the first to admit that even though I don’t know the people who left the reviews, I trust them.
Online Reviews Websites
The popularity of social review websites has grown dramatically over the past decade and a half. The reason is obvious: People want information about products and services they need to buy, and the web makes it easy to find that information. Nobody wants to spend their hard-earned money on something only to find out it is a waste of that money. So it makes perfect sense that search engines and reviews sites make finding information about a product/service extremely easy.
The First Online Review Sites
Amazon.com was one of the first sites to allow online reviews. Allowing consumers to provide feedback on products is a great way to both promote sales of high-quality products and find out which products should be discontinued. By 2010, Amazon was the largest single source of consumer reviews on the Internet[BC1] . It remains a great place to get a large variety of reviews on the millions of products sold on the site.
Another early reviews site was Epinions. Epinions was founded in 1999 and immediately became a huge success. By 2003, the site had nearly 6 million users. It remained a popular place for both leaving reviews and finding information about products and companies. Epinions also had a program to reward top reviewers with compensation for submitting reviews (a practice that has all but been abandoned by newer reviews sites).
During the past 10 years, Epinions has been a large part of many corporate reputation management programs. Many companies often asked clients to review them on Epinions. Unfortunately, despite offering a well-balanced blend of reviews and praise for being a very valuable tool for consumers to educate themselves about companies, Epinions officially ended its community and stopped accepting reviews in early 2014. This site will be missed. Some rumors of a new owner stepping in and reviving it have surfaced recently, but none have proved true so far.
Next Generation Quality Reviews Sites
After the success of Epinions, several other quality reviews sites (offering balanced, content-rich and unbiased reviews) have launched and enjoyed some success and followings.
Viewpoints was launched in 2006 and has grown tremendously in the past nine years. Nearly 130 million users have reviewed over 50,000 products and brands.
Viewpoints has reviews on the following subjects:
- Kitchen appliances
- Laundry and cleaning
- Home and garden
- Babies and kids
Viewpoints allows easy sharing on social media platforms and has its own community that allows messaging and sharing of comments. It’s always been one of my favorite reviews sites, and I use it often to check on opinions about products or brands. I highly recommend it.
Another big player in the online reviews game, especially pertaining to personal finance and money, is Credit Karma. Founded in 2007, Credit Karma has a reviews program that offers reviews and opinions on the following:
- Credit cards
- Auto loans
- Home loans
- Personal loans
- Auto insurance
- Life insurance
- Home equity
- Credit unions
Viewers of the reviews can choose whether a review was helpful or not helpful, which gives relevance to future viewers as to the value of the review. Quicken Loans has an active profile on Credit Karma with several thousand reviews.
You probably know Zillow as a home and real estate marketplace that helps connect homeowners, home buyers, sellers, renters and pretty much anyone else in a home-related industry[BC2] . I remember the day clearly, in 2006, when Zillow was introduced. I knew the housing industry had been changed forever. Zillow has a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes – millions of them for sale or rent. Add to that Zillow’s Zestimate® home values, and it’s not hard to see why Zillow is so popular.
What you might not know is that Zillow also has a robust reviews section that gives honest and sincere feedback on mortgage lenders and other real estate professionals. It’s a great way to find a wide variety of experiences and opinions on numerous businesses connected with the home and housing industries. Quicken Loans has an active profile in the Zillow reviews section with well over 1,000 reviews posted.
Sites to Get Information that Aren’t Traditional Reviews Sites
Although the Better Business Bureau (BBB) does not solicit individual reviews, it has been around for more than 100 years and is a well-respected source for consumer feedback on companies. What’s new about the BBB today is that they have a website that allows consumers to search a vast database of customer feedback on just about any business you need information on. You’ll have access to total complaints for that company and an overall grade (A–F), based on the number of complaints in relation to the size and customer base of the business. You can also contact your local BBB chapter directly and get that information the old-fashioned way (over the phone or through mail). Quicken Loans has a page on the BBB’s website.
J.D. Power is an independent research and survey company that asks consumers about customer experience with a wide variety of businesses and then ranks them, choosing top-ranked companies. J.D. Power does surveys and rankings in the following business categories:
J.D. Power is a great resource for customer opinions on client experience because the rankings of client satisfaction that J.D. Power releases each year are based 100% on client surveys. So, when Quicken Loans is ranked “highest in customer satisfaction for mortgage origination in the U.S.” [BC3] (we’ve been ranking highest four years in a row – something no other mortgage company has ever done), that’s our clients giving us this ranking, not J.D. Power. If you really want to find out what people think of a business and its customer service, check J.D. Power.
Making good decisions when purchasing goods and services is something we should all care about. One of the easiest ways to make a good decision is to get a referral from a trusted source. Online reviews websites have made it easy for someone to share their experience with millions of people, which in turn makes businesses more accountable for bad customer service. It’s a win-win for consumers, and online review sites will be around for years to come, no doubt.