The Problem With Fake Feedback

We, at Opinion8, advocate the importance of garnering feedback. We know that focussing on the viewpoints of your customers can drive real, positive service changes in your business and create unpaid brand ambassadors of your clientele. The knock on positive effect this has for the employees who work within this environment is also measurable for companies with diminished churn and increased engagement contributing to the virtuous circle of collating and evaluating your customers’ opinions.

However, before you go inviting all and sundry to tell you what they think about your company, be mindful that attracting comments is not all positive by a long stretch. The ease with which fake reviews can be posted online to be read by anyone can cause irreparable damage to a company’s reputation and is, increasingly, an issue which companies are allocating time, money and human resource, to manage.

The extent to which fake information can manipulate online platforms is probably best demonstrated by the audacious prank of freelance writer Oobah Butler. For a short time, ‘The Shed at Dulwich’ beat 18,000 other eateries in the nation’s capital, to be ranked as the top-rated restaurant in London on Trip Advisor. The thing of note, here, is that ‘The Shed at Dulwich’ was actually just a shed in Dulwich and not a restaurant at all. With a website, a pretentious menu concept, some fake reviews and a genuine telephone number, Butler managed to create an artificial storm that swept up thousands of unwitting would-be diners in its wake.

Though this may seem like a harmless joke, it actually serves as an important cautionary tale in the vein of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Opinions online can gain momentum with startling alacrity, fueled by repetition and reiteration but with no adherence to reality or truth. This is, of course, potentially very dangerous to businesses trying to guard their good reputations.

So, what can you do? In basic terms, it is important to control the online debate or certainly contribute to it. This may involve devising a strategy to review your online presence. Do not let bad comments go unanswered or falsehoods remain unchallenged. Obviously, not all negative views are fake and genuine issues need to be addressed too. It is advisable to take these conversations offline as soon as possible. Not only is this an exercise in damage limitation but it also gives you more scope to offer a personal and bespoke service to your aggrieved customer.

Though committing resources to deal with these issues may seem expensive, it is not as costly as the damage that can be inflicted by online negative publicity.