Customer reviews provide us with valuable information about a customer’s real life experience after using a service or product. These reviews can be written through Google, company websites, social media, review sites such as Product Review, and help us to make an informed decision before we buy. Restaurants, hotels, appliances, and electronic goods are some of the most popular things that we like to review. According to a survey by Yotpo, nearly 80% of people said that customer reviews impact their decision to purchase.
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 posting positive reviews of their own business. It could be positive reviews written by family or friends. Some may even post negative reviews of a competitor to gain a business advantage. Whatever the reason 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 edit reviews
Some online review sites have been identified to have been removing or editing customer reviews. This is hugely misleading to consumers as the collection of reviews does not accurately reflect the views of customers. Even if these sites make their review publishing policy ‘accessible’, it still runs in the face of the consumer using the reviews as a trusted source of information. Here is an example of a Australia’s largest online medical booking group altering patient reviews:
3. Customers are provided 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. We won’t name names but we do know this has happened in the online bedding industry. This creates a bias as people are more likely to write a positive review if you are rewarded with say, 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 emotionally charged
Customer reviews are often done by either very happy customers, or very unhappy customers. 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 of a faulty hair straightener on Product Review:
5. Customer review sites have commercial relationships
Some customer review platforms have commercial arrangements whereby customer reviews can be ‘managed’, again creating an inaccurate picture of true customer experiences. Examples include:
- Placing all positive reviews at the top of the page to create an impression that there are more positive reviews than negative reviews.
- Selecting their favourite review/s to appear on the top of the page.
- Giving customers (of partnering businesses) who attempt to submit a negative review, 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 to best help us make a decision on a product or service. Here are some tips!
- Try to avoid reading reviews on the first page – they may have been placed there purposely
- 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
- Check to see if the reviewer has written more than one review – multiple reviews may indicate a more reliable source
- 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! Our email address is: email@example.com
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