Consumers will often browse review sites before making a purchase. However, in some cases, these reviews are more confusing than helpful. In others, they are downright misleading. How can you really tell if they are honest reviews or if the company is paying someone to post positive reviews as part of an "online reputation management" service? How much influence should a bad review play in your decision to use or not use a specific company?
Business Review Websites
Today, there are dozens of business review sites for consumers to browse. Sites like Angie's List, Yelp, Google+, and Yahoo Local are all used by consumers. In addition, sites like the Better Business Bureau offer the opportunity for customers to leave a review about a business. If the company is online, there are literally dozens of online sites offering feedback about a company.
How Do Review Websites Work?
In most cases, review websites are open to anyone wanting to leave a review. Sites like Google + do a decent job of weeding out spam, but no program is going to be perfect. One way to rule out review websites is if the site does not allow the business owner to respond to the feedback or actually review the feedback before it is posted. Sites such as this are probably there more for income generation through ads than actual legitimate feedback.
Can I Believe Online Reviews?
This is a great question and one that really has no exact answer. It is not uncommon for some business owners to leave bad reviews about another business within its niche. One site where you will see this a lot is Facebook. The business owner can only delete the posting off their site, but the rating will still count towards the overall review of the company. It is unscrupulous, but it does happen.
You really need to look at the overall picture of the business. How many transactions is the business completing on a daily basis vs. how many reviews are left for the company? In other words, a company doing 10,000 transactions a month that has one or two negative reviews within that period is not a true representation of the customer service the company offers. Every company in the world would be happy with a customer satisfaction rating that high!
So Where Can I Shop?
The bottom line here is that one or two negative feedbacks on any business review site are no reason to write off a business. Take a really good look at the overall picture of customer service and make your decision that way. Also, realize that at times, there simply is no satisfying a customer. If you own a business yourself or work in something customer service related, you have more than likely dealt with at least one person where nothing would satisfy them.
Consumers are far more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than they are after a positive one. So, do the research to find the overall number of transactions a particular business is doing and weigh that against the overall number of reviews you are seeing. If you still have doubts, simply call them up and to see what kind of customer service is being offered. But, if you have a positive experience, do the business owner a favor and leave a review!