Is Trustpilot ending the need for company driven CX feedback and systems?

Consumer’s reliance on customer reviews is clear and given the variability of alternative trusted sources on the Internet, not likely to go away. Trustpilot has emerged as one of the biggest players in this market but its business model gives companies some significant decisions to make about how they engage with Trustpilot and whether they continue with their own internally driven programmes.

If Trustpilot tracks feedback for your company’s service then you can either do nothing and allow feedback to gather organically or you can manage feedback on the platform. You can pay Trustpilot (currently £2400 per annum) to send out invitations to customers on your behalf and get access to the data and analytical tools, or you can simply direct customers there at the end of your own survey.

If your competitors are managing this process and consumers are likely to look at this as part of their decision-making process then you may be forced to go down the same route because organic scores are generally significantly lower than when you manage the process.

If we take the example of the energy industry in the UK, we can see a sector which is engaged with Trustpilot in a big way with all of the top 6 providers having claimed their site and paid Trustpilot for their services. Newer entrants appear to have placed even greater emphasis on this route achieving higher scores and most responding to negative comments within 24 hours.

It is interesting to note that some very well-known brands such as Apple, choose not to engage with the platform, resulting in a negative score. Also, customers in some sectors have their own specialist providers, examples being the hospitality sector (Tripadvisor) or the home care sector (

Operating within the Trustpilot ecosystem can offer total transparency, which is surely beneficial in a social media driven world. But there are a few things to think about if you don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention:

  • Inviting reviews – as long as this practice is done in a representative way with negative as well as positive reviews being allowed onto the platform, this is a more representative approach than simply leaving it to customers to decide (organic) on whether to review your service or not.
  • Gating – this is the practice of manipulating the Trustpilot score by pushing customers you know to be positively inclined to give you a favourable review. This is against Trustpilot’s guidelines and could get you barred from the platform. Being publicly shamed for this practice is probably the most damaging outcome that you would want to avoid.
  • Fake negative reviews – is where your brand is targeted by negative reviews that are not from real customers and are trying to damage your reputation. This is dealt with by flagging them to Trustpilot, who will investigate.
  • Review flagging – is where the organisation can flag a customer review as breaching Trustpilot guidelines and if this is found to be the case then the review is removed by Trustpilot, which has the final say. The number of requested reviews and the outcome is shown on the site, so companies need to be careful with how they approach this or it could be seen to impact their reputation. At present, the number of reviews flagged is not shown on the front page of the review site so only those with knowledge of this practice are likely to see it. If your organisation is seen to flag a high proportion of negative reviews, this could impact the credibility of your score.
  • Trustpilot’s reputation – It is worth noting that Trustpilot is funded by organisations, not by consumers, which has the potential to be a conflict of interest in a dispute between the two. This is most likely to be highlighted if Trustpilot is seen to be more likely to favour the organisation over the individual consumer and is most obvious if reviews are removed for questionable reasons. An example of the potential for this was highlighted in ‘Rip off Britain’ where some housebuilders got customer reviews removed because they claimed they breached Trustpilot guidelines.
  • Fake positive reviews – The practice of fake reviews to boost a product or brand’s popularity has been much talked about recently and is a challenge to the credibility of online retailing. Trustpilot has reportedly removed millions of fake reviews in the last couple of years and continues to monitor for them but if people suspect that your brand has a significant number of fake reviews then it will damage your reputation.
  • Cost of participation – although the cost of engaging with Trustpilot is £2400 per annum, which is not too significant for large organisations, the real cost comes in monitoring and responding to feedback in a timely manner. Given this feedback is also visible on the site, the tone and content of your response is key. Your response will be read by many people to understand not only how people experience your service but also to judge how you deal with criticism.

If you are already or about to engage with Trustpilot but already have your own customer feedback programme then a question arises, should you continue to run this and if so, why?

  • Omnichannel complexity – many organisations have a complex web of touch points with customers that include websites, contact centres and face to face interactions such as high street retail. Tracking customer opinion across all customer journeys is challenging and managing that through a third party such as Trustpilot, which has a duty to the customer as well as to the organisation may not be the best route.
  • What is representative of the customer experience? – If I am buying a product or service, do I want to know what all customers think or just those that have had a recent contact with the organisation? Well that may depend on what is being reviewed. Typically a more considered review over the course of a relationship may be more representative but less passionate than recalling a recent event, either positive or negative. Much more focus, in CX, is put on events in the journey than on overall relationships, rightly or wrongly. This is partly because it is easier to define any problems and act on them. So should you prioritise the purchase point, after-sales service issue or complaints. Clearly, you will get very different scores depending on the stage you focus on.
  • Getting ahead of problems – product and service issues often start small and build. A proactive approach to issues raised on a continuous survey can mean that problems are dealt with before they start to appear in large numbers on a platform like Trustpilot.
  • Data access – more and more CX feedback is being connected to customer data to better understand issues that arise and to do so in real time. Again, this is complex to do and you need to be sure that you will have access to the right level of data at the right time.
  • Detail – Trustpilot only allows for a star rating and a comment and although some customers will provide detailed accounts of their experiences, others may not provide enough information to identify them and explore their case from an internal perspective. Channelling customers through your own survey will allow you to gain a much fuller understanding of their experience.
  • Closing the loop – providing a mechanism for your own complaints management team to resolve the problems that customers are experiencing may take the edge off their desire to vent on Trustpilot. Customers can often feel that they are not being listened to by organisations and a well-positioned and effective complaints management team can turn this situation round to turn negative reviews into more positive stories that promote a more customer centric image of the brand. Care needs to be taken here not to offer customers anything that could be seen as a ‘bribe’ to change their reviews as this will be counterproductive and can lead to unscrupulous customers gaming the system as well as distrust of a positive score.

Managing customers through your own programme and then directing them to Trustpilot should result in a better overall score and understanding of issues raised. Care needs to be taken to keep the feedback tool at an appropriate length or Trustpilot scores could be negatively impacted.

For smaller organisations, Trustpilot may serve as an adequate feedback collection tool, if a representative cross section of customers are encouraged to use it. In this case, exploration of customer issues can be conducted by comprehensive follow-ups, with customers as well as staff to fully understand the issues.

If managed well, working with Trustpilot, or an industry specific equivalent, can be a boost to your brand and strengthen your position as customer centric and a trusted organisation.