Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reviewing Teas to Give Useful Feedback to Tea Companies

People review teas for many different reasons; one of the many roles or functions reviews fill in the world is that of giving feedback to tea companies on their products. Whether or not you intend your review to function as feedback, it is feedback. If you publish your reviews online, people within tea companies are able to read your reviews, and whenever a tea company comes across or reads one of your reviews, they will see it through the lens of customer feedback.

Reviews as customer feedback:

From the perspective of a business, reviews can be immensely valuable as feedback on one's product or work. In the realm of tea, this feedback can sometimes be simple, such as "I did not like this tea.", which, if enough customers express it, may guide a company to retire the tea more quickly than if they had to rely solely on sales figures. However, it can also be a sign of offerings being more or less similar. But the problem with this sort of feedback is that tastes are highly subjective, and most tea companies already put a great deal of effort into sampling, tasting, and selecting their teas before offering them. So, in a sense, this sort of feedback is not particularly useful. A tea company likely to put out enough effort to respond to customer feedback is probably already doing a pretty good job of selecting good teas to begin with. But there are other things to be learned from customer reviews.

To draw an analogy, I occasionally receive feedback on RateTea of the form: "I love/hate the site." or "I find the site easy / difficult to navigate." or "I think the design looks good / bad or professional / unprofessional." This type of feedback is never particularly useful, because it is not specific enough for me to know how to act on it. There is no "why", and there are so many possible confounding factors (maybe the person just loves or hates the color green, maybe their opinion is skewed by being in an unusually good or bad mood). And, as a webmaster, I have access to detailed statistics showing me how much people are visiting the site, how many pages they view, how likely they are to return, who is sharing or linking to which pages, etc. Simple positive or negative feedback, for all practical purposes, is almost useless. Similarly, when writing a tea review, simply saying that you love a tea does not necessarily provide much useful feedback to a tea company. The company may benefit if, over time, lots of people love a tea (or can't stand it), but the company already has access to this information because they can tell how much of a given tea people are ordering.

More specific feedback is more useful:

For example, with tea: "I felt that X tea was almost indistinguishable from Y, which was lower in price." or "X tea is similarly priced to Y, and the name and description makes them sound similar, but I found them to be quite different, and I enjoy both." or "I can definitely notice the hints of cocoa in the aroma." or "I liked this tea, but I did not detect the malty aroma and I found it more smooth and delicate than robust." So, reviews can also provide more nuanced feedback to a company, than just a coarse "good vs. bad" rating...they can communicate information about value, how similar or different a tea is from the company's other offerings, and perhaps, how a tea compares to a tea in a similar style, offered by a different company.

This can help guide business decisions, such as finding a niche, diversifying one's offerings, writing catalog descriptions of teas, and guiding the selection of teas with different price points.

To those involved in the tea business:

What types of feedback are most or least useful to you? If you could give some advice to tea bloggers and others publishing tea reviews online, advice that would benefit your business in terms of getting useful feedback, what advice would you give?

1 comment:

  1. I believe, again, it is subjective to what kind of blog a person is running. Some blogs are meant to be pure review blogs; they give ratings and say specifics about what they liked or disliked in a certain tea.
    Other blogs are just meant to be a collection of experiences with teas. These types of blogs are more personal than anything.
    So, as with anything it is subjective to different perspectives.
    I am in an interesting situation because I run a personal tasting blog and I own a company.
    When I read a review about the tea that my company offers, I do not just go off the opinions of that one person. Now, if more than a few people have negative things to say about the tea, I would consider changing it or completely removing the tea from my offerings.
    Quite good information you have here Alex!