What you need to know about review gating
While the value of customer reviews for a business is well documented, the desire to feature only positive comments on review sites like Google, Yelp, and Tripadvisor is getting some businesses in serious trouble. It’s not unheard of for an owner or manager to try to control or influence the public reviews that are posted online about their business in an attempt to boost their perception and hide negative comments. This process, known as review gating, damages consumer trust and goes against most review sites’ terms of service. And the consequences can be severe.
In January, online fashion retailer Nova was fined $4.2 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for suppressing negative reviews. Additionally, the FTC issued a Notice of Penalty Offense to more than 700 businesses, putting them “on notice that engaging in conduct described therein could subject the company to civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.”
Government fines aside, review gating can also do the opposite of what’s intended and lower a business’s ranking. Google has punished violators in the past by deleting most – and in some cases, all – of a company’s reviews. High review volume is a key factor in local rankings as well as consumer trust: 15% of consumers don’t trust businesses without reviews.
“Don’t discourage or prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.”
Qualtrics, like Google and other review sites, is against review gating. Even if violators are never caught, review gating is detrimental to the trust economy that both customers and businesses have come to rely on. Today’s consumers demand authenticity from the companies they do business with, and the absence of negative reviews tends to raise their suspicions. Plus, it eliminates the opportunity for a company to publicly respond to bad experiences and showcase their customer service, which is important: 85% of consumers seek out negative reviews.
What does review gating look like?
Here are a few common scenarios:
- Preferencing a review request with a sentiment question, such as “Were you satisfied with your experience?” and then only asking those who say “Yes” to share their feedback.
- Selectively routing survey respondents to review sites based on their CSAT or NPS scores
- Offering incentives for positive reviews, which can result in biased positive feedback that doesn’t reflect real customer experiences.
What should you do instead?
The FTC’s guidance document for platforms advises that, no matter what the business model, companies should:
- Ask all of your customers for feedback
- Treat positive and negative reviews equally
- Be transparent about how you deal with reviews
- Have reasonable processes in place to spot fake or deceptive reviews
Closing the loop
Whether a customer has left a positive or negative review, companies can look to Google reviews to learn what they do well and what they need to improve. You can respond to each review, whether it’s to thank a customer for taking the time to share their positive feedback or to ask for more detail so issues can be rectified. This act of closing the feedback loop improves transparency, builds trust, and can ultimately convert skeptics into believers.
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