ConsumerAffairs for Brands: Is it worth it?
Mar 1, 2016
Many brands concerned with their online reputation conduct discovery sessions to identify third-party brand mentions. Frequently, when researching brand related queries in search engines like Google, businesses uncover third-party listings on review sites like ConsumerAffairs.com, and the results may not always be ideal. As a leader in reputation management services, we know review sites should never be ignored, but it is important to determine if investing in accreditation, paid services or other offerings across these sites is a smart investment as part of a brand’s reputation management strategy.
Listings on third-party review sites often outrank positive PR mentions where it matters most: Queries during the research phase of the buying journey. Brands need to take a proactive approach to managing any third-party listings, and third-party websites like ConsumerAffairs offer free opportunities to respond to customer feedback. These same resources frequently offer paid services in addition to their free offerings, helping many brands derive ROI from a more engaged presence.
Our team has developed ways to incorporate ConsumerAffairs and other third-party listing management into our reputation management services with great results.
Accreditation programs frequently focus on local and small business listings, but larger review websites like ConsumerAffairs tend to focus on regional and national brands, and the paid services reflect the more complex needs of larger-scale businesses. We researched some of the key features offered by ConsumerAffairs, including the benefits of a dedicated Client Success Specialist and access to the paid areas of their Brands Application.
Our research indicated much of the features and plans offered by ConsumerAffairs have changed significantly over the past two years, with more flexibility and customization available to meet the unique needs of brands. Many brands working with Reputation.ca see these additional features as a way to increase the efficacy of reputation management strategy.
Unpaid and paid plans offered by ConsumerAffairs:
Free: Any brand with a listing on ConsumerAffairs can access, monitor and maintain their listing for free, with the included features:
Respond directly to customer reviews
Edit and update company profile details and branding
Real-time email alerts when a new review is written
Request an updated star rating and review when a resolution is reached
All brands who choose to become ConsumerAffairs accredited at any plan level have access to:
A dedicated Client Success Specialist
Guidance on best practices for customer engagement
Multiple user accounts
Access to premium analytics data
Enhanced profile listing with additional branding options
Review collection tools to collect feedback from a larger, unbiased customer sampling
Ability to dispute complaints
Available marketing and SEO integration tools
With several scalable plans available offering varying degrees of paid services and tools, most regional or national level brands will find a good fit for their needs, but there are a few key deciding factors in deciding whether it is best to invest or focus efforts in other channels.
Brands that are merely seeking a perfect five-star rating won’t find the verified, authentic reviews and required compliance with the ConsumerAffairs Business Code of Conduct beneficial - the company requires unbiased customer outreach and has proprietary filters in place to identify fake or biased feedback. This means one thing for brands: The reviews shared by customers will always reflect the authentic customer experience, good, bad or ugly. ConsumerAffairs cannot force a change in the overall brand perception, but it can help uncover the silent majority - who are often satisfied, but not motivated to leave a review unless prompted.
Internal research at ConsumerAffairs revealed no significant change in review conversions from email outreach when incentivization was removed, so their email review collection tool no longer includes previous incentivization prompts. When we spoke to their Marketing Manager, she noted their Client Success Specialists now encourage brands to maintain complete objectivity in all outreach efforts, and the decision to remove incentivized review collection prompts reflects their goal of objective and balanced feedback across the site.
ConsumerAffairs offers additional review collection tools beyond email review collection, including phone surveys conducted by their third-party Consumer Advocates, a Facebook tab for social media audience members to share feedback directly through brand Facebook pages, a custom review form, an iFrame review form, and even field cards for brands with more direct customer engagement. While the amount of outreach available varies by plan level and business need, the conversion rates for email and phone outreach are significant enough to create an opportunity to generate more customer feedback with a higher level of quality text content than a majority of the other review websites we researched.
Through the paid accreditation program and premium Brands Application features, ConsumerAffairs actively works with brands to improve customer engagement and create an authentic and balanced picture of the true customer experience. While the majority of brand perception is impacted by the reviews posted to business profiles, the additional accreditation resources and analytics give brands a chance to correct systemic issues frequently identified as the root causes of negative feedback.
While the services offered are diverse and effective, ConsumerAffairs for Brands is focused on accreditation for larger-scale regional and national brands, as reflected by the vast majority of the 5,000+ company profiles on the website, and top-ranking buyer’s guides featuring national and regional brands for consumer needs like the best mortgage companies. The services, tools and support offered to accredited brands reflect this focus. The opportunity for these brands to be featured in a buyer’s guide with a first page search result for queries like “best mortgage companies” is extremely valuable for positioning among competitor listings.
For businesses with one or several smaller local-focused locations, it may be a wiser option to look for accreditation or review site listings with less offerings at a lower price, such as BBB’s local accreditation programs, Yelp’s paid features or Trustpilot’s minimalist Lite plan to help create and manage review profiles. However, with a lower price point, the tools, resources and support available may mean increased resource strain internally and less ROI for brands trying to market to consumers using third-party review listings. Regardless of a brand’s needs,
Reputation.ca’s team of experts work with our clients to identify the right tools to include in our reputation services.
ConsumerAffairs best practices help accredited brands meet industry standards.
ConsumerAffairs seems aware of the need to offer more balanced feedback from consumers across all brand profiles, whether accredited or unaccredited. Internal research from their team indicates a significant climb in the site’s average star rating over the past year, and this coupled with the removal of review incentivization prompts and the addition of a Business Code of Conduct has helped more brands improve on customer engagement practices. The impact reported by their accredited brands ranges anywhere from increases in customer volume to improvements in overall brand sentiment and brand perception across multiple third-party consumer engagement channels.
If a brand has an extremely negative listing on ConsumerAffairs that chronically surfaces on the first page of SERP for a brand name search, we recommend using their Free account as a way to reach out to unhappy customers and potentially resolve issues. Doing this will open your business up to possible updates in customer star ratings and reviews, which could help better reflect customer engagement efforts and shift brand perception. If a brand has an extremely negative listing on ConsumerAffairs and additional resources to invest in accreditation, the price tag is worth it, with one caveat: your business has to be willing to solve the causes of negative feedback.
Many brands still perceive sites like ConsumerAffairs as having a questionable agenda, but the reality is consumers are reaching out to these third-party review sites in an effort to have their voices heard by brands. With monthly traffic nearing 8 million consumers, ConsumerAffairs is a serious player among other review websites, and the opportunity to reach even more potential customers is something brands shouldn’t overlook without doing their own research. Negative reviews will only continue to surface across all review sites if customer experience isn’t improved. Brands who are a strong fit for ConsumerAffairs for Brands will benefit from the ways their services and tools help enhance digital marketing in one of the toughest marketing channels to conquer: organic search.
If you’d like to find out more about whether ConsumerAffairs accreditation is a smart addition to your Reputation.ca service plan, contact our team today.
Note: All facts and figures used in this report were derived from a ConsumerAffairs sales presentation conducted in January of 2016.