We did not need a new report to know that a well written customer review of our products or services is clearly more effective than a poorly written one. We did need to know though, that negative, but smart and well written negative reviews have a better impact on future buyers, creating trust, when compared to positive messages from customers that cannot write correctly. With the announcement of this finding, along came a renewed debate on whether it was OK for PR professionals to edit reviews.
Of course we would all love it if we could log in anywhere online and edit all customer reviews even if all we could change was their spelling. But once you edit, the authenticity of the comment in question is not a given anymore. And as there have been some many rumors, accusations and sometimes evidence of PR companies faking customer reviews, the line we’re walking is extremely fragile.
We have on one hand the company image – and no one would just embrace being considered the provider of choice for those with the worst grammar and writing skills, and on the other that of our customers. Because it is not always about being illiterate as some have put it. What about international customers that can barely write a few phrases in English, but still would take the time to write a review just because they love your product so much? They might be quite articulate in their own language, so why would a company let them look like anything less?
My personal opinion on the matter is that when it comes to reviews posted on third party website, no PR pro should edit anything, even if they could. No one asked for their input. Plus or the mistrust about review authenticity is enough already. They should also trust potential customers to differentiate between foreigners, people that text to much and cannot help trying to squeeze as much in, and the truly bad writers who couldn’t spell even if their life depended on it.
When the review is sent to you first, that’s when it gets trickier. The client or customer did not just publish a review or a comment or a recommendation. They have sent it to you first. You could edit it and send it back to them for approval, but what if they are offended? On the other hand if they openly ask for your opinion, you should point out what you would edit.
I for one have been in this situation quite a few times. Companies present in many countries and customer reviews that would hurt my ears when I read them. Of course, I had permission to edit them and they were going to be posted strictly on our website. What I chose to do is to make sure they were correct ant the message could be understood. No extra hype added, none of my input on the matter, just “translating” the customer’s message. I also asked for their approval afterwards.
What about you? What similar situations have you faced when it comes to customer reviews? What were your options and what have you chosen?