Wednesday 30 September 2020

Can consumers trust review sites (2)?

This story was run by most of the media last weekend:

So we looked up the review providers for both companies - which happened to be the same (Trustpilot) - and what did we see?


And this:

On the face of it, at least from the headline scores, not so bad: most consumers check the overall score, in this case: 4.0 out of 5 for both. The key here is just that: that consumers have been proven to trust businesses that score 4 out of 5 (see 'How misleading are review scores?'). But is that a true reflection of the reality of customers' experience with these two companies? The press headlines would suggest there's more, so let's mine down further:


Seriously, Trustpilot? Both companies leave twenty percent of their customers, who are buying seriously big-ticket items - replacement windows and doors - so unhappy that they rate them 'poor' or 'bad'? That makes a business 'great' in Trustpilot's eyes?

Now we do what we advise all consumers to do (and where we advise all our clients to focus their efforts): look at the business's Google reviews (and scores!).

Only two example locations, but trust us, we looked at plenty and these are representative

So we have one simple question for Trustpilot and all their fellow review sites:

How do you add value for the consumer when compared to Google reviews?

Because if you cannot come up with a meaningful answer, and we surely cannot, you shouldn't be in the business of providing a service that would, on the face of all the evidence (see articles passim on the blog) benefit the business to the detriment of the consumer.

Here is a review site that claims to add value for consumers: Feefo.

But here is the same business on Google:

And Feefo's 'added value'? They only publish reviews where the reviewer has been emailed by the business and specifically invited to post a review. The added value is intended to be in the reassurance that the person writing the review is identifiably a customer of the business. But there are major flaws in this system.

1.  The business has control of the invitation, and it is just too easy for the business to 'forget' to email its identifiably unhappy customers.

2.  The business has control over the timing of the invitation. 

3.  Besides offering the business an opportunity to invite the review when the customer is at their happiest (usually just after delivery of the service or product) this method is illegal in the UK (see more here).

Google's added value?

  1. It is seen by every single prospective customer, every time they search
  2. It's trusted by consumers (by comparison with most review sites it's difficult to game)
  3. It's free!

So: our question for all three parties: the businesses, the review sites and the regulators (the CMA in the UK): 

When are you going to stop using mechanisms that are open to abuse and self-evidently benefit the business and not the consumer?

If any of these parties, or indeed any of our readers, have answers, comments or suggestions please comment below.


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