In the first blog post on this topic, we highlighted a report of the European Commission, whose results, you will remember detailed the sorry state of possible possibly misleading and even fraudulent "faked" or otherwise questionable reviews.
The high percentage (144 out of 223 websites checked or 64.5%) has led the EU to publish new regulations who do business in any EU member country.
Some see that as bad news - more restrictions. But there is a real opportunity here for anyone looking to make sure that their customer reviews build consumer/site visitor confidence - surely an important part of the E-A-T matrix so favored by the search engines today.
Put in its simplest terms, how you handle customer reviews and display them can increase the "Trust" factor of your sites E-A-T. And the EU document contains a great blueprint. So let me summarize some of its major points.
First of all, what might constitute a "review?" First of all, a user/purchaser of your product or service may decide to place a narrative (story or anecdote of their experiences). But also keep in mind that a review could be as simple as giving feedback "satisfaction" points ("on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely are you to…") or click on a row of stars or some other symbol. Regardless of the form or appearance, or amount of information provided by them, any type of customer feedback constitutes a "review" for our purposes.
Don't deceive yourself - there is that ever-present temptation to try to slant reviews in your favor. You give in to the idea that the market is tough, the competition is relentless, and you need every edge you can get. After all, in the end who is going to know? But your site - and no business that is legit - can afford to take the risk with phony reviews. You might roll the dice and crap out. Anything that does not truly help your site visitors/customers will not help you in the long run, and believe me, site visitors get no positive value from them.
Here is a short list of problem areas of the most critical areas to fix in how your business handles customer reviews that it receives --
Lack of Moderation/Verification. Can anyone leave a review on your site and it posts automatically? That's a big problem. All posted reviews should be held for internal review (unless you are using a third-party review posting service). Some effort needs to be made to make sure that the person leaving the review actually purchased the product/service from you. And you should take steps to ensure that accounts on your site cannot be created with duplicate information (emails, addresses, etc.).
Solution: On your review page(s), tell site visitors what your review standards/policies are. Detail any checks that you have in place to spot and prevent fake (non-verified customer) postings.
Paid/Compensated Reviews. Why would any site have these? Even if the reviewer states, "I was given XXXXX product to review…" potential customers will not value them very highly. Even more useless - and downright dangerous - is the all-too-common practice of giving a secret payment or gratuity in exchange for a review, or having your staff or even yourself write some positive reviews. If the word gets out (and it often does) this will wreck your business credibility and reset the "EAT" counter to 0 on the "trust" component, perhaps for a long time to come.
Solution: Do not EVER post reviews yourself, and don't have your staff post them either. If you pay someone to write a review or give them some sort of gratuity, coupon, or discount, this must be stated in the review. And as we have noted above, if they do say that, it makes them pretty useless as a sales influencer - so don't waste your money.
Filtering Out Negative Reviews. Another way to try to game the system is to filter them out (a common tactic with sites that hold reviews for moderation). The assumption here is that a clean slate with no negative comments will be more effective in converting site visitors to customers. But experienced online buyers know that we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes mistakes happen. Packages sent get lost or damaged. Clothing may not fit as expected. The customer service rep who picked up the phone may have been having a bad day. 100 customer reviews and no negative ones is suspicious (EAT meter: 0 = Trust), but not-so-positive reviews communicate to customers that you are willing to show them the good and the bad (EAT meter: 100 = Trust).
Solution: This one is pretty obvious - Don't have a list of only positive reviews. Don't remove negative ones. There is one situation where it is OK to remove a review: if you have proof that it is false. False reviews (done to harm your business) can be squashed like the vermin that they are.
Sooner-or-later it is going to happen: Someone will be dissatisfied with your product/service or something about your company, and … BOOM … you have a negative review.
As we said above, the last thing you want to do is to REMOVE that review (unless you can prove it was phony). Leaving it out there in cyberspace will help to humanize your business and increase trust levels. But that review is still a negative so what's to be done?
Think Win-Win.A negative review (that is legit) means that there is a problem to be solved. Actually TWO problems. First all, you have to reply to the customer in a way that is respectful and which solves their problem. Secondly, that negative review may have revealed an underlying problem with your product/service, how you are fulfilling orders, shipping issues, a need for better customer service training, a second look at refund/return policies. Use a negative review as an opportunity to improve.
No Weasel Words. To that end, the last thing that a dissatisfied customer wants is a company that shifts blame, quotes TOS limitations. Don't go on a journey to find loopholes. And don't try to weasel out of responsibility. Your company/staff/product has failed - admit it and get over it. A single negative review will not put your business in the dumpster, but a ham-handed response to one will turn off lots of people.
Resolve it Offline. If you can, call the offended party or email them and try to set up a call. If you come to an agreement, ask if the customer would be willing to do a follow-up and tell people that the issue was handled to their satisfaction. Or even better, rewrite the original review and give you guys credit for resolving the problem
Proper handling of customer reviews is just part of the larger area of Reputation Management - Enhancing your site's reputation when people search for your business online. We have been involved in helping site owners reach their goals since 2013. If you are struggling with reputation management issues, reach out and contact us today. We CAN help you - but you need to make the first move. Talk to you soon!