What does your Feedback REALLY tell us?

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Online Reviews are now used by consumers for almost all products and services to help them make purchase decisions, choose holidays or restaurants and to help make informed choices about local service providers such as Dentists, Estate Agents, Car Dealerships or Solicitors.

Genuine reviews are an incredibly valuable tool for businesses as they boost customer confidence, show social proof of good relationships and provide an ongoing narrative of business performance through the eyes of its users. One statistic that we love (so much so that it’s on the back of our business cards!) is that 70 per cent of consumers trust online ratings as much as a personal recommendation (Local Consumer Review Survey).

Taking this into consideration it’s a good idea to put a system in place to make sure you are capturing this valuable feedback from your happy customers so that you can display it and use it to encourage more customers and business growth.

Having said all this, there is a darker side and that is fake reviews. There are plenty of less than scrupulous businesses out there who try and promote themselves and their reputation by adding false, positive sounding testimonials. These can not only reflect badly on the business that is doing it, but leads to a level of consumer distrust that can spill over to businesses whose reviews are genuine.

Luckily for everyone, there are some key indicators to look for in reviews to help weed out the fakes from the real thing. Here are my top guidelines for eagle eyed review spotters:

How many reviews are there?

The more reviews, the better, especially if they stretch back over a few years. Adding hundreds of fakes over a long period of time is incredibly hard for anyone to keep up, so if the company you’re looking at has a long track record of reviews then they are probably the real deal.

Look for the Not so perfect comments

In real life, nothing is perfect. Real reviewers, even those who’ve had a good experience will often leave a review that is only 3 or 4 stars out of 5, or a comment along the lines of “overall our service was good, but XXX wasn’t exactly what I wanted.”

These less than perfect scores actually add a degree of authenticity. After all, who would go to the trouble of leaving a fake review that was only 3 stars?

Has the company left any replies?

If the company you’re looking at has a string of reviews online and has made some effort to comment back then you know they’re monitoring their reviews. Typically this means that they’re interested to know what their clients think, they may even be asking people to leave reviews on certain sites. Again, if they were leaving the positive comments there themselves they probably wouldn’t also be commenting on them. Likewise, if they are commenting on negative reviews you know their reputation matters enough to them to try and put things right.

Are the reviews on third party sites?

We’ve all seen company websites with a testimonial page filled with positive messages from “Mrs D” or “Anonymous, 35”. Although these pages seem to be popular with many businesses they don’t actually prove anything – the business can choose what to post on its own website and by not showing real names or customer profiles it’s difficult for anyone to decipher if these comments are real or how long they have been there.

Instead, look for reviews on third party sites such as Google, Yell or FreeIndex. These sites are incredibly hard to hack with fake reviews and you should be able to see some profile details of any reviewers you are interested in.

How much detail is there?

The majority of real reviewers don’t actually write very much detail in their review. Often it could be something very brief, such as “Thanks for the great service” or “Brilliant, would recommend”. While these short recommendations might not be very helpful to people thinking of using that company, at least if there are plenty of them it should give some idea of a general pattern of service.

On the flip side, real negative reviews tend to be long because the person has genuine problems to vent or rant over.

Finally, remember that MOST reviews are positive. It’s hard for companies to leave multiple fake reviews! If you have any questions about a particular company then why not ask them to put you in touch with a previous customer or patient who can tell you about their experiences?

What are your thoughts on reviews? Do you read reviews of businesses you are planning on using? Leave your comments below!