Customer reviews heavily impact decision choices by consumers, be it in making online purchases or choosing to patronize a hotel or restaurant. Consequently, acing the reviews game has become an obsession with many businesses across sector verticals, irrespective of the actual quality of the products or service that are on offer.
An entire industry has spawned around the reviews which are a subset of the user generated content or the UGC space. In the race to ‘outrate’ the competition, there is always the temptation to engage in unfair practices like buying oneself favorable reviews or worse still, having a beggar thy neighbor mentality by planting negative reviews about the competition.
The typical justification for such mindset that one gets to hear is that ‘my competition does it, so I too am forced to do it’. This guilt mitigation excuse is as lame as it is dangerous, since fake ratings contaminate the very purpose reviews are supposed to serve- help consumers in making an informed decision in exercising their choice and to help business improve customer experience. As with fake news playing havoc in societies, fake reviews can adversely impact the fortune of businesses.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” — Bill Gates
Businesses are not alone in contributing to this growing tide of fake reviews. There are the blacksheep among consumers as well, trying their luck in getting away with freebies by exploiting the goodwill and fear of the brands. The stories of how these freeloaders cajole, threaten and bully for freebies under the overt threat of posting a negative review are legend. This has spawned a class of professional con artists who deliberately fake incidents to extort material benefits.
The pushback against such unethical practices is gaining traction as brands have started to wisen up but the scourge of fake reviews nevertheless continues to plague review sites and frustrate attempts at gauging customer sentiments accurately with powerful analytics tools. Sentiment mining algorithms are getting more adept at spotting fake reviews even as review sites are scrambling to put verification protocols and mechanisms in place to ensure their own credibility.
Brands too can mitigate the impact of fake reviews by spotting them ‘as they happen’, by deploying real time sentiment mining platforms that would provide an instant alert, the moment a review is posted. The benefits are two fold- opportunity for onsite customer recovery in case of a genuine grievance and early warning of a fake review which can be flagged to the review site before the ‘damage is done’.
Thank you for reading our blog!
Hoick Team 💙
Follow us on LinkedIn for more conversations about digital, customer experience, employee experience, and performance improvement.