Customer reviews provide us with valuable information about a customer’s real life experience after using a service or product. Restaurants, hotels, appliances, and electronic goods are some of the most popular things that we like to review. But in 2019, can we really trust customer reviews? Here are 5 reasons why we should be cautious when using customer reviews, along with some useful tips on how to use these reviews effectively.
1. Many customer reviews are fake
Unfortunately, many customer reviews that you read will be fake. It may be the company itself posting positive reviews, or they could be positive reviews written by family or friends. Negative reviews may even be posted by a competitor to gain a business advantage. The sad reality is, many customer reviews listed today are not genuine and therefore do not paint a true picture of the service or product. Here is an example of a company that was fined for posting fake online reviews:
2. Some websites modify reviews
Some review sites have been caught removing or editing customer reviews. This is hugely misleading to consumers as the collection of reviews does not accurately reflect the views of customers. Here is an example of a Australia’s largest online medical booking group altering patient reviews:
3. Incentives to write reviews
Positive reviews can be very powerful, and hence you can understand why some businesses offer rewards to customers for writing reviews. This creates a bias as people are more likely to write a positive review if you are rewarded with a free gift or voucher to do so. Again, this creates an inaccurate picture of a product or service and can be very misleading. Businesses that offer customers incentives for writing positive reviews are in breach of the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).
4. Customer reviews are emotional
Imagine you have just purchased a new vacuum cleaner that works well, and you are reasonably satisfied with it. Compare that to a vacuum cleaner that was faulty from the first week you used it and resulted in a difficult refund process. You would be far more likely to write a negative product review of the faulty vacuum cleaner as a way to express your frustration to others. Our emotions can often create a collection of reviews that misrepresent the product or service as only the ‘very good’ or ‘very bad’ experiences are shared. Here is an example of a somewhat emotional review after a bed purchase:
5. Biased, commercial relationships
Some customer review sites have commercial arrangements whereby customer reviews can be somewhat ‘manipulated’, creating an inaccurate picture of the true customer experience. Examples include:
- Placing positive reviews at the top of the page to create an impression that there are more positive reviews than negative reviews.
- Companies can select their favourite review/s to appear on the top of the page.
- Customers who attempt to submit a negative review, are given the opportunity to contact the business directly to help resolve the issue rather than posting the review.
Here is an example of a ‘brand management’ system whereby partnering businesses can pay to have control over their reviews:
Tips on how to use customer reviews effectively
As you can see, customer reviews are not always what they seem. The trick for us as consumers is to be aware of this, and be clever in how we interpret these reviews. Here are some tips!
- Try to avoid reading reviews on the first page – they may have been placed there intentionally.
- Seek reviews and information from multiple sources – doing this should be more reliable.
- Look out for a lot of positive reviews within a short time frame – these reviews may not be genuine.
- Be wary of products with a disproportionate numbers of 5 star reviews – it may indicate a biased, commercial relationship. Here is an example:
Here at Bedbuyer, we welcome you to contact us about any customer reviews you may have seen. We are always here to help!
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