Customer Reviews – a reality check

Estimated reading time: 2 min

The New Zealand Commerce Commission is investigating online retailers who they claim have manipulated customer reviews and testimonials in

“…conduct that was liable to mislead consumers by creating artificially positive impressions…”

NZ Commerce Commission website

What actions constitute “misleading consumers”?

Commerce Commission NZ, Consumer affairs, fair trade,

Customer Reviews for Ecommerce

If you get a review which says “It was terrible and I won’t recommend you.” What do you think? What do you do? Was this review justified when the consumer doesn’t give any context to this viewpoint?

Reviews are particularly important for direct to consumer and ecommerce businesses. Whether published on independent sites or on the brand store, we all use reviews to form an opinion on how we are about to spend our money.

Have you got a clear policy on the following?

  • Moderation
  • Star ratings
  • Abusive reviews
  • Soliciting reviews

All nice and simple until you get a situation which can be interpreted in different ways from different perspectives. Consider these questions

Moderation – do you hold all reviews for moderation? What does moderation entail? Do you correct spelling? Do you add or remove words? Is moderation just checking there are no swear words? Or does something else happen to a submitted review?

Star ratings – are these the average of all reviews, or the most recent reviews? Are all reviews published? What happens to low star reviews? What if the description doesn’t match the star rating – nice words and few stars or the reverse? (Check out this pizza place who wants 1 star reviews).

Abuse – swearing and name-calling is straightforward. What about negative statements about staff or products? How about when no reason is given for a bad review? Could this be a competitor bad-mouthing your brand?

Your reviews policy – does the customer writing a review have a reasonable expectation that their words will be published? They give you permission to publish, what if you do not? When you solicit a review, what does the consumer expect to happen? Are you offering a special / coupon (bribe) in exchange for a review?

Do you reply to reviews? Some review websites allow brands to respond – do you do this? What you say? How you reply to criticism? And how quickly should you reply? These all inform the reader and create a perception of your brand.

What next for your reviews?

Follow the Commerce Commission case and in the meantime, check out your own business review policies for the public and also for your staff.

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