Online reviews have gained such popularity that today they represent one of the main criteria by which people decide where to eat, which shop to shop, and, consequently, which places to avoid. At the same time, increasingly, merchants and companies, realizing their importance, try to exploit them to promote their business. As often happens, however, customers who are satisfied with the shopping experience tend not to leave any reviews, except for the few who are particularly impressed. On the contrary, most reviews come from users who have had a negative experience and take the opportunity to complain about it. But can we trust them? What if the reviews aren’t entirely accurate? Do not worry. A crackdown on the part of the Union is coming, which requires transparency. But let’s go in order.
Are The Reviews Reliable?
As mentioned, a satisfied customer will have little reason to leave a positive review. Much more efficiently, it will be users who leave dissatisfied, angry reviews or have had a negative experience. But how much can we trust a study on the web, whether positive or negative? The answer is not much for now. Negative reviews, for example, are sometimes exploited by users seeking revenge, unfair competitors who aim to harm the competition, and people who base their opinion on subjective opinions, isolated incidents, etc. Conversely, positive reviews can be posted by friends, relatives, or the companies themselves, directly or on commission. In addition, businesses tend to promote positive comments, perhaps by posting them on their site or offering discounts and promotions to incentivize them. As a result, we can’t be sure that the restaurant with the most stars in town is also the best, but it may even be the one with the least.
This problem, however, is destined to change or, to put it better, apart. Directives are about to come into force, promulgated precisely to regulate reviews on the web. Given that the publication of false reviews remains an illegal practice, even if challenging to verify, the measure aims to increase transparency on the part of companies. The Directive requires that a company must:
- Inform consumers about the procedures for verifying the origin of reviews
- Indicate in some way if the study received was stimulated by incentives such as rewards and discount coupons
Furthermore, the provision prohibits the following:
- Use only positive reviews in a discretionary way;
- Indicate that the comments received were written by individuals who have purchased the product without verifying that this is indeed the case;
- Falsely review, directly or through third parties, their business (positively) or competing companies (with negative reviews ).
Through these measures, the Parliament hopes to crack down on today’s use of online reviews. But problems remain.
The above points are aimed at companies and their business and marketing practices. Once the Directive has entered into force, commercial activities will no longer be able to exploit reviews for promotional purposes. Some of the most widely used incorrect practices will also be regulated. The most well-known digital platforms, such as Facebook and Google, already play a role of control and possible removal of reviews reported as inappropriate. Some tools, such as Trustpilot, prevent site manipulation through verification systems. However, according to research, 114 out of 223 sites could not guarantee the reviews’ authenticity.
The reason that prompted the Commission to introduce this provision. On the other hand, the question of the “subjectivity” of the comments left by users remains pending. This is a difficult question to resolve, as we cannot (and never will) know if a customer has had a negative experience due to a lack on the part of the company or for extraneous reasons. In other words, annoying, pretentious, and arrogant customers will always exist.
How Companies Respond
In light of the new rules (which we remind you have not yet entered into force), to manage online reviews in the best possible way, exhibitors must:
- Monitor the reviews received, reporting inappropriate and untrue ones;
- Work with verified review providers to prevent bogus comments;
- Please take advantage of the criticisms received to improve their service. Not all negative reviews are published to harm the company;
- Respond to the negative comments of the so-called trolls and haters, pointing out the inconsistencies and absurdities (which we assure you will be present) in a kind and polite way.
If, as we said at the beginning, reviews are now fundamental to the reputation of a business, the latter must strive to make them as positive as possible without ignoring the negative ones.