Are Customer Reviews Reliable?


Customer reviews have become an important part of the buying process for many consumers, whether it’s reading reviews on Amazon, Google or anywhere else, people rely on the opinions of others to inform their own purchasing decisions. But, are these reviews reliable?

On one hand, customer reviews can be incredibly valuable. They provide insight into the experiences of other customers and can give you a sense of what to expect from a product or service. 

On the other hand, if they’re not from a reliable source, reviews can also be misleading or fake. In order to make an informed decision, it’s important to understand the reliability of reviews and how to spot fake ones.


Google Reviews


Google Reviews are left by customers directly on a business’ Google Business Profile (GBP). These reviews are generally considered to be reliable because they are tied to the customer’s Google account, which means there is more accountability involved and naturally, they are less likely to be fake. 

However, fake reviews can still slip through and this is definitely the case with Google, despite their best efforts! Google uses a variety of techniques to detect fake reviews, including machine learning algorithms and manual reviewing by their teams. If a review is flagged as fake and is found to be fake, it will be removed.

The effort taken by Google to prevent the fake reviews definitely increases the chances of their reviews being legitimate, but with a rise in ‘businesses’ offering positive Google reviews as a paid service, it’s important to be vigilant.


Other Review Platforms


While Google Reviews are generally considered to be reliable, the same cannot be said for all review platforms. 

On sites like Amazon, it is much more common for fake reviews to slip through. This is because they rely on a more decentralised review system, where anyone can leave a review without having to verify their identity – they don’t even have to have purchased the product!

To combat fake reviews, Amazon have implemented systems to detect and remove fake reviews. However, the system is not perfect and fake reviews still slip through. In addition, businesses can also pay for fake positive reviews to be left, which is known as “astroturfing”. This can make it difficult for consumers to know which reviews are genuine and which ones are not. 


How to Spot Fake Reviews


There are a few ways to check if a review is fake. One way is to look at the language used in the reviews. Fake reviews often use excessively positive language and may even include the same phrase multiple times, if that phrase or style of language is repeated in multiple reviews it also suggests that some of the positive reviews for that business have been purchased in bulk.

If you’re not sure about the legitimacy of a particular review, another way this is to check the profile of the reviewer. Profiles used for fake reviews will often come from a reviewer with few or no reviews, but profiles with only positive reviews for a single company should also be taken with a grain of salt.

And then, of course, there’s the obvious overly rude reviews that can include details that allude to them being left by disgruntled ex employees.


Reporting Fake Reviews


If you believe a review is fake, it’s important to report it to the review platform you saw it on. On Google, you can flag a review you believe is fake for removal by clicking the “flag as inappropriate” link next to the review. This process is very similar across most platforms, including Amazon. 

Once the review is reported, the usual process suggests it will be reviewed by the platform’s team and, if found to be fake, removed.


Protecting Yourself From Fake Reviews


A way to protect your own business from fake reviews, and in turn protect your customers, is by using a closed review platform. 

A closed review platform is one where the reviews are only collected from customers that have had a verified transaction with the business. By collecting reviews from only verified customers, closed review platforms greatly reduce the risk of fake reviews being left.

Taking steps to encourage your customers to leave honest and authentic reviews also helps to mitigate the impact of fake reviews if you do fall victim to them. For example, asking all of your customers to leave a review immediately after purchase or after they’ve received the service means you’ll generate a base of genuine reviews reflecting the experiences of your clients. 

This accuracy does occasionally mean there is a greater chance of negative reviews if the customers don’t feel they’ve had a great experience, but this is another opportunity to show excellent customer service by responding and addressing any issues or concerns that are brought up in them. 

This not only helps to build trust with your customers, but it also makes the review process more transparent for potential future clients. 

Additionally, you should be mindful not to incentivise customers to leave reviews, as this is often considered a violation of review platform policies (including on Google). As the incentive encourages customers to leave a positive review regardless of their experience, such reviews are likely to be removed which can damage your reputation. 

In short, closed platforms, encouraging honest reviews and avoiding incentivising for positive reviews are just some of the ways you can reduce the chance of fake reviews being left on your platform. 

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