Trusting online reviews

Posted on Dec 22, 2019

in an unfamiliar place and short of time it’s often easy to look for an easy short cut to a good experience. People often go to tripadvisor to find recommendations for a good restaurant or experience in their location. 

Recently, having done the same thing I started to get a better understanding of how top rated places achieve this. 

  1. Incentivising patrons to leave a review
  2. Asking patrons to leave a review

Incentivising visitors is against tripadvisors policy. Before leaving a review, reviewers are asked to confirm that they are not associated with the establishment and are not being incentivised for leaving the review. 

Asking for a review 

The common theme I found when businesses ask for reviews is that they ask their customers if they enjoyed their experience first. Each business I came across that asked for a review went out of their way to make sure the review would be positive before soliciting for it. 

It reminds me of the posters i’ve seen from years gone by  – “if you like our service tell others, if you don’t like it tell us”

Trust

With some businesses realising the value of having recommendation and reviews online, it becomes harder for the general public to know what information they can trust online.

During recent research, i’ve heard time and again that people have worked out the secret code for understanding reviews. Commonly they will look at the best and worse reviews and make a judgement about how believable they think the review is. Do they think it’s someone paid to leave an overly positive fake review? or a disgruntled customer trying to get their own back on a business?

Famously, a few years ago, a writer from Vice magazine challenged themselves to get to first position for a restaurant in London that didn’t exist. Infact the restaurant was in his shed and served Iceland ready meals. Spoiler alert – they managed to get the made up restaurant to number one. It was an interesting experiment that it’s worth a read – https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.vice.com/amp/en_uk/article/434gqw/i-made-my-shed-the-top-rated-restaurant-on-tripadvisor

Sometimes we go for the easy option

I had arranged to meet some friends for dinner. We didn’t know where we were going to go, but we agreed an area, a strip actually, around brick lane – for some curry.

On my way to meet them I remembered a really good restaurant I had been to several times, but hadn’t been to in a while. I did a quick tripadvisor search about it and found the following:

Without time to look into it I immediately dismissed taking my friends there. No-one wants to be responsible for making their friends ill. We ate somewhere else and the food was mediocre, but I digress.

The next morning I decided to look them up on the food standards agency website and lo and behold they actually had a 5-star rating, not 1-star.

Association with a legitimate organisation

In an age when anyone can say anything on the internet it becomes harder and harder to figure out what the truth is. Its harder for people to know what to believe when fake news is associated with a legitimate organisation. This is especially true when people are time poor.

Whilst working in the hotel and leisure industry, i’ve seen a rise of companies that amalgamate trusted reviews, so users know that the advice they are being given are genuine and trustworthy.

A similar trend is popping up in other industries, especially in the media industry. It will be interesting to observe people makes decisions when they want advice but don’t know who to turn to or who to trust.