Do you trust those online reviews?
Thinking about using a company, product, or service based on online reviews? You’re probably interested in getting the best service – and price – for your money. You might have read what other customers have written to help with your decision. But can you always trust those online reviews? Just how credible are they?
Here’s a real-life example of how online reviews aren’t always what they seem. The FTC alleged that AmeriFreight – an automobile shipment broker – regularly offered customers cash discounts and other cash incentives to encourage them to write glowing online reviews. The company also placed the positive reviews in ads, touting them as unbiased proof of customer satisfaction. But, the FTC says, AmeriFreight never disclosed that it paid its customers to write the reviews. This may have led people to believe that prior customers were voluntarily posting positive, unbiased reviews due to their great satisfaction with AmeriFreight’s services.
The bottom line? The law says reviewers should disclose their connection to a company, but that doesn’t always happen. AmeriFreight’s customer reviews were biased because of the cash incentives. And if the company had told people about the incentives, potential customers might have read the reviews more critically.
It always pays to be a savvy customer. The next time you plan to buy anything based on an online review:
- Think about the source of the review. Ask yourself: Where is this review coming from? Is it from an expert organization or individual customers?
- Compare online reviews from a wide variety of websites. You can get a good idea about a company, product, or service from reading user reviews on various retail or shopping comparison sites. You also can look for websites that specialize in reviewing products, and that offer expert reviews and comparisons for what you are looking to buy.