“We can fix your reputation on search engines and put good reviews first”… If you’ve turned on the radio or network TV in the past year or two you’ve heard the companies claiming to fix brand reputation by reordering results and even creating content. The ethical ones draw a line at impacting existing reviews while the bottom of the barrel doesn’t just outright admits they’re making stuff up and either way the message is clear to consumers: the review system can be gamed.
Of course gaming is not only bad companies trying to pretend to be good; scan through enough reviews and you’ll find gems like this one: “I haven’t bought this but everything XYZ makes is overpriced so I give it a one star”. Whether its brands attacking each other, service providers raking in money with promises of hiding bad reviews or consumers gone rogue in a negative [or even positive way], there’s a growing credibility problem with reviews.
There’s no doubt that reviews are downright vital…. in fact Millennials place more trust in others than friends & family, and we’re only getting started. However as reviews grow in importance, the efficacy of the system is taking a serious hit – reviews will become less trusted and now is the time for companies to tackle the problem.
1. We need to validate reviews on our sites.
When Starwood announced their review program last year what stood out was their move to validate every comment. Knowing what’s on their site is real is a powerful move, and moves the ball to trusting that they don’t filter, not that the reviews were made up.
2. Reviews must be presented authentically.
When companies re-order their reviews or even worse, just list the top ones, the entire concept becomes useless. As research has shown, it’s not the 5-star rating people want to see… it’s the reality of the product, the fact that someone has an issue with it, even if the issue is a non issue. Being honest with how we show reviews gives people a reason to believe that what we’re showing is all inclusive.
3. We need to provide a method for others to validate off of.
Amazon is as much a research site as a purchase one – etailers and content sites are not just getting reviews from their own sales / bookings. They need a way to authenticate too and that means those of us making products or selling services have to move to being more open, to provide a mechanism identify a real customer by anyone.
This is not an easy path. If you sell in store how do insure a product review is real? If you turn away someone because they don’t validate aren’t you just encouraging them go to a third party site and make even more noise? Validation is by no means a simple process but it’s the right step to move towards to make those reviews count and to root out the problems, whether they’re negatives or positives. In the end transparency wins out.