|Seller Reviews - How Reliable|
Are all customer /seller reviews to be believed?
I am reposting this from the Webmaster General Forum, originally posted 12/4/11. Customer Reviews - How Reliable? [webmasterworld.com]
As I've mentioned in other posts, I manage an e-commerce site for one of my customers. And as a good webmaster, I am always doing searches to check ranking and competitors' prices. What I have found is how skewed customer (seller) reviews seems to be.
My client uses Google Checkout as a payment option which only allows the actual buyer to post seller reviews. However, I often see reviews from "third party" review sites and, bluntly, I find the results too good to be true.
Without naming any sites, one I recently saw had 241 reviews: all 5 star except one which was 3 stars (go figure) and at least one of those 5 star reviews had a negative comment which would seem to contradict 5 stars. Anyway, as with others, I looked at the reviews and found them to be similar or, more often, blank with the statement "this is a five star review." I also noticed the review dates and times seem too close. The latter occurs very often.
First of all, no company is that perfect that hundreds of reviews are all going to be 5 star, I don't care who you are. Second, it has been my experience that more people are quicker to write a complaint than a compliment. So again, no company is going to score perfectly every time.
This leads to three questions:
1 - How easy is it to spam reviews? For companies that host their own reviews, the answer is obvious.
2 - How much weight do you think people (buyers) put into these reviews? And I do not necessarily mean people who might submit a review of a product directly on a company's site like commenting on, say, siding from a big box home improvement store. More important, I am referring to the ones (seller reviews) that show up in Google's or Bing's shopping results.
3 - As I am not familiar with these third party review sites, how easy is it to delete a negative review, or change it to 5 stars? I know Google Checkout only allows the seller to post a response and not delete the review. If the answer is "it's easy," then that would explain all the positive reviews and no negative ones.
Any insight or opinions would be welcome.
Reviews are worth nothing and nobody really believes what is written, I just get information from there, for example about hotels, if I need to know the quality of WIFI connection, I try to find customers who complain about bad internet at this place.
|First of all, no company is that perfect that hundreds of reviews are all going to be 5 star, I don't care who you are. |
Wrong. There are lots of companies that are at least close to perfect. Mine is one of them.
Currently I am closing in to one thousand 5 star ratings and only 39 Four Star ratings. Zero 3 star, Zero 2 star, Zero 1 star.
Actually it is quite simple to get positive reviews and discourage negative reviews. Ok, not that simple, but it is possible. All you have to do is to get close to being perfect and if you screw up and make a mistake you have to catch this mistake and correct it before someone even gets the chance to post a negative review somewhere.
Here is what you have to do:
1. Optimize your processes to avoid mistakes.
For example shipping wrong items or wrong number of items. We do that by scanning every item before shipping. The packer has a handscanner connected to the warehousing system, scans the packing slip, then every item. If he picked the wrong item, he gets an error message. Only if all items are scanned correctly and in the correct amount it is technically possible to print a shipping label.
If a mistake happens, don't react by looking for someone to blame, but think about how you can prevent a similar mistake from happening again.
2. Answer all emails within 24 hours.
3. Have all products in stock and ship within 24 hours.
4. Notify your customers of shipment and provide a tracking number.
5. Use a shipping service that provides a tracking API. Use a script to automatically check the delivery status of your parcels.
6. If a parcel takes to long to be delivered, check what's wrong.
7. If a parcel is succesfully delivered, automatically send an email to the customer the same day. Ask him if everything is ok with the order. Tell him where he can direct any questions and complaints.
In the same email ask the customer to recommend your website to other customers if he was satisfied. Direct him to the review service of your choice with a link.
Also make sure by carefuly wording the email, that the customer does rate your shop and your services and not accidently the product they ordered.
The result: You catch any complaints and problems before a customer even gets the chance to post a negative review somewhere. Only satisfied customer will review your website, dissatisfied customers will contact your customer service.
Also: Positive reviews discourage negative reviews. The reason is simple - if you have lots of positive reviews and something goes wrong, customers are less likely to go balisitic. They will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, because they realize they are the exception and not the rule.
So: If you do not get reviews, or do not get positive reviews and your competitors do, there is a chance that this is not all a scam and fake, but that your competitors are doing something right which you are doing wrong.
I know that one day, I will get the unavoidable two star or one star rating. But I do what I can to postpone this into the far future. And I know that this review will be drowned by hundreds of positive reviews I have collected by encouraging my satisfied customers to review my services.
I wasn't looking for a "how to avoid" discussion as I am sure there are many companies that genuinely rate well. And my client has a near perfect seller rating as well, all of which I know are legitimate. I am simply addressing the issue on the possibility and ease of altering reviews, nothing more. As I mentioned, I find it hard to believe that a person who had something negative to say as I pointed out above, would give a company 5 stars. To believe that every review is legitimate is naive at best, foolish at worst.
|I find it hard to believe that a person who had something negative to say as I pointed out above, would give a company 5 stars. |
Simple mistake. After all: Why would someone fake a positive review and then write a negative comment in the comment box? Customer clicks the wrong number of stars, and submits. One of my competitors started to encourage his customers to review his shop shortly after we started to do that. The fifth review is: Everything perfect! Rating: One star. - Bad luck.
And the reason why so many reviews look the same is simple: Customers do not know what to write in the comment box and then check previous reviews and write the same.
Of course there are fake reviews. Not always posted by shop owners though. I know of at least a dozen reviews about my shop which are fake. They are positive but they have most definetly not been posted by customers. And not by me either. But by the guys who run the review platforms to make it look more busy than it is.
Obviously it's something that can be manipulated like everything else. But you better be fairly good at it, or people will see through it. Unfortunately, not all people will. I've noticed a couple products on Amazon, where it was nothing but good reviews. Then I noticed all the reviewers had only done that one review. Hmm.
Kind of a comical situation I had the other day with this... I was looking for a service in my area. I found one and emailed them a question. A guy named Alex sent me a response fairly quickly. I thought... OK, that's a good sign. I was almost ready to go with them, but I happen to see them on Yelp. Right at the top is this sickeningly positive review from an "Alex". Then I go two other places and see sparkling reviews from an "Alex". lol Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The best part was... On his reply I asked him to email me the forms so I could fill them out and bring them in. He never did. So maybe some owners should spend less time with fake reviews, and just spend more time running their business in the first place.
And not by me either. But by the guys who run the review platforms to make it look more busy than it is.
Sounds like the standard advice on how to kick start a forum.
When reading reviews I look for the ones that are neither all positive nor all negative. (eg feature x is brilliant, y is pretty run of the mill but buy something else if you are one of the few people needing z)
I think one important aspect that's missing is the review target.
So if you read a positive review for the company's service does that mean you have a satisfied customer? Or if you read a positive review about the product purchased does that mean the company delivered it without problems? So there should be a differentiation for reviews.
I think customers always think about the product to buy first then the company where to buy it from, but a review can target one or both of these and although true can be unreliable for somebody else.
Even if a company is perfect, while the product has problems because of a manufacturer's flaw, you may read negative reviews that affect the distributor.
|I think one important aspect that's missing is the review target. |
That's why I was addressing "seller" reviews and not "product" reviews. And in the end, we should all take them with the proverbial "grain of salt" for reliability. But you know as well as I do, it is a marketing trick mostly reserved for internet businesses (seller reviews) as I have never walked into a brick and mortar and saw reviews hanging on the front door.
Regardless, those little stars on a SERP or either Google or Bing shopping draw attention.
|it is a marketing trick mostly reserved for internet businesses (seller reviews) as I have never walked into a brick and mortar and saw reviews hanging on the front door. |
In B&M stores you also have word-of-mouth recommendations. Online reviews are pretty much the same.
Also: Reviews do not only have an effect on those that read them but also on those who write them. If you provide good service and ask your customer for a review in a carefully timed and phrased follow-up email, the customer will take a short time to reflect about your business or service - which increases his future awareness for your company or brand and increases the chance of repeat business.
"Reviews" are not a "trick" but an important part of customer relation management. If you do nothing in that field you risk that only dissatisfied customers publish reviews - and on channels you do not have any control about, maybe without you even noticing. Or they rate your website when in reality they wanted to rate the product.
|2 - How much weight do you think people (buyers) put into these reviews? |
i've been put off by bad reviews in the past (mainly for webhosts and hotels). but there have to be loads and loads of them for me to pay them any attention.
i think most people realise that reviews tend to be biased towards the bad, because when people are satisfied with a product they have no reason to write about it.
but the flipside of that coin is this: if they see a load of amazingly great reviews one after the other then they assume that they are faked. you cant win!
a lot of the bad reviews i see on amazon are actually from people complaining about late delivery, or the fact that the product didnt work with their existing equipment. none of that is the fault of the product, of course, but a casual observer will not notice that, and just see a load of 1-star reviews.
Yes they're so many factors that can drive the customer to give a bad or good review and still what restricts merchants to amplify their reviews on a site like amazon?
|"Reviews" are not a "trick" but an important part of customer relation management |
How much it will cost to a merchant to cycle few orders over a period of time using his own products just to post some favorable reviews on these sites (like amazon)? It may be cheaper than direct advertising and with long lasting effects. Shipping and commission expenses is the cost but could be less than other marketing methods.
|"Reviews" are not a "trick" but an important part of customer relation management |
Maybe "gimmick" would have been a better word. I worked for an ad agency for a while, they're all gimmicks. The best one was "lather, rinse, repeat." The addition of that one word on shampoo increased sales over 50%.
|In B&M stores you also have word-of-mouth recommendations. Online reviews are pretty much the same. |
Most word-of-mouth recommendations are neighbors, friends and family, people you personally know. Posts are anonymous so it is nearly impossible to know if they are genuine or not.
But again, the OP is about the ease to skew these results, not the merits of their existence.