What’s up with TrustPilot?

It loves Autotrader but hates John Lewis & Partners. What’s going on with TrustPilot?

Ah, TrustPilot, what to make of you? You veritable smorgasbord of conflicting signals you.

On one hand, we’ve got Autotrader’s shining star (35k reviews, 5-star rating) and on the other, John Lewis & Partners languishing in shade (6k reviews, 1-star rating).

This felt a bit odd so we did some digging. If you look at consumer brands on the FTSE 100 you’ll see what we mean. Only two brands do well (Admiral being the other), but most do badly, really badly. The average star rating for FTSE 100 brands on TrustPilot is 1.6 out of 5.

This just feels wrong. These are FTSE 100 brands who are always going to get their detractors but wouldn’t be where they are with this kind of sustained feedback.

Ring the alarm

This is a bit alarming. A review site works when it helps people make informed decisions about what to buy and who from. If a review platform’s scores are so profoundly out of kilter with the reality of your experience, it does no one any good.

  • Brands get turned off because it seems so unreal, so they end up dismissing legitimate feedback from customers they’ve let down.
  • Customers who have a bad experience and use TrustPilot – can have their impression validated and cemented by the mostly negative experiences of others.  
  • The value of online reviews can be undermined.

This doesn’t happen to the same extent on other review platforms. It’s the fact that these are so obviously skewed which makes the issue come to life. So, what’s going on? Why are well respected, market leading brands performing so poorly?

All things being equal, you’d expect TrustPilot reviews to reflect how we’d expect these brands to perform. Clearly, all things aren’t equal.

I was talking to a friend in the industry the other day who offered a possible explanation. It costs a fair bit to link your e-commerce platform to TrustPilot’s review platform. So, if brands don’t sign-up they lose the ability to prompt customers to review their experience.

It’s not a panacea, some brands with commercial agreements still score low, but the majority of the FTSE 100 don’t seem to have these in place (according to TrustPilot).

Beware the scorned lover

What’s the old adage? Have a good experience and you’ll tell one person, have a bad one and you’ll tell 10? This is what’s happening to big brands on TrustPilot.

Irritation, frustration and anger have an energy. It’s an energy, fuelled by righteous indignation at what’s happened to them. It’s easy to see how a free-to-write, easy-to-find review platform like TrustPilot would be the perfect outlet for this energy.

Positive experiences, on the other hand, are rarely that powerful. They lack the compulsion to shout them from the rooftops.

So we end up with a distorted world view. TrustPilot gives a platform for the disaffected to vent their frustration and gain some sense of revenge. It’s also open to the satisfied, but they just can’t be arsed to go out of their way to write anything. Unless brands make it easy or reward them through recognition.

A platform for the underdog?

If you look at the top rated companies across the categories TrustPilot covers, you’d be forgiven for not knowing many of them.

TrustPilot is the review site of the underdog, the disruptors, the challenger brands.

They take it seriously, they engage with their customers through it and are able to stand out in an otherwise crowded market. Those that design amazing products, deliver great service or create memorable experiences – stand out.

Where next?

What options do the more established brands have?

  • Sign up to TrustPilot and integrate it across your e-commerce platform – it’ll prompt positive reviews at the point of purchase (while the good experience is still fresh in their minds).
  • Campaign to drive positive reviews on your own platform. This is tricky for retailers as people tend to review the products they’ve bought – rather than the retailer brand itself.
  • Accept the fact that it’s going to happen and ignore it. This needs to be balanced by the volume of lost sales due to people reading TrustPilot reviews and being put off purchasing.
  • Treat it as a complaints line, albeit a rather public one. Just because the reviews are one-sided doesn’t mean they’re not valid or useful for recognising and understanding the weaker aspects of your customer journey.

Either way, these are a useful source of insight. An additional signal to help identify problems, diagnose their cause and track their development over time.

We help organisations turn this kind of feedback into insights that help improve life for their customers. You can read about it in this case study for Warner Leisure Hotels. Or give us a shout, we’d love to talk it over.


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