Online Reviews – Should You Trust Them?7 min read

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We live in an online world. For e-commerce, everything happens there: Business is made and transactions on the internet take place, as well as online reviews (feedback). The Internet has made things easier, faster and clearer. Either good or bad, it all comes in one package.

Online shopping is based on trust and each e-store knows it well. As a customer, you are going to make some business deals with people you haven’t seen, and with whom you haven’t had any sort of interaction before. You buy the service or the product and you will just hope that the money you paid will be worth the deal.

At the very first interactions, in what do customers’ trust? The answer might be the percentage of online purchases. When the number of purchases is high, it is more likely that the seller is trustworthy. However, many online shoppers are still reluctant to purchase online and don’t trust the website by its cover. These customers want to hear stories and past experiences of people that paid for the service or product before. It is a way of checking the business practice before they make a decision.

How do people check business practice?

Many studies have shown that people trust other people’s words as much as personal recommendations. This is the reason why online reviews are so important. Positive or negative, reviews play a big role in the decision-making process. These reviews help shoppers make wiser decisions based on existing information.

User’s online reviews are important for any company, whether they are positive or negative.

On the one hand, the more positive online reviews are displayed, the better. Businesses will publish them on the website with pride as one of the most relevant trust elements. Good reviews act as an incentive. They have the power to turn an undecided person into a prospective buyer.

On the other hand, negative online reviews help companies to learn more about people’s opinions about their product or service. It is a helpful way to figure out what is lacking and how to improve further. Any customer review is a warning of the quality of business practice.

The Internet has made the world a clearer place since it is almost impossible to hide things under the rug. For this reason, there are several platforms that people use to leave online reviews that are, supposedly, trustworthy. One of the most relied platforms is TrustPilot. Most companies hasten to get positive reviews after a few disgruntled customers posted some negative ones on TrustPilot, Google +, Facebook or any other channel.

Dissatisfied customers are more inclined to “go out” and spread the “bad word”. It is the easiest way to retaliate against the company. It is very likely that companies begin to focus more on gathering positive online reviews after they dealt with a few dissatisfied customers. It is a scathing manner to learn about your service. Companies understand that when expressed publicly, negative feedback jeopardizes their reputation.

Cyberbullying – what could be hidden behind negative online reviews?

Some negative online reviews are not authentic, as they don’t always come from the customers. Some reviews are blatantly false, written by competitors.

Every business has its competition on the market. While trying to attract new customers, some companies tend to think that “the end justifies the means”. They are capable of doing whatever it takes to put a stain on their customers’ reputation. They could take advantage of some unethical methods to do so, such as posting unfavourable online reviews.

The easiest way to do so is by hiring a computer science specialist. This person would write a couple of good online reviews for your business for a low fee. Review platforms usually have some filters to check the origin of reviews and hinder businesses from writing good reviews for themselves.

At the same time, those specialists could also be hired to write bad reviews for the competitors on online reviewing platforms. Exchanging negative reviews can be seen as a war of words between competitors and it can occur relentlessly. It is called cyberbullying and, unfortunately, it has become a common practice. Competitors with malicious intentions will attack the practice of another business by writing negative reviews.

For e-commerce, online reviews are even more important. They not only shape their image, but they also have a big impact on search engines’ ranking. The more positive reviews there are, the higher the ranking in search engines. Consequently, there are higher chances for people to find your business and buy from you. Good online reviews make a positive impact on businesses’ revenue.

How to find trustworthy and reliable reviews?

While most people believe that online reviews are useful, as they help to shape your opinion about a product or a service, I personally do not necessarily think that they are an indication of their quality.

One thing that should raise a question mark is when reviews differ significantly. You should dig deeper and read more of them.

It is very important to understand how the business works in order to judge if people’s complaints are reasonable or not. Many times, when a business involves other parties in order to carry out a service, it is important to understand the implications each of them has in the entire process. Judging one company by the way the other party has performed the service is misleading.

When leaving a review, people are actually waiting for an answer. The way businesses react to negative reviews will tell how much they are trying to improve and help their customers. Serious businesses will be ready to defend themselves with reasonable arguments.

Many of them answer their customers’ reviews and give an explanation for their complaints. I encourage you to read the explanations too. This will help you to understand the entire situation and be able to have a formulated opinion about the case.

Why you should be suspicious when you find too many positive reviews?

The number of reviews grows relatively slow organically. Personally, I frown when I find a company with thousands of positive online reviews received in a relatively short time. This is because good reviews are harder to gather.

Mostly, people don’t review things that are satisfactory. If a service is conducted as promised or if a product is working as expected, people will rarely take the time to leave a positive review. Business tries to entice them to do it by offering different benefits such as discounts.

When things go the wrong way, customers are more inclined to share their bad experiences with the online world. Customers know that words are powerful and that it is an easy and effective “tool” to use in order to affect the company in some way. In this case, they could influence the success of a company. People can easily leave bad reviews. Someone with sour grapes will probably go publicly to express his/her opinion.

It is wise to be a bit reluctant and not take anything for granted. Not all reviews are written in good faith. It is actually easy to skim over them and see the ones which are suspicious.

In conclusion, online reviews are a good instrument to use when selecting companies. However, they also have become a weapon for competitors to downgrade other companies’ services and to give themselves a better reputation. My point here is that while I truly think that reviews are a good way to learn more about the business, it is crucial not to believe everything we read online.

We should discern and recognize the difference between real reviews and cyberbullying. It does happen. It just requires an eagle eye to all customers.

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Last modified: April 29, 2019

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