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  • Portfolio News
  • 27 November 2012
  • 14 min read
  • Words: Northzone

Trustpilot is an investment in a better world

Gregers’ musings on investing in Trustpilot in pursuit of a more just society (and other things, like why Trustpilot is setting a new standard for customer satisfaction).

Trustpilot is not just a fantastic team, that has outperformed our expectations. It is also an investment in a better world. Trustpilot is the place for consumers to review online merchants, and to read reviews of merchants they consider buying from. It is also a tool for merchants, who care about customer service, to get the acknowledgment they deserve and to manage their customer dialogue.

While e-commerce has been driven by price comparison/competition and product reviews, the opportunity for merchants to be recognized for the differentiation through better customer service has been missing. This is something that we know works in the brick and mortar world … e.g. the little town where the social network is very efficient to let everybody know who are offering better service and who needs to improve.

However, it is not as simple as that. To make the world a better place is a much bigger promise, as there is a “snake” also in this “heaven”. When customer service suddenly makes a difference, ruthless business people will try to manipulate reviews. This is another transferable experience from the brick and mortar world. In the online world it is an equal challenge to battle against.

It is obviously critical that the reviews can be trusted. This means that merchants cannot produce fake positive reviews, that competitors cannot make fake negative reviews on their competitors, that merchants cannot delete or manipulate their less positive reviews, and so on. Trustpilot knows that TRUST is a key property, and is doing a great effort to ensure the quality of the reviews. Even then it will be a never-ending effort, as the creativity of unyielding businesses will evolve, making it more difficult for the good merchants to harvest the fair benefit of their efforts. TrustPilot strives to ensure that there is evidence of reviewers actually having bought something in the online shop they are reviewing, they monitor which IP addresses produce the reviews and they check how rich or poor the social profile of the reviewer is.

As consumers, we can also do a few things to make the world a better place in this regard. I guess many of us are more inclined to produce a negative review when we are disappointed and upset, and less when we experience good service. I believe that bias will always be there, but I try to produce positive reviews when I experience great customer service. I often get a response, insisting that I must be related to the merchant. It is what it is – a rational reaction to the reality that in many cases and on many forums, positive reviews tend to be fake. However, building trust through ongoing focus on quality reviews will hopefully change this one day.

There is a distinct thing we can do to make it difficult for the cheaters. Make many reviews … lots of them on each merchant. It is a much bigger challenge to fake the overall rating of a merchant if the merchants have meaningful numbers (i.e. thousands) of reviews. We can outnumber them.

We can also put our names and identities behind the reviews that we create. This will make it more difficult to cheat, and it will eventually enable us to pull the reviews from people within our social circles, with whom we share common interests. These are, afterall, people we are more likely to trust to a greater extent.

And finally, when we consume reviews, we often share a behavioral trait: we do not just take the score for what it is. Personally I use the score to select the group of merchants I consider buying from. However, then I read a few reviews. Not the one-liners that just state that the overall experience is perfect or awful. I focus on the ones with real content … a real experience being described. And I like reading a couple of less positive ones too. Often the disappointment that another consumer had will not be relevant or apply to me for whatever reason … or it will. As an example- if a young couple reviews a vacation resort and are disappointed because there are too many children making a lot of noise for their romantic get away, and I am planning to go with my family, then that review may for my purpose actually be a positive endorsement.

Over the past few years Trustpilot has seen explosive growth of its service. The picture above (welcoming the arrival of the 100th Trustpilot employee) depicts this as it sees its team grow to support the demand.

Trustpilot is on a brave mission to continuously improve customer experience, and I am thrilled to be supporting them through this journey.