May the truth prevail! How to recognize inauthentic feedback and what you can do about it

In this part of our blog series, we'll show you how we spot fake reviews and how we deal with dishonest reviewers.

Maria Hinz Created by Maria Hinz
on 02/21/2017 | 5 minutes reading time

In an article about the founder scene, author Michael Penke describes how startups cheat their way to positive testimonials and ruin trust in word-of-mouth recommendations. We support entrepreneurs and service providers in getting and presenting their customers' ratings. Naysayers may think: „You're in it together and profit from fake ratings of all kinds, as long as the service is being used.“ But this would be far from the truth! Our business is based on transparency and trust, just as much as on ratings marketing by our customers. For this reason, we would like to shed some light on this topic from several angles. We will focus on several topics in different articles: How can you tell whether a rating is fake? Why companies hurt themselves with fake ratings and what to do if your own company falls victim to fake negative ratings.

Consumer protection and legal aspects of ratings

Rating work only when they're honest. No company can benefit from trying to convince new customers to buy its products using fake ratings. The quality won't measure up at the end, and the customer will return the product or complain about the service. Thanks to current consumer protection law, this is easy (the right to revocation and goods return, the right to services remedy, compensation entitlement, etc.) Many companies don't realize that fake ratings given to poor quality goods and services only result in higher costs. In addition, fake ratings are open to criminal charges – you can read more on this topic in an earlier blog post. First of all, fake ratings destroy our trust in recommendations and feedback. Although we don't know whether the CEOs of cheating companies actually like this, since even they probably ask for objective advice about where to travel or a new household gadget.

Trust instead of suspicion in ratings

As a customer today, one often faces the agony of choice: Restaurants, hotels, insurance – today we have the luxury of picking out the best, but we still need advice to deal with the plentitude of options. ProvenExpert.com trust online ratings and search the web for customer experiences when shopping for energy providers, insurance or digital cameras. Feedback helps us keep an eye on e-commerce jungle. Thankfully, from our experience we can say that almost all ratings are serious and written by real customers.

Watch out: How to identify fake ratings

But this is not to say that there aren't some black sheep, and one should certainly stay clear of these. You should never place your trust in just any rating, but rather follow the following tips to decide which ones are fake:

Tip 1: Exaggerated formulations

Does the rating sound like an advertisement? You can't keep count of superlatives and every sentence describes the service or the company as phenomenal, fantastic or huge? If you're really happy with you last haircut or glad to have finally found a compassionate dentist, it's easy to start gushing. However, if it's much too positive, you should definitely read additional ratings to get an objective idea.
Spelling mistakes aren't necessarily a sign of authenticity, since these are now often inserted into bought ratings to give them the appearance of being real.

Tip 2: Number of ratings

Look at how many ratings a company or service provider has already received. Think whether the number is appropriate for the type of company. If a small auto garage or a suburban hair salon have 20,000 ratings, it could be a sign that they've had some help.

Tip 3: The rater

The name of the person giving the rating can also contain clues. If multiple extremely positive ratings stem from handles such as „Sweetie1990“ or „Steve7040“ , this might be a pattern. First and last names don't always have to appear, but sometimes it pays off to look closer.

Tip 4: Self-promotion with product reference from own company product reference.

Sometimes, users create ratings just to place a link on an external website or advertise a competing product. These are often ratings without any firm foundation. Of course, someone who has a similar product to sell will not recommend another.

Note:If possible, read both positive and negative ratings and look for older feedback. It's always recommended to base your decision on the big picture.

What we're doing to combat fake ratings

We have implemented various technical and manual processes in order to make submitting fake ratings as difficult as possible.

Rater verification for more security

  • Double-opt-in with a valid e-mail address is required to make a valid rating
  • Verification via social networks (LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, Google+) possible
  • E-mail addresses have to correspond to our criteria (no double ratings, no trash e-mail addresses, etc.)

ProvenExpert users have full control

  • Profile owners can decide who can rate them
  • Online surveys can be made publicly accessible or made reachable only using an access code invitation, sent per email
  • Profile owners have to approve sent ratings (However, if not all ratings have been approved, the public profile will and the expert seal will no longer display the overall result, but only the number of approved ratings. This is done to ensure transparency for users.)

Control by our editors and the Community

  • Anyone can report a rating
  • An internal verification system flags suspicious ratings received from surveys (comparison of email address with the one registered to the user account and the browser fingerprint) and route them the quality assurance team.
  • Reported ratings are checked (an arbitration process is started if necessary)
  • Ratings, that don't correspond to evaluation criteria are deleted by ProvenExpert
  • External ratings sources are only allowed if the platforms accept exclusively genuine customer ratings.

We hope that we can give you a better sense of rating appraisal. In the next article in our blog series, we will examine the legal aspects of fake ratings in an interview with a lawyer.

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Maria Hinz

About the author

Maria Hinz is a marketing manager and is primarily responsible for content and communication. She always strikes the right note in texts by juggling around with wordings of every kind. She can be very loud when she's standing in the fan block at the ALBA basketball club in Berlin.

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