Reviewing review sites

Review websites are growing in stature and importance.

Google coined the term “Zero Moment of Truth” in their acclaimed re-write of the online buyer journey in 2014.  This refers to the moment before a product or service is purchased whereby the customer conducts online research before making their final decision.  This can be in the form of looking through the product’s own marketing material or digging deeper and looking for customer reviews.

Google Reviews, Trustpilot, Amazon Reviews and TripAdvisor are some of the best-known review sites, but there are many niche sites focusing on one subject, such as Glassdoor for employment.

These sites are becoming increasingly powerful as we spend more time and more money on the internet.  They play a role in shaping opinion and should definitely be considered to some degree in your business’ digital marketing strategy, regardless of size.

Whether you are looking to attract local customers to your café or looking to sell a consignment of motoring components to a company on the other side of the world, review sites are having an influence on your customers.

But, as with most online businesses and social networks, they don’t always operate as transparently as you might expect and have their fair share critics.

The good

These sites play a role in not only informing customers, but holding businesses to account.  An impartial review on your product in an arena you cannot control which every future customer is able to access is a major driver to “get it right the first time”.

They can also lead to stronger advocation for your product.  When customers who love your product come together to praise you, this can lead to communities and networks advocating your business and more future sales.  If someone bought ‘product A’ and loved it, then saw an equally positive review for ‘product B’, they are more likely to buy a second item.  When your product is that good, review sites can become a valuable part of your sales funnel.  After all, it is more convincing when someone else says your product is great than when you do.

The bad

The controversy with online reviews is their authenticity.  There has been significant debate over their ability to police their reviews.  How can they determine whether a customer is telling the truth?  What if a customer bought your product online, accidentally damaged it and claimed that it arrived that way?  How could a review site determine the review’s validity?

This argument is one that will never come to an end.  There are actually sites such as Fakespot who are dedicated to spotting fake reviews.  Their brand voice is deliberately edgy and suggests that review sites don’t do enough to ensure the authenticity of their reviews: “Dear Amazon: we fixed it for you”.

Fake reviews can fairly easily be bought online by going to the right website. They are often run from outside the UK and offer large numbers of reviews in return for cash.

These are often detectable by a large number going live at exactly the same time and often without context.

The ugly

Highly competitive industries can be characterised by less-than-friendly practices between organisations.  Unfortunately, it has been known for businesses to post invalid and untrue reviews on each other’s pages to try to re-route potential custom to themselves.

Businesses have also been known to unfairly influence their own reviews.  Given enough time, desire and personal email addresses, companies’ own employees have been caught posing as consumers and leaving fake five-star reviews on their own page.  Cosmetics company Sunday Riley were caught out, charged and forced to apologise for this in 2019.

Four key takeaways

You should claim and manage your brand’s online review page for the following key reasons:

  • Your customers are talking about you online and these conversations become concentrated and influential on review sites, which have become a key part of the online buyer journey. You can use these to gauge the strength of your brand and even to improve your products or services.
  • You should also police these review pages as a business and watch out for signs of fake reviews. This has become a serious problem that the review sites themselves are receiving flack for.  Do your part to protect your brand.
  • It can take your customer service to the next level. Interacting with customers, both positive and negative, shows what sort of company you are.  A friendly thank you can enhance a positive review, whilst an acknowledgement and resolution to a customer issue will go some way towards making up for a negative one.  You should also be alert to patterns that emerge around what is working well for your customers and what needs further attention.
  • Our own experience with review sites at GAS has been, at times, frustrating. Customer service enquiries with the review sites themselves are prioritised according to the value of the account to the site.  For example, Trustpilot “Pro Plan” customers (businesses who pay a monthly fee to Trustpilot) will have their queries dealt with much faster than businesses who don’t pay a subscription.  These plans are useful for helping you get new reviews and can give you insight and analytics into your score, showing where they came from, performance per month and other metrics.  You can get a handy widget to embed in your website to obtain more reviews and tools to showcase your Trustpilot score to the world.  We would certainly recommend taking a look at these plans if you are putting a focus on managing and improving your score.

Take a look at our Trustpilot and Glassdoor review for GAS.

Photo of Chris HobbsAbout the author:

Chris Hobbs has more than a decade of experience in customer relationship and complaints strategy.  He has worked for some of the UK’s most recognisable brands, including Tesco Bank and Direct Line Group. 

Chris believes in a “get it right first time” motto and has been a key individual in creating a customer-centric approach at Great Annual Savings Group, as well a customer journey remodel and the growth of the Group’s value-added services.

Read more of Chris’ blogs here.

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