Customer Experience News & Trends

Online reviews – the good, bad and illegal

Most customers look at online reviews before they buy these days. Positive reviews are good for you. Negative reviews, not so good. Fake reviews, downright illegal. 

Clearly you want honest, positive reviews and even some negative reviews that can help you improve. We’ll get to how to manage those reviews in a bit.

A first (mistake) of its kind

First, let’s look at the dangers of fake reviews.

In a recent case, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined an online retailer almost $13 million for having a third-party website write and post false reviews on Amazon for its weight-loss pills. Under an agreement, Cure Encapsulations, Inc. may just pay $50,000 in fines, plus an undisclosed tax bill.

But the case sets a new precedent – it’s the FTC’s first that challenged one company’s use of fake, paid reviews on an independent retail site.

Online review best practices

Fake reviews aside (and surely never even considered), customer experience professionals want to make the most of online reviews – since more than half of shoppers check online reviews before buying. Whether you gather reviews on your company website, other retail websites or product/service review sites, you want to:

  • Request. The best way to get reviews is to ask customers to give them. Even better, when you solicit reviews, and a negative one comes in, you should be quicker to respond and fix any issues – which could lead to a follow-up positive review. Request reviews on your site or third-party sites through email or text that includes the link.
  • Respond. You must respond to negative reviews because you want to make things right. But it’s equally important to respond to positive reviews, letting customers know you appreciate their kind words and encouraging them to continue to give feedback.
  • Be professional. Avoid arguing with negative reviewers. Offer solutions, not explanations, when things go wrong. Ideally, take issues offline, resolving those through email or a call.
  • Track reviews. Depending on the number of reviews you get, set up alerts from every source (in-house and third-party) so someone checks feedback regularly. It needs to be at least daily, and might be hourly for organizations with lots of transactions.
  • Watch competitors, too. Many organizations track their competitors’ reviews to see what customers say about other products and services. Then they can use that insight to find areas for internal improvement or, in the case of a competitors’ negative review, jump in and offer to help the reviewer with your product or service.
  • Build a solid bank. When potential customers see many reviews – ideally posted recently – they trust the company more. Positive reviews are powerful, but negative reviews that were responded to quickly and resolved make a strong impact, too.

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