Remember what it was like to shop without the aid of ratings and reviews? Maybe you had a past experience that guided your next purchase. Or, if you were lucky enough, maybe you had a friend or family member that could offer a cautionary tale. Or, maybe you had neither, and found yourself face to face with a salesman whose knowledge about the product you wanted to purchase far exceeded your own. I still remember the sinking feeling I had when I purchased my first car, and the rearview mirror came off in my hand on the drive home. Had trustworthy ratings and reviews been available at the time, well – at least I would’ve had a better understanding of what I was getting into.

Today, ratings and reviews have leveled the playing field. But it’s not just a win for consumers. Many, many brands and retailers have come to understand the power of direct, detailed feedback from their customers; how it helps them improve the products and services they offer, and how it helps them build strong relationships with customers, versus simply managing transactions. As much traction as ratings and reviews have received, however, there are plenty of organizations that have yet to harness their power.

I write “organizations,” vs. brand or retailer, intentionally, as the audience for ratings and reviews is vast. Organizations exist to serve customers, and I can’t think of many organizations that couldn’t benefit from the power of ratings and reviews, regardless of what they provide. Ever feel like leaving a review about your experience at the DMV, for example?

Here’s an example that’s near and dear to me: as a technology leader, I’ve often felt enterprise technology providers fail to commune effectively with their most important customers: the end users who use their solutions everyday to perform their jobs. Many, if not most enterprise technology companies, gather feedback through customer councils, executive briefings, and the occasional visit from an account manager. Many even wait until it’s time to renew the contract. While all of these are useful forums, the conversations are often between senior sales and operational leaders. But what if these companies gave their end users a voice via ratings and reviews?

I suspect they’d receive a level of feedback that would be far more impactful to improving their offerings, and if they acted on the feedback, would ultimately make upselling and renewing far easier. If you think about your own line of work, it likely won’t take you long to think about how ratings and reviews could be used more effectively by the organizations you do business with, or by the organization you work for.

When the rearview mirror came off in my hands years ago, I took my car back to the dealership and got it quickly fixed. Other than some bodywork required after hitting a deer several years later (no fault of the car company’s, obviously!), the car ran like a top, and I kept if for almost twenty years. I’m not going to name names, but when I go to the car company’s website, I still don’t see  a place to leave what would be a very positive review. There’s an opportunity there!