In Partner Content Q & A: Neil Bayton, Head of Partnerships at Trustpilot Posted by Stefan Neil Bayton, Trustpilot ‘Ultimately, the more people see they can interact with you, the more they will.’ Hi Neil, could you tell us about your role at Trustpilot? As Head of Partnerships for the UK, I help educate our agency partners on the benefits of voice of the customer reviews as part of their clients’ wider marketing strategy. If you had to explain the idea of Trustpilot to someone with little experience online, what would you tell them? We believe trust is vital between businesses and consumers, so we provide a website that collects and publishes consumer reviews. This helps increase confidence in a business, helps a business build and showcase their online reputation, and helps a business identify areas for improvement. So, how can reviews on independent review websites like Trustpilot impact on businesses’ success? There are many ways, but here are just a few. Firstly, the independence of Trustpilot really adds a lot of credibility to a business. It’s all well and good that you might be collecting testimonials, but there’s no way for consumers to tell if those testimonials are actual views or just marketing. With Trustpilot, consumers know the reviews are genuine and unfiltered. There’s a degree of admiration for a business who is transparent in this way. Secondly, you get a Trustpilot profile page. Here consumers can quickly scan your online reputation (determined by your online reviews) and see all of your feedback in one place. And with Trustpilot profile pages getting first-page positions in Google searches, it means consumers already know how reputable you are just from searching for you. Thirdly, still in Google, you can climb the search engine rankings. The more review content you have, the fresher Google sees your site as, and the higher you’ll be ranked. Also, Trustpilot reviews can impact your Google Seller Rating (GSR). Trustpilot has a license agreement with Google and feeds review data to them. Finally for now, Trustpilot offers a range of TrustBoxes (widget displays) to showcase your reputation once you’ve started collecting reviews. By placing these in the right places, you can guide customers to the checkout and reassure them that you’re the right company with the right products or services for them. Then there are of course the benefits of engaging with your customers more, responding to feedback, using your Trustpilot reputation in your marketing… The list goes on and on! What are the key factors for businesses to consider when they work to increase consumer trust? Are there common themes in many customer reviews about what businesses could do better? Of course there are general factors every business should consider: the quality of the product/service, the pricing structure, the delivery of said product/service, and much more. All of these themes are generally captured in the reviews people submit. But one that stands out more than many is customer service. Simply responding to reviews is a way to build better customer service. By responding, outlining what’s going on, and really engaging with the customer, you’re offering better service than ever. One thing we really encourage businesses to do is to respond to every review in a timely and helpful manner. This helps increase consumer trust no end, as it shows your commitment to providing the best service. Because the openness of online reviews allows feedback at any stage of the sales cycle, reviews through Trustpilot are a good way to get an overview of what you’re doing well and what might need improvement. And that certainly helps in this omni-channel era. Displaying your reviews and reputation is a key way to drive more feedback. You can share reviews on social media thanks to Trustpilot’s one-click sharing; you can share reviews on Facebook with Trustpilot’s review plugin; you can keep sharing reviews through TrustBoxes on your website. Ultimately, the more people see they can interact with you, the more they will. Should businesses actively invite people to review? If so, what are the best channels they can use to do this? Yes – totally. Only by asking everyone for feedback can you build a full, reliable reputation. Trustpilot has so many tools to help invite all customers, from our Automatic Feedback Service (AFS) to our Review Invitation Templates which help you gather feedback quickly and effectively. We’re continually working to improve our review invitations so they’re popular right from the get-go. In a recent article on the Trustpilot blog, copywriter Ashley Scrace dispelled five common misconceptions about the usefulness of online reviews. One very important point was the power of online reviews to create a dialogue with customers, and to enable businesses to identify areas that might need some work. How can businesses encourage more reviews from their customers and increase that dialogue further? One way is simply by inviting everyone and, when reviews aren’t received, setting up automatic Review Invitation Reminders to prompt them to write a review. Displaying your reviews and reputation is a key way to drive more feedback. You can share reviews on social media thanks to Trustpilot’s one-click sharing; you can share reviews on Facebook with Trustpilot’s review plugin; you can keep sharing reviews through TrustBoxes on your website. Ultimately, the more people see they can interact with you, the more they will. Also, don’t forget to use Trustpilot in your marketing. If you give people the opportunity to provide feedback and alert them to the fact they could be joining the conversation, the more they’re likely to join that conversation. Then there are more general ways to encourage feedback, such as using the feedback you’ve received to excel in customer service. As you get better, more people are bound to want to write about you. In summary, keep thinking about reviews, keep inviting more and more feedback, and really focus on keeping the customer experience high. What is Trustpilot doing to ensure the integrity of its reviews, and protecting its visitors from fake reviews that could mislead them? We have a zero-tolerance policy towards fake reviews and misuse of our review community. Our Compliance Team is really working hard to combat unlawful practices. Beyond that, we have customised software that detects suspicious patterns in reviews and removes those it identifies as fake. Both consumers and businesses can flag reviews too if they believe they violate our guidelines. Our Compliance Team assesses each instance. If a Trustpilot page has been assessed as potentially fraudulent in its activity, we can post a consumer alert to warn users that we have detected significant fraudulent behaviour. We also monitor and request the removal of advertisements from companies asking for, or individuals offering to write, fake reviews. And ultimately, we can terminate contracts with businesses who continually break our rules. We cooperate with, among others, Trading Standards (UK) and provide information to the Competition and Markets Authority (UK). Perhaps the million-dollar question is: how can businesses encourage more positive reviews for their goods and services? By being that good. It’s not easy, but it is simple. There is no secret potion to building a good reputation. You just have to be that good, engage with your customers, and ask for their feedback. The companies who do excel on Trustpilot are the ones who dedicate time and resources to listening to their customers and to continually improving. What’s the best way to handle a negative review? What are reviewers looking for in a company’s response? Negative reviews hurt your pride, of course. However, there’s no need to let tensions boil over. Behind every review, and every purchase, is a human being. It comes back to the old adage: “treat others as you wish to be treated.” That’s the best advice when handling a negative review. Think about how you can formulate a response in a helpful way; address the issue and, if you need further information, request that you take the conversation elsewhere (perhaps in a private channel). Be open, honest, courteous, and calm. I cannot emphasise the last attribute enough. What customers look for is something that solves their problem. Even if it’s not right away, customers do look for improvements over time – they look for change. We actually wrote a blog about how not to respond to reviews. Take note… Where do you see the role of online reviews in five years’ time? How do you think they’ll help to shape our experience of the web? I think, and hope, more and more companies and industries are involved in online reviews. They already have immense power, but imagine if they had more power. You could potentially review government services, public bodies and so on. I’m not saying that’s how it should necessarily go, but I do see the future as a more transparent one. We are already guided by opinion, and I think this will become more and more pertinent in the future. How does Trustpilot balance the need to offer open, honest and fair reviews to consumers with the commercial considerations of businesses? Being honest and being open should be commercial considerations for a business. Admittedly, you cannot reveal secrets online, especially where competitors may get an advantage. But you should see trust and transparency as defining values your business has. All businesses have to become increasingly customer focused. If your poor service means you’re losing money, then it’s your responsibility to sort out the poor service. It’s not going to sort itself and, without reviews highlighting the problems in the first place, you may never have had an opportunity to address the problems you face. 'Reviews give me that reassurance, from real people, that I should invest my money in what I’m looking for. I think that’s made shopping easier, quicker, and added a layer of trust that previously might have been impossible to find.' Do you think reviews have changed the way we shop? Do customers tend to get better products and services as a result? I believe so, yes. Of course there will still be times you’re disappointed; not everything in life turns out exactly as we hope. But reviews certainly guide people to the best option for them, allaying any fears they might have in the purchasing process. I think I speak alongside millions of people when I say that I often search for a product name, or a service, plus the word ‘reviews’ when I’m shopping online. Reviews give me that reassurance, from real people, that I should invest my money in what I’m looking for. I think that’s made shopping easier, quicker, and added a layer of trust that previously might have been impossible to find. Thanks a lot for your time, Neil!