If you have followed my Massage Chair Industry Update videos for any amount of time, you know that I have some pet peeves about my industry that I believe need to be resolved before we have optimal credibility among our customer base. One of my pet peeves has been, and will continue to be, fake massage chair reviews.
Are Reviews Important?
For most customers, reviews play a critical role in the decision making process. Have you checked out reviews before purchasing a product, massage chair or not? Of course you have. The consumer trusts the reviews implicitly. I also used to trust the reviews I read. Well, I learned in this industry that fake reviews are rampant and they are influencing how you spend your hard earned money. The interesting thing is that you most likely have no idea if a review is real or fake or paid.
I’d like to give you a dramatic example of how important customer reviews are to product retailers. This story was relayed to us by one of our customers. This customer purchased a chair from us after having left a small deposit on a chair from another massage chair company that imports and carries it’s own brand of chairs. After having paid the deposit, this customer decided to do an online search of the company to which she was about to pay thousands of dollars.
A Perfect Massage Chair? No Such A Thing!
Her search led her to a bunch of reviews about the company and their chairs. Review after review touted how great the chair was. She didn’t find one negative review about the chair or the company. Every model, and every feature, were perfect. That was her first red flag. I have to agree with her. I sell some of the finest massage chairs in the world, like Inada, Panasonic, and Luraco and I have yet to find a chair that pleases everyone! Most folks love their chairs but, if you read our reviews, you will see that there is not one chair that pleases everyone 100%. There is always one thing that the customer doesn’t like about their chair or wishes it had. Since I started Massage Chair Relief in 2004, I have learned that there isn’t a chair that makes everyone happy all the time.
Fake Reviews = Red Flag
Well, this red flag motivated my customer to look further into the subject of product reviews and how legitimate or trustworthy they really are. She found out that there are companies out there that will write fake reviews that look real as though they are written by real customers. This ploy is done to boost review ratings on a site like Amazon or Yelp. Her search also led to FakeSpot, a free app designed to grade reviews and let you know what percentage of reviews of a product on Amazon and Yelp are perceived as fake or paid. It also gives the product and company a letter grade. I don’t know how the app actually does what it does or what it’s algorithm involves, but I’ve tested it and seen how well it works.
She was shocked to find that 97% of the reviews of the company and it’s chairs, from which she was about to commit thousands of dollars, were either fake or paid and that they were graded an F!
What Will A Retailer Do To Prevent A Negative Review?
Here is where the story gets good! Once my customer decided that she didn’t trust the company that sold her the chair, she called to cancel her order and get her deposit back. The company tried to tell her that her deposit was non-refundable, although that was never mentioned to her when she originally paid it. The conversation led to an argument because the rep claimed he had told our customer that the deposit was non-refundable at the time of the order. Our customer did not recall that at all (by the way, the deposit was only $100, a relatively small amount compared to the $8000 price tag of the chair). He told her that it was “[her] word against his.” The rep went on to say that if the customer wrote a bad review, that “you’d be sorry”, which our customer felt was some form of a threat. She eventually got her deposit back.
But, wait, there’s more! Our customer actually did decide to write a review on Yelp sharing her experience. Shortly thereafter she received a call from Yelp saying that someone had contacted Yelp to tell them that our customer was basically a shill from another massage chair company trying to destroy this company’s reputation by writing a negative review. They called her to find out if it was true. Of course it wasn’t.
Here’s the kicker…someone from the company eventually called her to apologize for all the hassle and offered her a free chair if she would just remove her negative review. That didn’t help the situation at all for our customer. It infuriated her even more because she felt that the company was trying to censor her real life experience and manipulate the review results.
I share this example to demonstrate how important reviews are not only to you the consumer, but to us the retailers. But, we need to encourage and appreciate truthful reviews and deal with the negative ones in a positive way. During my 14 years in this business, we have received a few negative reviews which, quite frankly, actually led to corrective measures in my company to prevent those issues from ever happening again. The lesson for businesses from this experience is: rather than deny accountability and coerce the consumer to remove their review, listen and learn and make the changes in your company to never receive that type of review again.
I just read an interesting news article discussing how the FTC is cracking down on fake and paid reviews to protect the consumer. Good stuff!
Dr. Alan Weidner
P.S. Give us a “Like”, “Share”, or “+1” and leave me a comment or question below to share what you learned or ask any questions, so other folks can benefit from this material.