Following the recent release of the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) investigation report into review websites, major review site TrustPilot has changed its moderation process in a bid to eliminate false reviews for consumers and protect company reputations, as well as their own.
Best practice guidelines
TrustPilot has received support from various other businesses in a bid to provide the guidelines which have been backed by Trading Standards. Alongside its automated detection software, the website now employs 35 people to work through over 13 million online reviews to reduce fraudulent behaviour on the site. This follows the release of the CMA investigation report, which Igniyte was asked to contribute to, outlining various flaws in the current reviews system.
It was found last year in the BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey 2014 that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family or friends. This emphasises the growing importance of the industry; it was also found that around £23 billion of annual UK spending is influenced by reviews, with users finding them beneficial in some way. It has also been recently discovered that star ratings hold a higher importance than actual reviews on many sites.
Unfortunately at the moment, many ratings and perceptions depicted by online review sites do not relate to the actual credibility of a company’s product or services, something which the CMA report outlines as of high importance.
The influence of online reviews is growing and accurate moderation needs to be found sooner rather than later if they’re to maintain their authority and credibility.
Review sites need to be following best practice, not only are they not providing a reliable source of information for consumers and putting company’s reputations at risk; but they’re risking action being taken against them by the CMA if they don’t follow best practice:
- Detection: Automated detection software is constantly developing and it is hoped that this will soon be able to accurately flag suspicious reviews prominently. However, for the time being, it seems that the quickest, most accurate way is for manual detection or users of the site flagging up a suspicious review.
- Moderation: Allow all reviews. Don’t suppress negative ones or boost positive ones for certain companies you may have a commercial relationship with. Firstly, any commercial relationships should be made clear on the site, and secondly, don’t do anything to give consumers a false representation of what their customers think of them. Some reviews may be moderated in line with the website’s terms and conditions, especially if they include any defamatory content, personal information or threatening language.
- Transparency: Some review sites allow incentives and endorsements where companies can effectively pay for a good review. Such practices are at risk of breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the UK Advertising Codes. It is therefore important to make it inherently clear which reviews have been endorsed, so that the consumer is in no doubt which are the organic reviews and which have been encouraged.
Reputation is now often at the forefront of a business’s success. It is vitally important that a company is presented online as accurately and fairly as possible. If you’d like further advice on how to ensure that your company’s reputation or reviews strategy is in line with best practice, get in touch with me in complete confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org or on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689.