Last week I wrote about fake user reviews and how they are generally easy to spot and basically harmless for sites with good review flow. Today I wanted to talk about how consumer review website managers can resolve online reviewer disputes while minimizing editorial intervention.
To make this discussion a bit more concrete I’ll frame this with an actual situation we dealt with on our mountain biking website. Our site includes reviews of local bike shops (among other things) and from time to time folks use the reviews to rant about poor customer service experiences. In this particular case a reviewer wrote about a very specific dispute he had with a shop owner and ended his review with the standard “I will never shop here again” postscript.
Shortly after this review was posted the shop owner contacted us with a different take on the dispute and asked if we could remove the review. Of course we didn’t know who was right and who was wrong in this case and we politely informed the shop owner that we could not remove the review. We considered offering to edit out the details under dispute (the amount of money spent, the number of days the bike sat in the shop, etc.) but ultimately decided to give the shop owner a chance to reply to the allegations through a “review of the review.” You may have seen these on other sites like Digg or eBay where the “review of the review” is visually attached to the review under dispute. But of course this begs the question: When does it end? Do you allow a review of the review of the review?
Fortunately this situation ended peacefully and the originally reviewer did not seek to post a reply to the reply. In the end we found out from the shop owner that this customer had been posting the same comments on half a dozen other mountain bike sites to get even for his perceived slight. In the process of working with this shop owner we gained the respect of a potential customer (advertiser) by simply giving him a voice in the review process.
When building your consumer review website it is important to consider your policies for managing and policing online reviews. Consider ways to make your site an unbiased source of fair and useful information and your reviewers (and reviewees) will thank you.