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Fake reviews: how to handle and solve this problem
A long-standing problem that all hoteliers have faced at least once in their careers, is surely is the receipt of fake reviews on open portals such as Tripadvisor, Google and Yelp…
What Does “Open Portals” Mean?
Open portals are platforms for collecting feedback that users can access and leave an online review on simply by registering their account. It is not necessary for these portals to verify the guest actually stayed at a hotel or the visited to a restaurant in order for the users to leave their opinion. There is basically a tacit agreement between the portal and the user, for which it is assumed that those who leave the review have actually used the facility.
But is it really always like this? Unfortunately no, malice is just around the corner and there are many cases where a negative review is left by the envious competitor or by the resentful former employee to discredit the reputation of the business. Likewise, extremely positive feedback can be written by the owners themselves or an agency paid specifically to provide this service.
After the scandal of the fake restaurant in London that ranked first on TripAdvisor without actually even existing, users and even the business owners have become even more careful.
What Are The Main Open Portals?
In an increasingly competitive sector such as tourism, it is necessary to take measures to protect hospitality business owners, as well as users who rely on them during their decision-making process. Let’s see in more detail how each of these portals respond towards fake reviews.
Following the recent stories that circulated on the web, TripAdvisor sought to silence the rumors by releasing an interview to outline in detail how it verifies the authenticity of guest feedback.
TripAdvisor goes through an in-depth check of the reviews that are initially filtered to make sure they comply with the platform policies.
In addition to various filters, there is also a quality assurance team involved in reviewing the reviews, as the portal itself states:
– “We have a team of reviewers who checks reviews and their quality. On the website we use automatic filters that help to find reviews with questionable content and, moreover, the travelers of our large and passionate community keep an eye on our site.”
Of course it is always possible to fall into the error, which is why TripAdvisor invites both users and hoteliers to report suspicious reviews through the Help Center.
Google My Business is a very useful tool to get more visibility. After all, we are talking about Google. Your guest reviews will appear next to your tab in Maps and Search and give you a real chance to stand out from your competitors, but as Google says: “Reviews are only useful if honest and objective.”
Google has previously prepared guidelines for posting reviews, however it asks its users to report inappropriate reviews or those that violate the above guidelines in order to remove them, following a careful evaluation by Google.
Clearly, false reviews cannot be prevented, although Google explicitly requires in its guidelines that the feedback be truthful. That’s why it’s a good idea to constantly monitor your online reputation on this channel as well.
The positive aspect of Facebook is that users who leave a review associated to their own profile. So, potentially you can almost always trace the authenticity of the review by checking the user’s profile. Why do we say almost, then?
Unfortunately, there may be fake profiles from competitors which are used to leave a bad review for your establishment, or to artificially improve the online reputation of their business by writing very positive feedback from these fake accounts.
Even the social media network provide the possibility to report fake reviews and to delete them after careful and meticulous analysis by the authorized personnel. However, only reviews which have both a star rating and a comment can be removed. Reviews that only have a star rating without an evaluation cannot be deleted.
Unfortunately, even Yelp found itself often involved in scandals related to fake reviews and “inflated” scores. In one specific case, Darnell Holloway, Director of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, has rightly felt compelled to clarify the unpleasant situation on the official Yelp blog. In the blog post from the explanatory title: “Scam related to fake reviews and SEO foiled by Yelp” he points the finger at some companies accused of promising users the cancellation of negative reviews and a greater amount of 5-star feedback in exchange for money. Yelp has taken a firm stance against this practice and states:
– “If you ask how they keep these promises, the answer is simple: they cannot.”
Yelp strongly condemns the manipulation of feedback and the publication of fake reviews and requires its users to report any suspicious cases. In addition, the platform invites account owners to complete a form when they are contacted by one or more of these agencies with the promise of fake reviews.
Reviews of OTAs
OTAs have already taken remedial action against fake reviews, allowing only users who have made a reservation via the portal to leave their feedback later.
The reviews of portals such as Booking.com, Expedia and AirBnB are therefore in the vast majority of cases left by real guests.
However, they can’t guarantee you positive reviews: that depends on the service you deliver to your customers.
How to solve the problem?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict when and if someone will leave you a fake review.
It is worth taking the risk of some fake review being submitted, by virtue of the absolutely greater number of true reviews. However, it is good to protect yourself and better manage your online reputation with tools such as the Customer Alliance one.
We are firm supporters of real reviews left by real guests who have actually visited your business. Through our tool, you have the concrete possibility to contact your guests before, during and after the stay in order to ask for their feedback.
We can’t ensure that you will no longer receive any fake reviews because we can’t control all internet users. However, we only invite your real guests; if someone who has not stayed at your facility decides to leave you the same review on one of these open portals, we cannot control it.
However, the sheer amount of honest reviews you collect with Customer Alliance will cause the fake reviews to take a back seat. In addition, the careful user reads the reviews online with a critical eye and knows in most cases how to recognize the true feedbacks from the fake ones.