Collecting reliable online reviews

You want to acquire new customers with reviews from existing customers. With honest reviews, you increase your reliability. If you post fake reviews, you risk a fine of up to 2 million euros. This article explains the rules for collecting reliable reviews.

Research by software platform Capterra shows that 9 out of 10 consumers read reviews (in Dutch) before buying something. By actively engaging with reviews yourself, you can increase your customer rating and improve your product or service.

Benefits of customer reviews

Kenzo Brock is Key Account Manager at online review system Kiyoh and Klantenvertellen and sees many benefits in customer reviews. Brock explains: "There are different forms of reviews: customers can describe a product or experience, give a rating or give out a number of stars. If you get a high number of positive reviews, you increase the reliability of your business. And with negative reviews, you can improve your product or service."

Rules for reviews

Do you do business with customers online and offer them the opportunity to post reviews? If so, follow the rules below:

  • Mention on your website what your review policy is and how you combat fake reviews. For instance, mention it if you check in your invoices whether the reviewer actually bought the product. Or if you use a closed review system, where only customers can leave a review.
  • If you show a review score for a product or service, mention how you calculate this average score.
  • Do not post reviews yourself about your own products or services by pretending to be a customer.
  • If you pay or benefit a reviewer to write a review, add a label with 'Sponsored'.
  • If you delete a negative review, state the reason. Unless you can prove that the negative review is fake. Also indicate whether you review or moderate negative reviews before posting them.
  • On social media, do not post likes under your own posts or promotions of your own products or services.
  • Link through your own website to another website with reviews about your product or service only when you can guarantee the authenticity of those reviews.

The Consumer and Market Authority (ACM) and the Financial Markets Authority (AFM) monitor these rules. Those who break the rules risk fines of up to 10% of your annual turnover, up to a maximum of €2 million.

This is how to arrange reliable reviews

Are you going to collect online reviews? The three tips below will help you increase reliability:

1. Choose an independent tool

Join an independent review platform. "58% of consumers find independent review platforms the most trustworthy," says Brock (in Dutch). "After all, on these, anyone can leave a review and businesses cannot edit or delete posted reviews. An independent tool ensures transparency and trust. As a result, customers are more likely to write a review."

Independent platforms include Tripadvisor for restaurant reviews, Reviewclub or for online shop reviews and Klantenvertellen for all types of provisions of services and industry-related businesses. Trustpilot and Kieskeurig offer an all-round review system, as does Google Review. These platforms arrange the reviews for you and comply with the information obligation.

2. Tell why you collect reviews

Explain to customers why collecting reviews is important to you, for instance to improve your products or processes. Mention this on your website, in your review tool or when sending an email such as an order confirmation, tips Brock. "When customers know the reason behind it, they are more willing to write a review. They can also help you, by reporting points of improvement, for example."

3. Respond to negative reviews

Always respond to negative reviews (in Dutch). "On average, 3% of reviews are negative," Brock explains. "Many businesses fear negative reviews, when in fact they are valuable. Potential customers want to see that you handle criticism well. If you respond to a low customer rating or a tip, the reviewer feels heard. Your response shows that you are involved and that you do something with the feedback you receive. Respond to the review online, for example when a problem is mentioned more often. Or indicate that you will contact them by phone to discuss the problem."

If you respond to negative reviews on your own accord and thank their authors for their response, you show that you take your customers seriously. This makes you come across as trustworthy.

Want to include collecting reviews in your marketing communications? Then put it in your marketing plan.