Editor’s note: Alfonso de la Nuez is co-founder and chief visionary officer at UserZoom and is the author of The Digital Experience Company: Winning in the Digital Economy with Experience Insights. 

Online shopping and the influential impact of social media have made customers’ experiences crucial to companies’ reputations. How people feel about products and services, and how easy or difficult they find navigating an app or website, are often reflected in online reviews and ratings.

But how telling or accurate are those comments and scores? Sometimes, questions posed on customer reviews don’t go into enough detail or prompt in-depth responses. And ratings –usually in a one- to five-star format – often aren’t well defined. They don’t fully reflect the customer’s online shopping experience or their complete thoughts about a product or service. Companies are left with insufficient or misleading feedback, making it difficult to determine where they may be lacking – knowledge that would help them make improvements and win more customers. 

When the reviews are positive but too general, companies can be lulled into thinking that most of their customers are happy, and that their digital performance and products don’t need adjustments. Being stagnant in today’s highly competitive and ever-evolving marketplace, even when business is riding high, is a recipe for falling behind. One study showed that upwards of 80% of online reviews rate items with four or five stars. And the Wall Street Journal reported that customers are automatically giving out five-star ratings, particularly on Uber and Lyft. They've become more like participation trophies than actual feedback. Even if a product or service is excellent, it isn’t perfect, and a bunch of five-star ratings can make consumers skeptical of rating validity. 

I've long believed that reviews, while somewhat valid if managed well, are vague. If you really want...