I was in Chicago over the weekend and planned to do brunch with my brother who lives in the city. Not being all that familiar with the area, I popped open my Google Map app and clicked on the Google Places feature in an effort to expedite the process of choosing a restaurant. I’m a frequent user of this app and love reading the reviews to help me make a decision. This time, however, I quickly realized Google has recently made a change that I’m not sure is all that helpful — especially for those who are indecisive.
It’s great that you can read all the customer reviews posted and, given the volume of them (there were 234 in this instance) it’s logical that they give you a preview of three. The problem is that the preview of reviews are not correlated to the overall star rating, but equally list one positive, one negative and one neutral. When you have a place that averages almost five out of ”5 Star” rating, but a preview that looks like a third of all customers hated it, its skews your opinion. While I had 10 different brunch places that had decent star ratings, I couldn’t help but be deterred from picking any of them after reading the negative comment at each. The negative comments canceled the positive and the neutral comment gave no swing one way or another. Ultimately, I felt like I was taking the same gamble on an unknown restaurant as if I hadn’t done my mobile research. Since I’m not usually an indecisive person, I wondered how this would affect those who are naturally indecisive!
The way Google Places’ reviews are organized plays a big difference in buying behavior. Negative reviews have a particularly significant affect, causing many people to re-think their decisions. My suggestion to Google Places is that the preview of reviews should be correlated with the star rating. If you have a place that is rated 2 out of 5 stars, negative reviews should represented accordingly in the previews. But if there’s a 5 out of 5 star restaurant, then I don’t think it’s appropriate to showcase negative review in the preview. Instead, just keep them accessible in the list all reviews. So, please, Google: for the sake of businesses listed (and your inherently indecisive app users) please change your comment preview layout to better reflect shared experiences.