Can you really trust online reviews?

When you are researching a new supplier your due diligence process will undoubtedly include a look at user reviews, utilising platforms like Trustpilot and Google.

If you found a supplier with an 80% or more positive rating you would automatically assume they are pretty good – but what do those reviews actually mean?

Taken at face value, a business with an 80% plus rating would be one you can be confident about talking to, with such a large number of reassuring comments from existing users. However, when you start to drill down and take time to understand the basis for those reviews, you may find that what they tell you about the company you are researching may not give you the peace of mind you are expecting.

How to identify whether online reviews are valuable

The point at which the review is collected is pivotal in determining the worth of the opinion given.

You need to ask:

Are the user opinions based on long term experience of using the supplier (and therefore of value)?

Or

Are the reviews from people who signed up with the supplier just minutes or hours before (and are therefore pretty much useless to you)?

When is it too soon for a genuine review?

Around 9 out of 10 consumers admit they are influenced by reviews so the pressure to win the confidence of new customers has led to an increased number of online sellers resorting to underhand tactics. You often hear about companies buying a stock of good reviews online to cover up any genuine bad ones, but little is discussed about the incentives offered to new customers to submit a review right after they have made a purchase or at the very start of a relationship. Yet this practice is rife and just as misleading.

I personally ordered an item from the Toolstation Website at 8.30 pm one Sunday evening recently. Other than accept the order and take the payment, Toolstation had done nothing and I had no other experience whatsoever of the service they provide or the quality of the products, other than the transaction process of the sale itself, yet by 8am the next morning, I was hit with a review request from Trustpilot via email. And it is not just the Toolstation company operating in this way, I ordered a replacement kitchen sink from Modern Living last Thursday and by 4.25pm on Friday I had a request for a review, but in their defence, the item did arrive an hour before the email did!

This, for me, kills any value or trust in the Trustpilot website.

These rapid response reviews offer no value because they distort the picture, as often the quality of service is only really put to the test when a problem arises further down the line. For me a worthwhile review is one which is provided 6 months to a year after the relationship began or a month or so after a job has been completed. 

Question authenticity when you see a surge of reviews

And the timing of the review requests is not the only problem. As a part of our work for a client we did a search for testimonials for alarm supplier Verisure, on the Trustpilot website. The company appeared to accumulate some unbelievable results in the period 21 December 2021 to 1700 hours on 28 December 2021 – an astonishing 133 reviews over the Christmas holiday period. Coincidence?

The reviews they received were:

83 x 5*

7 x 3 or 4*

23 x 1 or 2* 

So, we switched our search to Google reviews and in the same period  Verisure had logged 83 reviews,

46 x 5*

3 x 4*

4 x 1 or 2*

You might assume that the fact people took the trouble to post on both sites adds credence to the supplier’s profile, but look a little closer, and you realise all of those particular Google reviews have been pulled automatically from the Trustpilot website and are, of course, identical.

So, please remember when using review sites in your due diligence process on a potential new supplier or product, to also analyse the data you are presented with because like so many things internet based, supplier or goods reviews are often not what they seem.

If you need any help selecting a new supplier or product schedule a call now.  Fair Contract Associates offer a low cost service to make sure you’re never tied into a contract that’s unfair or not fit for your needs.