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Online customer reviews have gained huge influence on consumer choice. According to our research, almost three-quarters of consumers (74 per cent) say reviews have a bearing on what they buy online.
Yet there is also increasing scepticism about the authenticity of much review content which, if left unchecked, could corrode the trust consumers have in brands.
A plethora of different platforms working to only limited guidelines means consumers are often misled or caught out by rogue reviews. So much so that the Feefo research discovered just seven per cent of shoppers completely trust a customer review. This is a sad and entirely unnecessary state of affairs that has rightly led to calls for a new, objective set of standards to be established, so consumers can see who to trust or rely on.
It is therefore very reassuring to see that a new ISO standard has just been published by the BSI – the UK’s pre-eminent standards organisation – that aims to reverse the tide of scepticism and restore the consumer’s faith in the online customer review. ISO 20488 provides a detailed set of requirements for organisations managing consumer review sites and features recommendations that will help increase transparency and protect suppliers from exploitation.
Feefo, as a provider of real, invitation-only reviews, has been on the committee working with the BSI to deliver a robust and fair set of guidelines for the industry, which risks being undermined by the fakers.
Falsified reviews have increasingly become a big concern for brands and consumers alike, which is why it is crucial that all companies and public service organisations only collect real reviews from real people. Apart from anything else, it makes longer-term business sense.
Cynicism surrounding the customer review
Consumers grow more savvy about the techniques of online manipulation every year, with each media scandal about bought-in or faked reviews only increasing their cynicism. Research has already shown that consumers can sense from the tone of language used, or from the absence of negative sentiment, that review systems are being gamed to their disadvantage. For any company caught red-handed, this can be a very tricky situation. Once a brand is exposed as having undertaken a concerted effort to fool its customers, its reputation can be fatally damaged.
With online review sites increasingly relied on by businesses and consumers looking for truthful insights into products and services, the industry must do more to stop the use of fake reviews and work hard to ensure consumers have access to real information to make informed purchases.
This is the only means by which trust is restored and maintained. Using reviews to establish trust between brand and customers is how long-term loyalty and more meaningful relationships are created. It is only through sustained engagement and a constant sense that they are dealing with an organisation of integrity that customers become advocates, spreading their belief in the brand.
For any consumer-facing company now, product, price and uniqueness are not enough on their own, nor is a good transaction, extremely important though it is. What is crucial is the quality of the experience and in large measure that relies on old-fashioned trust, integrity and giving the customer all the information they need to make an informed choice.
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