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How to Spot Fake Online Reviews

fake reviews online

Fake it ‘til you make it…right?!? Wrong! But it seems that’s how some sellers try to do it. Amazon is reportedly “fighting a barrage of seller scams on its website,” The Wall Street Journal reports. They have deleted thousands of reviews that could have been fake; fired workers who gave sellers inside information; and killed some techniques that might have helped products surface higher on searches when they shouldn’t have, reports the Journal. “If bad actors abuse our systems, we take swift action, including terminating their selling accounts, deleting reviews, withholding funds, taking legal action and working with law enforcement,” an Amazon spokeswoman told The Journal.

And Amazon is not alone. Fake reviews are a problem across all retail platforms. Why some businesses think that trashing the competition is the quickest way to the top is beyond us, but more and more are doing it online every day.  Whether it be review sites, blogs, or even Facebook – it seems that no one is safe from the fake reviews or comments these days.

What’s funny is that it DOES NOT work.  No matter how sneaky/tricky/brilliant you think you are with your made up review or comment, you’re not fooling many, if anyone.  Did you know that website owners can look up your IP address to see where your post is coming from?  You may think this is a good way to get a leg up on your competition, but really, it’s just making you look foolish.  Even if you get away with it for a while, when word gets out, you’ll just look silly at best.  Worst case scenario, you (and possibly your business) will be banned from the site that you’re posting to.

A survey released last year found that nearly 8 in 10 consumers say they think they’ve read a fake review in the past year; and 84% of consumers say they can’t always spot a fake review. Can you tell what is fake and what is real?

Try these tips:

Look at the Timing of Reviews – “See if there is a spike in the total number of reviews during a very short time frame. This can indicate a targeted campaign to add new artificial reviews,” says Derek Hales, the editor-in-chief of product testing and research site ModernCastle. If reviews are obviously favorable or negative towards a specific product or business, that can be a red flag. Also, if a review is published before the product being reviewed is released, it is likely not authentic.

Dig Deeper into the Reviewer Profile – On sites like Amazon, Yelp or TripAdvisor, look at the user’s profile and read other reviews they’ve posted.  If their only reviews are praise for one particular place or product, or complaints about a particular place or product, they’re likely fake. Another common type comes from a “professional reviewer” — someone who was given the product for free and given extra money to give a five star review, explains Jean H. Paldan, the founder and CEO of marketing firm Rare Form New Media. If the reviewer has a big trend of giving all five star reviews without any negativity, most likely they were bought and paid for. Another hint is if they’ve done a lot of five-star reviews for products owned by the same company.

Look for verified purchases or when in doubt, reach out to the reviewer. Most fake reviewers will not respond, but real reviewers often look forward to opportunities to be more helpful.

Look At The Lingo – Keep an eye out for industry specific words that the average reviewer would not likely use.  Most restaurant guests are not going to say “delectable cuisine” when reviewing a meal. Phrase repetition is another clue. “Look through several reviews and see if any words or phrases are repeated in different reviews. Reviews that use the same phrase(s) may have been instructed to do so by the party faking the reviews, says Derek Hales, the editor-in-chief of product testing and research site ModernCastle.

 According to research from Cornell University, online reviews that frequently use “I” and “me” are more likely to be fake than those that don’t — possibly because when people are lying they try to make themselves sound credible by using personal pronouns. Additionally, “deceivers use more verbs and truth-tellers use more nouns,” the research found.

And, says Michael Lai, the CEO of review site SiteJabber.com, “Check the spelling and grammar of the review. Many fake reviews are outsourced to international content farms and are either written in poor English or not in a way a real consumer would express their opinion.”

Watch Out for the Untrustworthy – The first clue would be generic names (i.e. John Smith) or a profile with no picture. Next, look for reviews written in all caps, have terrible grammar, swear frequently, or put seven exclamation points at the end of every sentence (or right smack in the middle for extra emphasis!!!!!!!) It is very hard to take these reviews seriously, let alone see them as credible.

And we’ve all seen the “I tried this product, hated it, and promptly bought the {competitor product here} and I LOVE it! Go buy it here now for 20% off!” review.  What’s even worse is reviewers who leave a link to their own site in their review. Instant credibility loss!

So is it even worth reading online reviews?  Actually, yes.  Many sites are cracking down on fake reviews, due to the importance of legitimate ones.   Sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor continue to work on their fraud detection, even allowing other reviewers and businesses to submit questionable reviews to be moderated.  Yelp claims that an astounding 20% of reviews never get published due to reviews not meeting their content guidelines.

Your best bet is to read the middle-of-the-road reviews. “It’s often helpful to sort reviews that fall in the middle of the pack (e.g 3/5 stars). These reviews are often the most honest and insightful about both the positive and negative aspects of the venue and can be used to cross-reference other reviews to look for trends in both positive and negative feedback,” says Marc Nashaat, an enterprise SEO & digital PR consultant.

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How to Develop your Digital Customer Experience

digitally connected customer

In today’s crowded marketplace, brands are finding it more difficult to differentiate themselves from one another. When you have multiple brands in multiple industries offering the same products you do, you need to give customers a reason to choose you over them. Many brands today are working to find that differentiation in customer experience. In fact, experts believe that by 2020, customer experience will be even more important than price or product quality in differentiating one brand from another.
Companies need a digital customer experience strategy to ensure that they build the right experiences to suit their customers’ needs and expectations. It’s important that your strategy supports business objectives, accurately reflects your brand, and aids in prioritizing which customer goals to support and how to support them.


Organizations that aspire to differentiate based on digital customer experience need a clear, cohesive execution strategy. Customer experience professionals have the expertise required to create experiences that deliver value to customers and the business and should take the lead in developing a digital customer experience strategy for their firm. To start:


• Define your business and brand objectives. Your company’s mission and value statements should guide all activities and investments. A customer experience strategy that defines what the role of digital interaction points will be — and will not be — must be built on the foundation of the company’s overall business objectives and brand attributes.


• Identify and seek understanding of your target users. A digital customer experience strategy must define how the company will deliver experiences to its target customers through digital touchpoints. Therefore, a digital customer experience strategy must include a deep qualitative understanding of the audience members’ key goals, how they accomplish those goals, and their expectations of the brand.


• Prioritize and fund critical touchpoints. The world’s largest organizations market and sell to many customer segments, but an experience designed to serve the needs of all segments in the same way will not work. A customer experience strategy prioritizes the most important channels for delivering on customer goals, keeping focus on the activities that provide the highest value to the most valuable customers, the most important business objectives, and the brand.

How Can Digital Experience Management Help Your Business?
The digital experience used to revolve around strategic posts on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But today’s companies are dealing with far more digital reach…managing email communication, website landing sites, checkout experiences, inventory, ad placement, and more. And all of it has to work together. Digital Experience Management (DXM) can manage it all.
In short, DXM helps customers “shop” rather than simply “buy.” It makes the entire shopping experience more memorable for them—and helps you know what’s working (or not) at the same time.


According to Dushyant Mohanty, Global Transformation Head – Industry Unit, Industrial Manufacturing, Energy, Banking & Financial Services, at Tata Consultancy Services, that means moving from being product-centric to being customer-centric. When creating a customer experience journey, companies should put themselves in the shoes of their customers to see if they are getting a solution that meets their needs, or if the company’s offerings are outdated.
In a digital transformation, the customer experience needs to be customized and in real time. That means adjusting as needed and using the correct customer persona. Mohanty points out that a digital strategy is more than just updating a few processes. For many companies, it’s a complete overhaul of their approach to service and customer experience. To make a real change, executives need to take a step back and look at things objectively to see if they are reaching customers and achieving their goals. The underlying technology structure has a huge impact on customer experience, as does the data strategy. Start with these as a foundation to customer experience.


In the end, it really comes down to having a growth mindset. Companies that can embrace digital transformation for customer experience are the ones that don’t simply do what’s always been done but instead look for new solutions to meet customers’ needs. Businesses need to always be evaluating their approach to customer experience to stay on top of new trends and technologies. A digital transformation can help companies become more customer-centric to guide their customers through the changing digital world.

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How to Talk to your Customers More Effectively

Heard any of these before? “I’m going to put you on hold for just a second.”; “I think you misunderstood me just now — what I actually said was…”; “I understand you are upset, but…”

Let me guess…those statements frustrated you more than helped you. In these instances, customers were seeking help but what they received was a negative interaction brought about by tone and wording. Although the problem could still be resolved, the customers received a negative customer experience, and unfortunately that’s what they’ll remember.

Effective communication is the key to building and nurturing any relationship, whether personal or professional. Communicating with customers effectively can help you gain their loyalty – leading to repeat purchases, positive word-of-mouth, and referrals.

But on the flipside, failure to communicate well can create dissatisfaction, frustration, and a decrease in sales. And, in the day and age of social media, negative word-of-mouth from unhappy customers can spread like wildfire, tarnishing your reputation.

Regardless of the medium through which you communicate with customers, the bottom line is that it needs to be done well. Here are some simple ways to communicate with customers effectively.

Use the Right Tone

In some situations, it makes sense to take an authoritative tone, for example when providing a technical answer about software functions to a B2B customer. Other scenarios may call for a more empathetic tone, such as assisting a customer who is frustrated with a malfunctioning product.

How and when we accentuate words and phrases also conveys a message. Customer service expert Shep Hyken illustrated this in a recent column, pointing out how vastly different common responses to customers can be. In a café, servers often respond to a customer’s thank you with “No problem,” or “My pleasure.” They may then ask a customer “What else can I get for you?” or “How is everything?” All of these phrases are very common in the service industry, but Hyken points out that a sincere “My pleasure” is the preferable phrase in response to customer thanks because it more effectively communicates that you value the customer. Similarly, a caring “What else can I get for you?” conveys a willingness to provide additional service in a way that “How is everything?” can’t replicate. Both are great examples of why tone matters in customer communication.

Choosing the Right Words

Let’s revisit our opening example: “I’m going to put you on hold for just a second…” Both parties know “just a second” is a figure of speech and it sets an unrealistic expectation. A better approach is to ask customers if you can put them on hold and give them a ballpark timeframe for when you’ll be back.

Using the word “but” in a sentence negates everything that was said before it. More effective phrasing would be an acknowledgment of the customer’s frustration and an apology: “I can understand your frustration and I’m very sorry you experienced that”. With this response, the customer will feel heard and may be more receptive to discussing solutions.

It’s also important not to sound defensive or deflective. Instead of saying, “You misunderstood me,” an agent could reply, “Sorry about the misunderstanding, what I meant to say was…” to put the focus back on the customer issue and avoid escalating the situation.

And try to avoid scripted language. It is impersonal and customers are quick to understand if you’re resorting to such responses in your conversations with them. Make sure your support representatives have real conversations with your customers.

Focus on Quality and Sentiment

In a competitive environment, it’s easy to get lost in a web of metrics that are focused on quicker resolution times. Quicker resolution means fully resolving a customer’s issue in the quickest possible time. 51% of customers believe that they can get the fastest resolution to their problems over the phone, followed by live chat (23%). But instead of worrying about hitting certain metric goals, focus on the quality of your response and develop a team of representatives who are committed to engaging meaningfully with customers. Train your team to be your customer’s ally and try to solve their problems effectively.

You also need to equip your team with the right tools. Your representative should instantly be able to pull up a customer’s records. This can include information about their purchase history or any recent interactions with your team. Information and insights such as these can help to give your team member some context about a customer’s issue. This allows the support representative to share relevant and accurate information. Lack of accuracy is one of the top reasons for customers to get frustrated with support.

Conclude your Conversations Properly

Conclusions are just as important as your first impressions. Customers can tell when support representatives are in a hurry to attend to the next person in line. Your eagerness to solve one more ticket could cost you a customer. Make sure your representatives end their conversations well, even if that extends the call by a few minutes. Your objective should be to end the conversation in a way that leaves your customer happy and content.

The Bottom Line on Communicating Effectively

It’s important to remember that customers seeking help aren’t always looking for a solution or additional information. Sometimes how their issue is resolved can be more important than actually fixing the problem because it indicates how much a company cares about their business.

Representatives who use the right tone and choose their words carefully send a positive signal to customers that they are respected and valued. Communicating effectively requires people skills, but it’s also helpful for agents to have the right tools. That allows them to understand customer needs immediately, find answers quickly and efficiently, and communicate effectively with every customer.

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