I think most of us forget to leave reviews for most of the things we buy or use – if I buy a new toaster, take it home and plug it in, the first thing on my to do list is to make a lovely buttery batch of toast, and the second is to munch my way through it… logging on to the Argos website and giving detailed feedback is so far down the list that I usually forget about it.
So I really admire people who remember to go and leave nice feedback for a business or a product – it’s something I always mean to do more often. But I do spend a lot of time reading other people’s reviews, and I’ve discovered that there are certain things you should look out for when looking at online customer reviews for apps, products or businesses.
The first thing to bear in mind is sample size – if an app or a product has 10 reviews and they’re all positive, then at first glance that probably sounds like a good thing. However, it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to ask 10 or so friends and family members to add a nice review to your site, so there’s a chance that not all of those reviews are genuine.
So how do you know for sure? There are quite a few good sources out there for reliable reviews – Which? and TrustPilot are both very good places to start (although there’s a limit to how much Which? will let you look at for free). Every app in the App Store and Google Play Store has a Ratings and Reviews section that you can have a read through on the information page for that app. And most shopping websites include reviews towards the bottom of the webpage for each product.
The more reviews something has, the more likely they are to be realistic – so I’m more likely to trust the feedback of several hundred people than just a few. With more reviews, they’ll probably have a slightly lower rating overall e.g. 4.7 out of 5 stars instead of 5 out of 5, because with more orders there’s a higher potential of something going wrong (more on that in a moment), but you’re far more likely to be seeing feedback from genuine customers. Which means it’s more likely to be trustworthy.
What about those negative, 1-star reviews though? Aren’t they a cause for concern? Well, yes and no. Most businesses will end up with the occasional negative review from time to time, but that negative feedback isn’t always justified (although where it is justified, it’s worth paying attention to!).
Sometimes people have a bad day (both as a customer and as a business), so if the negative reviews are few and far between, you can probably write one or two of them off as bad luck. Some complaints are directed at the wrong people – for example, it’s not really fair to blame the manufacturer if an order gets dispatched on time, but it’s delivered late due to a problem with the courier. And very occasionally, some people just want to have a moan…
So if you come across a pretty negative review, it’s worth having a read to see what’s gone on and decide for yourself whether you think it’s worth listening to. But don’t let one person’s bad experience contradict several hundred peoples’ good experiences. On the other hand, if several people have had a bad time of it, then you may well want to listen to them!
If you want to leave a review for something you’ve bought or an app you’ve installed, generally you’ll have lots of opportunities to do so – you’ll often get emails asking for feedback, where you can just follow the link and type in whatever you want to say. With apps, they’ll often pop a little screen up saying “Enjoying this app? Rate us!” or similar, and you can give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down or a star rating.
My top tips for leaving useful reviews would be to be honest (of course), keep it relevant to that particular product or company rather than going off on a tangent, and if you have negative feedback then by all means give it, but try to do so in a constructive way. Most companies (especially smaller, independent ones – I can’t speak for the big international giants) want their customers to have a good experience, so if they’ve done something wrong they want to know so that they can fix it.