TripAdvisor recently launched an investigation into the review system of Peek.com, here we take a look at the implications this could have for the company.
In November 2015, it was revealed that Peek was being investigated by TripAdvisor in regards to a system that could be exploited so that only positive feedback will appear on the review website. This is a classic example of ‘cherry picking’, which is against TripAdvisor’s review guidelines, and it is no co-incidence that 95 percent of Peek’s customer reviews are now four or five stars. Indeed, the review site’s average review rating is 4.75 stars, which either suggests an exceptional level of customer service or deceptive information.
Advice is ‘inconsistent’ with TripAdvisor’s policy
The co-founder and CEO of Peek, Ruzwana Bashir, admitted that some members of her team had made recommendations that were ‘potentially inconsistent with the guidelines’, adding that her company’s role is to help operators ‘get valuable feedback and take action’ – quickly and efficiently – when customers have negative experiences.
Operators encouraged to keep negative ratings ‘private’
Shockingly, the investigation has uncovered e-mails, sent by sales representatives, which endorsed the practice of ‘keeping’ better reviews (i.e. four or five-star ratings) so that operators could ‘increase their rating and visibility on the web’. The e-mail then mentioned that operators could ‘receive negative reviews directly’ so they could ‘handle them individually and privately’. By ‘privately’, this implies that these service providers were encouraged to keep negative ratings hidden so as not to reduce their visible rating.
TripAdvisor ‘strongly discourages’ companies from using services that ‘attempt to influence’ customer reviews, which, in this case, meant that the operator could determine which reviews were available to the customer and which were not.
The dangers of biased feedback
With a bias towards positive reviews, website visitors have an inaccurate perception of the customer satisfaction with a service. This raises the customer’s expectations, because the absence of any negative reviews suggests that previous customers have received a good service, thus a new customer would instinctively presume that they will also have a positive experience.
Customers don’t want to be fooled
However, when customers have a bad experience of a service, they might start to question the validity of the operator’s reviews. If their experience is completely different to what has been implied on the reviews, they might have reason to question whether this information is genuine.
Stories of bad experiences can go viral on social media
When customers are particularly unhappy, they might advise other people – such as friends, family, and social media contacts – to avoid using that service, or the review website altogether. The more attention this generates on social media, the greater the damage to the website’s reputation.
Operators take advantage of loopholes in Peek’s systems
Customers that choose a high rating are directed to Peek’s page on TripAdvisor, where they will have the opportunity to leave a review. However, lower ratings will simply be stored in Peek Pro, which means other customers won’t be able to see them. But don’t prospective customers have a right to know that a previous customer has had a bad experience? Surely, such a practice does not serve the greater public interest?
Compare different review websites before booking a service
As many establishments – such as hotels and restaurants – are listed on multiple review websites, it’s always a good idea to look at reviews from different sources to get a good idea of the level of customer satisfaction. Finally, keep up-to-date with all the latest travel news, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance well before your departure date.
Laura Reeve is the Marketing Executive at Avanti Travelcare, who specialise in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and are one of very few that have no upper age limit on their policies.