When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web 30 years ago, he could not possibly have foreseen the immense benefits his creation would give rise to. Without question, every one of us has gained enormously from the web’s existence. As customers, our primary advantage is the balance of power swinging towards us and away from the suppliers. Today our buying decisions are easier to make than ever before owing to the sheer wealth of information available to us.
The last 20 years has seen an explosion of ways in which a customer can give feedback to providers, and a selection of platforms have enabled that feedback to be captured for other customers to learn from. In theory, reviews aggregated by independent sites such as Amazon, Google Stars, TripAdvisor and Glassdoor necessitate a maturity from businesses to accept and grow from both high praise and constructive criticism.
But of course, with such valuable systems comes the opportunity to abuse them.
You may be aware of the viral YouTube hit published by a man whose Taylor guitar was damaged by United Airlines. At time of writing, the video has racked up over 19 million views and consequently cost the airline to the tune of $180 million.
Faced with the possibility of such a daunting scenario, some companies are choosing to strike back and enhance their public image by any means necessary. Thanks to exposés from the likes of Which?, we are more aware of the practice of fake reviews instigated by the organisation itself or an agency working on its behalf, designed to influence our psychological association with the brand, but we are still yet to fully uncover the extent to which these strategies are deployed.
In most cases, faux reviews aren’t difficult to identify and can be quickly discounted. As we grow wiser to their actions, however, the culprits are only motivated to become more convincing in their deception. The most cost-effective method for merchants to gain that highly sought ‘Verified Buyer’ mark next to their fraudulent review is far easier than it ought to be, despite Amazon’s insistence on their commitment to crack down on offenders.
Tactics such as these appear to be becoming increasingly commonplace. One British Airways employee wrote to us this week to confirm that the company specifically employs an army of weaponised trolls; whose mission it is to counteract and filter out bad publicity from social media and news content around the web. Exploiting SEO algorithms is just one way to influence Google’s rankings and ensure undesirable results fade into obscurity, and a lucrative industry dedicated to these ‘black hat’ quick fixes exists for that sole purpose.
On 23rd March 2019, The Times ran a story titled “Firms Pay Trustpilot to Filter Reviews.” It goes on to explain that, for a nominal fee, Trustpilot will eradicate bad reviews and promote an inauthentic spotless record. This is, of course, a betrayal of the platform’s purpose and a violation of the very trust implied by its name. Indeed, how can anyone take their ratings at face value in the knowledge that scores are so easily manipulated?
Of course, it’s important to note that not all companies subscribe to such a distortion of truth. Many of us look upon the above practices as abhorrent. Before we let ourselves off the hook, however, let’s acknowledge that we may be unwittingly participating in the Fake News charade in more subtle ways. Just like the doctored review tactics mentioned, a choice to ignore the voice of the customer is a betrayal.
To demonstrate you care about customer feedback is to do more than just allow honest reviews to stand. Instead, we can use this information to make vital improvements to our processes and create a far better Customer Experience that stands to benefit everyone. Going one step further; making a conscious effort to unearth what an ideal experience looks like to your customer will inform precise changes that otherwise remain neglected.
If you wish to discover how Promising Outcomes can help you achieve this, contact us below for more information.