What To Do When Shoppers Don’t Trust Your Customer Reviews

August 25, 2011 by George Eberstadt

The New York Times recently published a piece about the industry of paid customer reviews.  This story surfaces periodically.  Even if it’s only a small percent of reviews that are paid for, the perception that positive reviews are bought (or that negative reviews are suppressed) undermines the value of all reviews, even the legitimate ones.  Here’s a typical comment responding to the NY Times article:

“When I search Amazon, I only trust the negative reviews. Too many of the 5-star comments sound phony.”

So if you have customer reviews on your storefront, what can you do to address review-skepticism?

One option is to augment your customer reviews with a Social Q&A system that enables shoppers to get their product questions answered by people who actually bought the item or service they are considering.  Done right, a Social Q&A system delivers answers to a shopper question within hours from multiple buyers of the item, and it enables the shopper to continue a back-and-forth exchange with those purchasers for follow-up questions.  In other words, it provides the sort of social experience that would be very hard to fake.  So shoppers can be confident that the answerer’s sentiment is trustworthy.

Further, a store’s willingness to put shoppers directly in touch with real customers says a lot about the confidence the store has in its products, service and customer satisfaction.  This confidence produces a “halo effect” that adds to the credibility of the store’s customer reviews, too.  Shoppers might figure “why would this store fake their reviews when they are giving me direct access to their customers?”

While customer reviews will continue to be an important part of the online shopping experience, complementing them with Social Q&A is a powerful way to improve review credibility and address the concerns of the review skeptics.

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Have you ever spotted a customer review online that you just knew was not legitimate?  Tell us about it below.