We Need to Talk About Online Reviews
At BlueDog we try to be as transparent as possible, and in keeping with that theme we want to pull back the curtain on some of the more popular review sites, how they work and what their limitations are. Below we’ve put together a simple chart comparing some of the most popular online review platforms.
To be clear, we aren’t saying online reviews don’t serve an important purpose – customer reviews are an important consideration when trying to choose one company over another, and we rely on customer reviews to address issues which may have slipped through the cracks, or were never brought to our attention. The most important thing to keep in mind is that online reviews, good or bad, aren’t always a fair representation of the over all customer experience. Below we go into a more detailed breakdown of some of the more popular review sites where we highlight the pros and cons of each.
Google is one of the first connection between a customer and a company. Incorporating reviews into search results is a big advantage to business, but there are a number of issues.
• Ideal for local business
• Aggregates Company Info
• SEO & Google Analytic Integration
• Negative reviews are difficult to dispute
• Easily manipulated with fake reviews
• Monitoring can be time consuming and costly
Read More About Google Reviews
Everyone is familiar with the Better Business Bureau; they have been around since 1912. But there are a number of misconceptions about the BBB. Most common is that the belief that the BBB is a government agency and if you visit that link you’ll also learn that the BBB is “not a consumer watchdog”. For businesses trying to maintain their online reputation, the BBB presents a number of obstacles.
• A Trusted Resource
• Comprehensive Company Data
• Local / Regional Affiliates
• No recourse for companies who don’t pay
• Questionable and convoluted rating criteria
• Susceptible to fake reviews
Read More About the Better Business Bureau
The reason we’ve listed the BBB here is because they also collect and post customer reviews on their website. Here’s where things get tricky: if you don’t pay to be a member, you have no way to address bad reviews and fix the customers problem, if you don’t engage with negative reviews, your rating goes down. So, if you’re a company committed to quality customer service, but don’t pay the BBB’s dues, you could have a bad rating because you’re not a BBB member.
That’s not to say the BBB is a scam, plenty of companies have deservedly good, (and bad) ratings on the BBB, but the BBB isn’t a wholly objective resource, and understanding the flaws in their system is crucial.
CardFellow, unlike many other review sites is not a “pay to play” service. CardFellow was started in 2006 as a blog with the intent on shedding some light on the credit card processing industry. As its popularity grew so did its focus. CardFellow now operates as review site and referral service. The site makes money when merchants sign with a company based on CardFellow’s recommendation/referral.
• Free to use
• Objective company overview/review
• Great resource for getting competitive quotes
• Processors have limited input on company profile
• No recourse on standard reviews
• Susceptible to fake reviews
Read More About CardFellow
Top Credit Card Processors is another review site with a narrow focus of credit card processing and processors. They collect reviews of all size processors as well as providing their own processor review. TCCP also publishes a variety of monthly rankings based on a various services using a “proprietary evaluation process“.
• Industry-specific content
• Treat both small and large companies equally
• Comprehensive rankings and evaluations
• “Proprietary evaluation process” raises questions
• Rankings are not based on user feedback
• For most companies, evaluations cost money
Read More About Top Credit Card Processors
ConsumerAffairs, like the BBB, is a private organization that positions itself as reputation management service. The idea is that by capturing consumer complaints the site can help brands address customer issues and concerns and improve as a company. A fine idea in theory but, like other pay-to-play services, if you don’t pay to be “accredited” managing your reputation is difficult at best.
• Great marketing channel for large businesses
• Collects reviews for virtually every business
• Their site makes it easy to find information
Read More About ConsumerAffairs
I don’t think Facebook really needs an introduction it is highly likely you’re on Facebook frequently and if you’re a business owner with a Facebook page (if you don’t have one go make one as soon as you’re done here) you know that it can be frustrating managing reviews and user comments. Facebook offers several management tools, but when those tools prove to be inadequate you’re pretty much on your own. Facebook customer support is awful. You think getting things resolved with your cable or ISP is a hassle? Try getting a problem fixed with the pitch black, infinite void that is Facebook customer service. All problems aside, Facebook is still an invaluable marketing tool for any size or type of business.
• The best marketing platform for every size business
• Exceptional opportunity for organic reach
• Easy to use for all skill levels
• Zero transparency
• Useless customer support
• Unreliable and outdated support documentation
Read More About Facebook
The biggest problem: fake profiles. Facebook recently estimated that upwards of 60 million Facebook accounts may be fake. And when you consider the number of accounts that appear real, but are used for fake “likes” and phony engagement, the numbers are likely much, much higher. Many of these fake accounts will like pages in an effort to appear more legitimate and companies who are looking at raw numbers are unlikely to be too critical of new likes – after all, everyone likes to be liked.
When pages are overrun with fake likes or fake reviews it can be impossible to do much, if anything, to fix it. Facebook limits your ability to control fake reviews, and purging fake likes is a slow process. Facebook does provide tools to reduce the likelihood of these problems occurring, but fixing the problem afterwards is virtually impossible. This means that good, bad, or neutral reviews are, with minor exception, there forever. We have opted to remove the Facebook review section after realizing that our good rating was likely do to reviews that had nothing to do with our company. Sure, most were positive, but it wasn’t an honest representation of our customer’s experience and since Facebook seems unwilling or disinterested in helping us remove these reviews, we felt that complete removing the section was the best option.
• Great marketing tool for business
• Responsive support
• Vetted/verifies reviews
• Susceptible to fake reviews
• Can be difficult for customers to leave negative reviews
• Easy for companies to game the system
Read More About TrustPilot
TrustPilot was founded in 2007 and took a sort of start up approach to building a review platform and currently received roughly 500,000 reviews in virtually every category, each month. Unlike other review platforms, TrustPilot makes it easy for businesses to flag and ultimately remove fake, questionable or untrue reviews by requiring reviewers to back of their claims when they are called into question. The downside, for consumers, is that companies could take advantage of this to push their positive reviews while flagging negative ones.
TrustPilot is not immune to fake reviews; the Guardian and BBC both found that instances of fake reviews were widespread on TrustPilot as well as other online review sites. Generally speaking, the problem doesn’t originate with the review sites but with companies who triy to game the system and exploit flaws in a given sites policies. In September of 2017, TrustPilot published an open letter concerning its review policies.
• Provides consumers a platform to air grievances
• Easy to use
• Paid options could be used to combat negative reviews
• Only allows negative reviews
• No real solution for businesses unwilling or unable to pay
• No way for honest mistakes to be removed
Read More About Ripoff Report
Ripoff Report has been around since 1998 using the tagline “Don’t let them get away with it. Let the truth be known” and claiming to be “By Consumers, for consumers” but there is nothing preventing competetors from posting negative comments. They also offer a paid option to “repair” a companies reputation where their staff “investigates” the claims made and, presumably removes any claims that can’t be verified. This service can cost anywhere from $5,500 to over $100,000. This type of services creates a number of obvious problems.
The nature of the site lends itself to complaints, so rather than a collection of good and bad reviews, in fact, they don’t allow positive user reviews on the site, it’s simply people angrily mashing words into a comment box. We think it is important to provide consumers a platform, but to target only negative reviews seems particularly unhelpful when negative experiences are already what compels people to leave reviews. Forcing companies to pay up if they want to “repair” their reputation only compounds the problems site like this can cause costly headaches for small businesses. We aren’t alone in our concerns; Google’s auto-complete displays “lawsuit” “scam” and “extortion” as 3 of the top 5 suggestions. Ripoff Report has had to deal with a number of legal issues.
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