Is the testimonial dead? You know the ones – from sites that urge you to “read reviews and write reviews.” There was a time when a testimonial was a valuable addition to a company profile: a laudatory acknowledgment of a company’s superior performance in their particular field. Today there are many sites dedicated to the seemingly objective review of a company and its services, but has a good idea in principle, gone badly in practice?
I was recently contacted by a representative of one of these sites and informed that our company was in the running for the coveted title of Mover of the Year. Wow methinks! There was however a catch (isn’t there always for this type of thing?), apparently we had only two reviews and as terrific as they were, three more were required to qualify for “voting'”. Naturally I was gutted, seeing my glittering prize drift away. Before I could lapse into a pity party the representative for this site encouraged me to have three additional reviews posted before the deadline. “Right” – I think, “do you have any idea how infrequently an excellent testimonial is offered without prompting or overt solicitation?”
Fast forward a week later and I get a call from Ms. Overly Caffeinated. “So have you foundsome old testimonials?” What do you mean by old testimonials say I? “You know, ones that you may have received earlier in the year but never got to posting – other companies have.” Now this has become a WTF moment, with a representative of a large “read reviews, write reviews” company urging me to post previously “unseen” reviews to bolster my bid for Moverof the Year. I was so surprised at the disingenuousness of the proposal that I had little to say, other than “you’ll have to go on without me.”
Shortly after this call I visited their site and sure enough a couple of companies had taken the bait. In the space of a few weeks an extra dozen testimonials had appeared in one companies file and similarly in another. Posted on back to back days these anonymous, (e.g., Jim P., Karen… no address, no email, website etc) perfect “10” postings not only looked irregular, but when combined with the circumstances that elicited them (described above) cast a lengthy shadow over the integrity of the site itself.
I am aware that it is always caveat emptor when shopping on the web, the problem is words carry weight. This weight combined with a lack of transparency on most reviewing sites, besides these aforementioned solicitations, may be the beginning of the end for the “read reviews-write reviews” sites as we know them. With apologies to the Manifesto of the Futurists: “Regard all testimonials as useless and dangerous.”