Recently I was asked if I used review sites. Yup. Of course I do. I was also asked if I thought people did generally and if so which ones. Interesting question I thought, so I did some extensive scientific research over a couple of days and asked a few friends, family, and those who follow me on Twitter and those who like my page on Facebook. So here are my findings….
Background to review sites
It takes longer to look up reviews than it does to write a letter of complaint. So few people put a complaint in writing. The rest one assumes are content with accepting poor food, faulty goods and poor service for which they have paid! But more people appear to spend far more time looking at what a best buy might be. Reviews are being written and read more as other sites spring up all the time.
What sites get used the most?
Even what must arguably be the most well known and most used review site Trip Advisor was used by only 35% of respondents to my survey and less than 10% post reviews. Amazon was also popular with 30% using it and of course Which? with a surprisingly low score of 20% of respondents using it.
Other sites getting a mention were, AV Forums, Gsmarena.com, Argos, Review Centre, Yelp, Ciao, DooYoo, Checkatrade, B & Q and new on the scene BizAdvisor. One or two of those I hadn’t even heard of and I use review sites! But! More people went by the name of a product than used these sites.
Amazon reviews are good because if you are already on the site looking to buy it takes no extra clicks to see the review. Some of the reviews are very funny too. Take a look at my mate Iain Duncan Smith’s first (and last?!) novel on there. (Check out the “All I know series too!)
How much can you depend on sites anyway? Anything less than having 5 reviews you are going to disregard. There isn’t nearly enough reliable information. Let’s take Trip Advisor. Now I do write reviews there! Lots of ’em! Not just bad ones either (I know you were thinking that!) but I do take just as much delight in being given a “found this helpful” vote on reviews which clearly would stop someone staying somewhere as I do with ones where extra business will be gained. I think writing reviews helps people and it doesn’t take that long. Part of my principles – if people complained more then service would have to improve, it’s the same thing really, the more we share good and bad service the more accountable businesses become and the more people will use review sites. A good review site will allow businesses to comment on reviews. It happens surprisingly little on Trip Advisor. A site where businesses are able to have the last word when someone criticises them on one of the (if not the) largest reviews sites out there and still very few businesses use their right to reply. So the business is missing many a trick a) to thank customers to encourage them to return and b) risk other people accepting a review that may not be wholly true.
I’ve also known people ask people for fake good reviews for themselves or friends. Bad move, makes them look very dishonest, mainly because it is!
Spotting the fake reviews good and bad
The point about relying on reviews was picked up by people who said they didn’t use review sites citing them to be unreliable. That why I advise the following
- Only really take on board reviews where there are at least 5 entries so you can discount the top and bottom.
- If someone is saying that an item has this great part and that superb element but the majority of the reviews say otherwise, be dubious!
- Likewise, if someone says they find a product useless or similar and the majority of other reviews are positive, it’s likely to be fake. Not necessarily a paid for review, but a competitor or a troll, many of them exist on the Internet!
- Check out the reviewer. Click on the reviewer and their other reviews, see if there are any similar patterns. Are they all 5*?
- If the reviewer has all their reviews hidden that is unusual. If they are leaving bad reviews it could well be a troll or a competitor
- Look at dates. Lots in a short amount of time, particularly at point of launch or after lots of low scores.
- Someone who undertakes honest reviews for companies such as bloggers will state that they were given the item for free.
Word of warning about Trustpilot
“Ah” said someone “TrustPilot is good because you have to verify that you were a real customer” You’d think that would be good wouldn’t you? Not necessarily. Last year a company tweeted that they would give people a £20 M & S voucher to the first 10 people (may have been 20) who wrote a good review. Totally backfired, people retweeted this and it did them no favours. They deleted the tweet later but the damage was done. Some of it by me it has to be said. I felt it my duty. Me being me tried to do something about it and I contacted Trust Pilot. I left a review stating what this company had done and the business got the review removed within an hour because I was not a real customer. I did it again and got abuse from the company! I contacted Trust Pilot and told them what had happened and they asked for my customer reference clearly not having read my email stating that I wasn’t a customer! Followers of this blog know how much that sort of thing annoys me so I emailed again, and again they came back with the same thing! I got really cross and made myself very clear but so did they, that they would do nothing about the company which had attempted to buy reviews, a clear breach of their own rules. I have never trusted this review site since.
Update 22/10/15 Interesting article regarding Amazon suing people for fake reviews and some pointers on spotting the fake reviews.
Further warnings about fake reviews
Update 18/10/18 Which? goes undercover to expose fake and paid-for reviews
Should you use review sites when purchasing an item?
So, given the above my opinion on review sites remain the same. It is a good guide but should only play a small part in your purchasing decision until more people start writing reviews.
How much do you write and or use review sites?
If you have received poor quality good or services you should certainly complain and you can threaten leaving an honest review on forums etc. if necessary. See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for more help.
For masses of information and help with asserting your legal rights including template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to GettingREFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!
If you are a company that wants to reduce those bad reviews check out The Complaining Cow services.