Customer reviews heavily impact decision choices by consumers, be it in making online purchases or choosing to patronize a hotel or restaurant. Consequently, acing the reviews game has become an obsession with many businesses across sector verticals, irrespective of the actual quality of the products or services that are on offer.
In the race to ‘outrate’ competitors, there will always be the temptation to engage in unfair practices, with an entire industry spawned across reviews – a subset of user-generated content or the UGC space; like buying oneself favorable reviews or worse still, having a beggar thy neighbor mentality by planting negative reviews about the competition.
The typical justification for such a mindset that one gets to hear is that ‘my competition does it, so I too am forced to do it. This guilt mitigation excuse is as lame as it is dangerous. The corruption of fake ratings defeats the very purpose reviews are supposed to serve: to assist consumers in making an informed decision by exercising their choice to help businesses improve customer experience. With fake news playing havoc in societies, fake reviews can adversely impact the fortune of businesses.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” — Bill Gates
Businesses are not alone in contributing to this growing tide of fake reviews. There is a ‘Blacksheep’ among consumers, trying their luck in getting away with freebies by exploiting the goodwill and fear of the brands. The stories of how these freeloaders cajole, threaten and bully for freebies under the overt threat of posting a negative review are legend. These efforts have generated a class of professional con artists who deliberately fake incidents to extort material benefits.
Despite the fake reviews continuing to plague review sites, the pushback against such unethical practices is gaining traction as brands have started to wisen up. Sentiment mining algorithms are getting more adept at spotting fake reviews even as review sites are scrambling to put verification protocols and mechanisms in place to ensure their credibility.
The impact of fake reviews can be mitigated by Brands’ ‘as they happen’. The use of real-time sentiment mining platforms provides instant alerts, notifying you of a review post as soon as it happens. The benefits allow for onsite customer recovery in case of a genuine grievance and early warning of a fake review, that way you’re able to flag it to the review site before the ‘damage is done.