Writing fake product reviews? Could be a bad idea…

For business owners who have products and services listed on consumer review sites, the temptation is great to create positive feedback in order to boost visibility and (hopefully!) sales. If you have already garnered a few negative or lukewarm responses, the pressure to address the balance is even greater, but research has led to the development of a new algorithm called GSRank which can automatically detect biased (or fake) reviews.

The researchers found that there were a number of common factors in fake reviews, regardless of who had written them and these form the basis of GSRank. It is hoped that consumer review companies like Yelp!, and maybe even Google themselves will implement GSRank to prevent product reviews becoming worthless to would-be customers.

Oh, and there also remains the possibility that you could be sued for writing and posting fake reviews.

How best to deal with negative reviews?

In the same way customer feedback is essential for improving your service, negative reviews also provide a similar opportunity. Read what the user has said, take a deep breath and then read it again. Picture of an eager service reviewer

If the person has identified a genuine problem, get it fixed. You can then contact the disgruntled customer, thank them for their feedback and advise them that you have made changes based on their feedback. Be polite. Be genuine. Be thankful.

If you are unsure as to the specific problem your customer experienced, you should definitely get in touch and ask for more details. Most people appreciate the effort to find out what went wrong, and if you make it clear that their feedback is helping improving your business, they will often be willing to help. As before, take what your customer tells you and get it sorted.

Finally there are always people who deliberately look for negatives in the hope of wangling freebies, or just to make themselves look superior (TripAdvisor.com appears to be particularly attractive to these types of reviewer). In the first instance you should still get in contact with the person and try and resolve their grievances. If you really cannot resolve the problem, politely thank them for their review and leave it at that. You can scream and shout once you have put the phone down.

Moving on

Constructive criticism is essential to businesses who genuinely want to act in their customers’ best interests. In the socially-engaged marketplace, those who want to succeed need to address their customer’s concerns however they choose to voice them.

The shortcut option is to try and drown out the negative reviews, but when you caught (because you invariably will be), your reputation will be damaged on two fronts: the initial review instantly gains more credibility, and your own trustworthiness will be shot too. Your business trades on its reputation – sully that, and you could lose more than an unhappy customer.