It’s conventional wisdom, and well pretty much common sense that 5* ratings are good. I agree. I’m not going to tell you anything different. Online ratings and reviews are a fantastic way of companies showcasing their strengths and values, but as with anything, sometimes if it looks too good to be true then it probably is . . .
3 reasons why you can’t trust companies only having 5* ratings
- Businesses manipulate the reviews
- Companies pick and choose
- There are too few reviews
The manipulation of ratings and reviews
A friend on mine Daniel Lemin recently wrote a book dedicated to ratings and reviews called Manipurated. This is a book focused on how business owners can fight fraudulent ratings and reviews. As a part of this book he spoke to a number of people that write fake reviews for businesses. This is an established industry that is constantly working away in the darkness. However, I do not for one second believe that this is something that’s widespread, but I do believe there is definitely something in this, and something that’s a lot more widespread that I really want to believe.
On the plus side of this there has been some great news coming out from places like Yelp and Amazon. In an article on CBS in 2016 they really looked at the steps Yelp are attempting to make to fight these fraudulent reviews, but there are also steps you can take
“There are a couple things you can do to try to determine if a review is real: check to see how many reviews the person has written — Yelp says if they only write one positive review of a single business, that may not be as reliable — and read reviews that offer more detail to get more specifics on positives and negatives of a particular business.”
They pick and choose the best
For me this goes back to the “good old days” where a company could put up a testimonials page on their website with a few hand picked, a specially chosen reviews from some of their most trusted clients. no ,no, no, stop it. Its such a pet peeve of mine to see testimonials pages on websites. There is no validation of any of those comments. You can’t see how old they are are, and frankly mean absolutely nothing. In fact I believe that they are actually a negative. For me if a company cannot get real people, to write real reviews of a company in a location that isn’t owned by the company itself (such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trustpilot and so on) then me and that company and myself have already got trust issues. If any company does business then it should have customers that have an opinion on it. Those customers can and should be used to highlight your business.
I have a real appreciation for companies that step up and ask their customers to review them, and companies which especially ask for reviews indiscriminately. Places like restaurants, hotels and retailers. It’s great for a number of reasons. Firstly as viewers of reviews you get an authentic look at what people think. Secondly as a business you get lots of feedback, feedback which can be used to either improve areas or to help maintain other areas which are already performing well.
So, to wrap that up in a neat little package. Ask for reviews, build up a banks of them, and use them to convince people to work with you, and use them to help improve yourself.
A case of too few reviews
It is my opinion and belief that if you are looking at the ratings and reviews of a company anything less than 4 or 5 reviews means nothing. Why? Because these are people you do not know. They may not have all of the same standards and previous experiences that you would have had. Because one random person says it’s true, that doesn’t make it so, neither is it a viable cross-section of the customer base. By having a range of views and opinions a much fuller pictures is able to be built of the company.
In terms of product reviews things are a little different. With certain products it’s much easier to get an idea of whether it’s good or bad from fewer reviews. Companies are complex, you have so much more you can potentially like or dislike compared to certain products. Take a light bulb for instance. If it works great, positive review. If it keeps blowing though, then it’s negative, you don’t have to consider customer service, delivery times, amongst everything else.
To put this succinctly having more reviews makes it easier for potential customers to trust you. More trust means people are more likely to do business with you.
Where does this leave us?
Ratings and reviews are such a good way of building trust, especially if you are an SME. Encourage them, embrace them, learn from them. But, always be on the look out for reviews and ratings that are too good to be true. If a company only has 5 star ratings I get nervous, because no one is perfect, and a company claiming that they are are almost definitely hiding something.