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1096 Improving Online Reviews

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,096 – Improving Online Reviews.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,096. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast – when you do, you can download the Learning Guides for these episodes.

This episode is a dialogue about improving or making better reviews that you read on the Internet. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Jerrise: Okay, you were right. We need to do something to improve business. Do you think we should take out an ad in the local newspaper?

Russell: We could do that, but I think a better strategy is to improve our online reviews.

Jerrise: Who looks at websites with unsolicited reviews? I’m not convinced that’ll help us.

Russell: Lots of people look at reviews when choosing which business to patronize. Right now, we only have three stars out of five, and that’s hurting us.

Jerrise: It’s hard to believe that adding a star will really improve our business.

Russell: Believe it. And those mediocre reviews we received last week? We should respond to each one and try to make it right.

Jerrise: Those reviews were written by a few disgruntled customers. We’re always going to have a few whiners.

Russell: Yes, but now they’re much more vocal. If they’re not happy with our service or product, we need to compensate them for their bad experience.

Jerrise: That would put us out of business!

Russell: No, that’s an investment in our business reputation.

Jerrise: What you’re saying is that we need to bribe people to write good reviews.

Russell: I wouldn’t put it that way, but we should recognize that crowdsourcing is the wave of the future and we need to move with the times if our business is to survive.

Jerrise: All right. I guess we can try that.

Russell: What are you doing now?

Jerrise: Writing my own review. I’ve always given myself excellent service!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Jerrise saying to Russell, “Okay, you were right. We need to do something to improve our business. Do you think we should take out an ad in the local newspaper?” An “ad” (ad) is an advertisement – a way of promoting or letting people know about your business or your products.

Jerrise mentions “taking out an ad in the newspaper.” “To take out an ad” means to place or put an advertisement, in this case, in a newspaper. You can also take out an advertisement in a magazine. A more general term for this is “to place (place) an advertisement.” That’s probably a more useful expression, because we could use that in talking about placing an advertisement on a website, for example, or placing an advertisement on the radio.

Russell responds to Jerrise’s question by saying, “We could do that, but I think a better strategy” – a better approach – “is to improve our online reviews.” “Online” refers to on the Internet – on a website, typically. A “review” is when someone posts or puts their opinion about a product or a service either in a newspaper or, more commonly nowadays, on a website.

Jerrise says, “Who looks at websites with unsolicited reviews?” “Unsolicited” (unsolicited) is the opposite of “solicited.” “To solicit” as a verb means to ask for. The prefix “un-” means “not.” So, “unsolicited” is something that you didn’t ask for, something that you didn’t request someone do.

Most reviews that you read online are unsolicited in the sense that the business doesn’t ask you for a review. Sometimes they do – a smart business will ask you to put a review of your product or service on a website so other people can see how much you like their product or their service – but an unsolicited review is when no one asks you. You just do it because you want to.

Jerrise says, “I’m not convinced that’ll help us.” Russell says, “Lots of people look at reviews when choosing which businesses to patronize.” “To patronize” (patronize) means to be a customer of a particular business – or at least, that’s what it means in this sentence.

Russell says, “Right now, we only have three stars out of five, and that’s hurting us.” Often when you post or place a review of a, say, restaurant, you are asked to give the restaurant or the product a certain number of stars. Usually there are five stars, at least in most American websites that have reviews of this sort. A five-star review would be a review that says, “This is a wonderful product. It’s the best you could ask for.” If you give a business only one star, that means that you didn’t like the product or service very much.

Russell says that his and Jerrise’s business has, at least on the website they’re talking about, three stars out of five, which is just sort of average. Russell, in fact, thinks that it is hurting them. Jerrise says, “It’s hard to believe that adding a star will really improve our business.” What Jerrise means here is that by improving their rating, their average rating, from, say, three stars out of five to four stars out of five, would really help them.

But Russell says in fact it will. He says, “Believe it,” meaning you should believe what I’m telling you is true. He continues, “And those mediocre reviews we received last week? We should respond to each one and try to make it right.” “Mediocre” (mediocre) means not very good. It’s not a word you would use to describe something that’s terrible. It’s sort of in between good and bad, but more on the bad side.

What Russell is saying is that their business got some mediocre reviews last week. He says they should try to “respond to each one and try to make it right.” “To make something right” means to fix something – to correct a bad situation, especially when you’re talking about a customer of your business. Jerrise says, “Those reviews were written by a few disgruntled customers.” “To be disgruntled” (disgruntled) means to be unhappy, to be dissatisfied, to have a lot of complaints or things you don’t like about something, especially a business.

Jerrise says, “We’re always going to have a few whiners.” “Whiner” (whiner) comes from the verb “to whine” (whine). “To whine” means to complain, to complain loudly, sometimes in an annoying voice. We often associate whining with children. You know, when your child goes, “But mom, I want to go to the store. Please. I want to go to the store” – something like that. I don’t know. You know, when I was a child, my mother says I was an angel, a perfect child. I never whined. Well, that’s what she tells me, anyway. Or was that my brother?

Russell agrees with Jerrise that there will always be whiners. However, he says that the people complaining on the website are “much more vocal” now. “To be vocal” (vocal) means to express your opinions loudly, usually in spoken words – however, in this case it means someone is writing more in their review. You can’t literally be vocal if we’re talking about writing, but we use the term when talking about writing to refer to someone who is writing a lot more than they might otherwise.

Russell says, “If the customers are not happy with our service, we need to compensate them for their bad experience.” “To compensate” (compensate) someone means to give something to someone – to pay someone something, either money or something else of value, in return for what that person did, or in this case, to make up for a bad experience.

We can use the verb “to compensate” to mean the same as “to pay,” as in, “I’m going to compensate my employees.” I’m going to pay them money for working for me. But here “compensate” means “to make up for” – to do something for someone because something bad has happened to them and you are the cause of that bad experience.

Jerrise disagrees. She doesn’t think the business should compensate these customers who are complaining. She says, “That would put us out of business!” “To put someone out of business” is to make a business close, usually because the business isn’t making enough money.

Russell disagrees. He says, “No, that’s an investment in our business reputation.” An “investment” in something is money or resources or energy you put into something in the hopes of getting more in the future back from that particular activity. “Reputation” refers to what other people think about you. You can have a good reputation or you can have a bad reputation.

Jerrise says, “What you’re saying is that we need to bribe people to write good reviews.” “To bribe” (bribe) means to pay someone money so that he or she will do something for you, especially something that may be considered illegal or dishonest. Don’t confuse this with the noun “bride” (bride), which is a woman who is going to get married. Unless you want to bribe a woman to be your bride, which is probably not a good idea.

Russell doesn’t consider this bribing. He says, “I wouldn’t put it that way,” meaning I wouldn’t say it that way. He says, “We should recognize that crowdsourcing is the wave of the future and we need to move with the times if our business is to survive.” “Crowdsourcing” (crowdsourcing) – all one word – means to use the services or opinions of many different people, usually by using the Internet somehow.

“The wave of the future” refers to the things that are becoming popular and will be common in the future or in the near future. “To move with the times” means to change and adjust your actions or behaviors to do what other people are doing. Jerrise says, “All right. I guess we can try that.”

Russell says, “What are you doing now?” Jerrise says, “Writing my own review. I’ve always given myself excellent service!” Jerrise is going to write a review of her own business, saying how wonderful her business is – which, of course, is not exactly what the website that carries these reviews would probably want to see.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Jerrise: Okay, you were right. We need to do something to improve business. Do you think we should take out an ad in the local newspaper?

Russell: We could do that, but I think a better strategy is to improve our online reviews.

Jerrise: Who looks at websites with unsolicited reviews? I’m not convinced that’ll help us.

Russell: Lots of people look at reviews when choosing which business to patronize. Right now, we only have three stars out of five, and that’s hurting us.

Jerrise: It’s hard to believe that adding a star will really improve our business.

Russell: Believe it. And those mediocre reviews we received last week? We should respond to each one and try to make it right.

Jerrise: Those reviews were written by a few disgruntled customers. We’re always going to have a few whiners.

Russell: Yes, but now they’re much more vocal. If they’re not happy with our service or product, we need to compensate them for their bad experience.

Jerrise: That would put us out of business!

Russell: No, that’s an investment in our business reputation.

Jerrise: What you’re saying is that we need to bribe people to write good reviews.

Russell: I wouldn’t put it that way, but we should recognize that crowdsourcing is the wave of the future and we need to move with the times if our business is to survive.

Jerrise: All right. I guess we can try that.

Russell: What are you doing now?

Jerrise: Writing my own review. I’ve always given myself excellent service!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter is always moving with the times and giving you the very latest in American English in her dialogues. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to take out an ad – to advertise in a publication; to place an ad in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication

* How much does it cost to take out a full-page ad in the New York Times?

online – on the Internet; on a website

* Do you pay your bills online, or do you mail checks?

review – a written assessment of a product or service, often describing one’s experience to inform other potential customers

* That new restaurant is getting great reviews. Let’s try them.

unsolicited – without being requested or asked for; offered voluntarily, without any prompting

* Why do so many people want to give me unsolicited advice about my love life?

to patronize – to be a customer of a particular business

* Most of the people who patronize that clothing store are young women in their late teens and early 20s.

(number) stars out of (number) – a description of the rating of quality or value of someone or something, usually where five or ten is the highest number of stars possible

* All the hotels that have earned five stars out of five are too expensive for us, so we’ll have to look at some hotels that have lower ratings.

mediocre – not very good, but not terrible; of medium quality

* Those pancakes were mediocre at best. We won’t use that recipe again.

to make it right – to do something to fix or correct a bad situation, or to satisfy a customer

* The airline apologized for the flight delay and offered $200 travel vouchers to the passengers to make it right.

disgruntled – unhappy, dissatisfied, angry, and full of complaints

* A lot of shoppers were disgruntled when the store ran out of basic necessities like bread and milk.

whiner – a person who complains loudly in an annoying voice

* Those whiners said it wasn’t fair, but we said, “Life isn’t fair” and asked them to change the subject.

vocal – expressing one’s opinions loudly in spoken words

* Nick is very vocal about his dislike of country music.

to compensate (someone) – to pay someone for something; to give someone money or something of value in return for something that he or she did, or to make up for a bad experience

* We compensate our employees for the long hours they work with generous salaries and good benefits.

to put (someone) out of business – to make a business close because it is not profitable; to lead to the end of business that is not making money

* The poor weather put some of the local farmers out of business.

investment – money that is spent in the hopes of receiving something better in the future, such as more money or a stronger business

* Think of college tuition as an investment in your future.

reputation – the way that a business or person is know in a community; positive or negative public opinion about someone or something

* Professor Midara has a reputation for being strict, but fair.

to bribe – to pay someone money so that he or she will do something, especially something that is illegal or dishonest, for one’s benefit

* The contractors bribed the mayor to award them the contract, giving him secret payments totaling more than $60,000.

to put (something) that way – to phrase something a particular way

* I disagreed with you, but since you’ve put it that way, I think you’re right.

crowdsourcing – using the services and/or opinions of many people through the Internet

* The search-and-rescue team is using crowdsourcing, asking people around the world to review satellite images to look for the missing aircraft.

the wave of the future – something that is becoming popular and will be common in the future

* Do you think wearable technology is the wave of the future?

to move with the times – to change and adjust one’s actions or behaviors to do what other people are doing, so that one is not left with old-fashioned habits

* Companies that provided traditional telephone service have had to move with the times to provide cell-phone services as well.

Comprehension Questions
1. What will they do if they “take out an ad in the local newspaper”?
a) They will remove their ad from the newspaper.
b) They will cut out their competitor’s ads for reference.
c) They will place an ad in the local newspaper.

2. If your business receives a mediocre review, you would...?
a) Be very happy.
b) Close my business.
c) Be unhappy.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
vocal

The word “vocal,” in this podcast, means expressing one’s opinions loudly in spoken words: “Local reporters have been very vocal in their criticism of the City Council.” Or, “Blake is a vocal supporter of local schools.” The word “vocal” also relates to the voice, especially a singing voice: “Kelly is taking voice lessons to develop her vocal talent.” The phrase “on vocals” is used to refer to the people who sings in a song or on an album: “I know who is on drums and guitar, but who is on vocals?” Finally, “vocal chords” are thin muscles in the throat that allow one to make noise by speaking or singing: “Vic had a sore throat that affected his vocal chords and made it impossible to speak for two days.”

to put (something) that way

In this podcast, the phrase “to put (something) that way” means to express or phrase something a particular way: “That was a terrible thing to say! I agree with the idea, but you don’t have to put it that way.” The phrase “to put (something) away” means to put something where it belongs, or to return something to its place: “Please put all these toys away before dinnertime.” When talking about money, the phrase “to put (something) away” means to save an amount of money for a particular purpose in the future: “Each month, they put a few dollars away for college.” Finally, the phrase “to put (someone) away” means to put someone in prison or jail for a period of time: “I hope they put that murderer away for the rest of his life.”

Culture Note
Online Reviews Controversies

As “consumers” (people who buy things) become “increasingly” (more and more) dependent on online reviews when making their “purchasing decisions” (decisions about what to buy), many companies feel pressured to improve their online reviews. Some companies do this in honest ways, such as asking satisfied customers to place reviews on popular websites, sometimes offering “discounts” (lower prices) to people who do so. But other businesses “turn to” (decide to have or use) dishonest methods.

For example, some companies “secure” (get) “paid reviews,” paying people money so that they will write and “post” (put on a website) “favorable” (positive; saying good things about someone or something) reviews.

Other people and companies post multiple reviews for their own benefit. For example, authors and “publishing houses” (companies that produce books) have been known to use Amazon.com to post multiple reviews of their own books, encouraging others to buy them. Others “take this to another level” (do something in a more extreme way), posting negative reviews of competitors’ products to discourage consumers from purchasing those goods.

In response, some websites allow people to place reviews only if they have purchased the product through that site, or booked a hotel through the travel website. Other websites address the problem by having “moderators” whose job is to “review” (read and evaluate) other reviews, making sure that they are acceptable before they are “made public” (presented for everyone to read). However, this raises concern about “censorship” (controlling what people may and not read) and “infringements” (violations) of people’s “right to free speech” (legally protected ability to say what one wants, regardless of whether other people agree with it).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c