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Customer Reviews - How Reliable?

Are all customer reviews to be believed?

9:46 pm on Dec 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

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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 reviews seems to be.

My client uses Google Checkout as a payment option which only allows the actual buyer to post 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. 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 two 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 that show up in Google's or Bing's shopping results.

I realized there is a third question. As I am not familiar with these third party review sites, how easy is it to delete a negative review? 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.