Buying an ultrasound machine used to be a very different process. A purchase involving hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pounds was one in which people invested months of research, many phone and email conversations, and often met with the ultrasound company face-to-face to try out the equipment, receive training and establish trust.
Nowadays, people are becoming increasingly willing to buy straight off the internet, and the personal conversation has been replaced with other methods of building trust – most notably, online reviews. This makes the decision-making process quicker and easier for the buyer as well as the seller – but what is lost in the process? Online reviews clearly help to build trust and credibility, but in this ‘fake news’ world, how reliable are they?
What kind of company buys fake reviews?
Large companies, with the added scrutiny their status brings, are generally very careful about avoiding outright dishonest marketing tactics. Those who tried to trick the system in earlier years paid a heavy price, such as when BMW got completely delisted by Google for ‘keyword stuffing’ (artificially boosting their relevance to robots by making pages with a long list of keywords).
This is not to say that big brands cannot be unscrupulous in other ways. Booking.com is one notable example recently reprimanded for manipulating customers into making a rushed decision on their website, and prioritising hotels who had paid a fee to boost their ranking, without disclosing this to users of their website. When it comes to fake reviews, however, high profile brands cannot take this risk.
Smaller companies that generally fly beneath the radar, however, may decide that this is a risk worth taking if honesty and integrity are not high on their list of priorities. TrustPilot is a platform that is ideally suited for exploitation in this way, and their own brand image has been severely tarnished in recent months as the prevalence of fake reviews on their platform becomes increasingly publicised, not least by a BBC investigation last year.
Easy ways to spot fake reviews are:
- Multiple reviews per day – more than one would expect for the size of the business. Remember that the majority of customers do not leave a review, even when asked (source: Gatherup poll, 2014), so if there are 10 reviews in the last four hours, that should imply that even a business actively encouraging its customers to leave a review has made around 40 sales in that time period. If that seems unrealistic, then this suggests that the reviews may not be from genuine customers.
- Vague reviews – comments such as “great website,” “easy transaction,” which are not reviewing an actual product or service purchased from the company suggest that the reviews are either fake or forced.
- Forced reviews which break TrustPilot’s policies, like the one below where the customer clearly states that he or she was made to give a 5* review in return for a discount:
Can you trust Trustpilot?
As well as looking for the above red flags, it is important to weigh up a company’s TrustPilot score against things you have already heard about the company. Have people within the same communities as you had bad experiences with this company, which seem totally at odds with their almost perfect review score? Does the company’s review score simply seem too good to be true? One thing I’ve learnt from ten years in business is that it really is impossible to please absolutely everyone, no matter what you do. Trust your gut if you suspect that something may be amiss, and if in doubt, turn to the good old fashioned methods of picking up the phone and calling the company, or even sending them an email. Ask them some technical questions about the ultrasound equipment that they are selling, and see if they can answer them. For ideas of questions you can ask your supplier, see ‘Ultrasound for Canine Pregnancy Scanning’ here.
What you can do if you spot fake reviews
It is worth remembering that companies pay TrustPilot to use their reviewing system. This means that it is not in TrustPilot’s best interests to remove a customer from its service, unless it were to start receiving complaints. If you’re cynical, it may also have crossed your mind that it’s also not in TrustPilot’s interests to allow their client to accumulate hundreds of negative reviews, because clearly this would lead to them simply deactivating their account and no longer paying their subscription (nobody pays money to display a 1* rating!) – but criticisms of TrustPilot as a rating system are beyond the scope of this article, and covered very thoroughly elsewhere (just search Google for “fake TrustPilot reviews”).
Nevertheless, TrustPilot claim to take a strong stance against fake or incentivised reviews, and all we can do is take them at their word. If you have had a bad experience with a company and/or suspect that it is using unethical tactics to generate misleading reviews, you can report them to email@example.com , or share your experience in the comments field below – scroll to the bottom of the page and fill in where it says ‘Leave a Reply.’ We’d love to hear your stories!
Wherever you are in the world, if you need help and advice finding the right machine for you from a company you can trust, please get in touch here.