Do Online Reviews Really Help?

feedback iconBefore I make a large purchase, such as a TV or laptop, I research the best product for my needs, read a few reviews and then look for the best price and buy. If I’m looking for a holiday, booking a hotel or require a service, I read far more reviews than I would for a product and take longer to decide. Whichever way you buy your goods and services, how helpful are the reviews and can you trust them?

How Helpful?

If I’m buying a product, I find that reviews can be helpful. For example, I may need to know how many usb ports there are on a particular laptop and the product info doesn’t tell me, but I find this review – ‘This laptop is brill, it’s got 3 usb ports and I can plug all my extras in it at once.’ That, to me, is handy and could make the difference between buying it or not.

However, if I want to book a hotel or service, I find reviews, more often than not, to be a hindrance. I have usually done my research, found a company that look like they could re-tile my bathroom to a good standard or a lovely hotel, in the right location and at the right price and I start to read the reviews, but everyone has different standards and different needs. What is a ‘must-have’ to one person, is not so important for another, but the bad reviews start to give you doubts about your choice.

Of course, there are some obvious comments, that you can take with a pinch of salt. If someone says the mattress was too hard, you know that for you that wouldn’t be a problem or the hotel was too hot and you feel the cold, so again not a problem for you. It’s the other reviews about the noisy people in the room next door or the traffic noise below and even though you know that might not apply to your room, you’re not so excited about this hotel for your romantic weekend, which could be really lovely. Then you have the dilemma of taking the risk or looking for another and going through this whole process again. I have been known to waste a whole day trying to find a good hotel!

Are they Trustworthy?

My answer to this would be yes and no. As someone who has owned an internet business in the past and prided myself on excellent customer service, there were still occasions when things went wrong, usually problems with third party delivery services and although I always went out of my way to put things right, I know that no matter how hard you try you can’t always please everyone. There are some customers out there who don’t know how to complain and who send nasty emails in red capital letters calling you all sorts of names, before they’ve even given you the chance to put things right. So I would say that if you come across any business site who has a customer testimonials page and the reviews are all perfect, this should ring alarm bells, as they are not showing a true reflection of real life in business.

Also from a technical point of view, most small to medium websites, don’t have live reviews, which means they get to moderate exactly what goes up as a testimonial. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad, by not showing these, but are they good, are they trustworthy?

Live reviews are more believable, because they are in real-time and show warts and all, although I’m not sure if some systems allow for moderation or not, but if the site you are looking at, is showing a mixture of good and bad reviews, then it’s more likely a true reflection. However, it has been known that a lot of reviews are false. People are paid to write them or business owners write their own. Only today did I read an article about a big-named review company, showing regular reviews for a company who hasn’t traded for 4 years!yellow pages

You can, of course, try to check out the person giving the review, to see if they’re genuine, but who’s got the time or inclination? Perhaps the old days of looking up a service in your local Yellow Pages was the better option?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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