This week I am delighted to feature a new guest blogger. Steve Drake is a Retail Director with a wealth of international and UK experience, across both the strategic and operational aspects of the customer experience mix.  His post is a personal story that questions the lack of transparency that some retailers have with their online customer reviews, with potential unintended consequences for their brands – I am sure you will very much enjoy reading it….

“Sorry – Your review didn’t quite meet our guidelines”. Or in other words, “We really value your feedback, but we will only publish the bits that we like!”

Many brands use Customer Reviews to talk up how great their products and service are. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it is also a useful service appreciated by customers when making their own online purchase decisions. Research shows that customers treat these reviews, from other customers, as a strong recommendation (or warning) of what to expect when you deal with these brands. People believe that the reviews are truthful and that the balance of positive and negative comments about a product or an experience are a true reflection of the genuine feedback given.

However, what if this was not entirely the case? what if brands were to “sanitise” the feedback? Would you bother taking the time to share your personal experience of purchasing a product? What would you think of the brand?

These questions came to mind after a recent experience with an online purchase from a well-known British retailer. Like many busy households, over the years we have accumulated an eclectic range of mugs. My wife decided that it was time for a change and she set about ordering a set of 10 new Spotted Mugs from the said retailer’s website. All was well. She liked the mugs and was certainly looking forward to “accidently” dropping my assorted Sports Direct “jugs” on the tiled kitchen floor when these new beauties arrived!

When the package arrived, within the specified delivery period, all was not well. Of the 10 mugs only 2 had survived the journey. 8 had broken handles, cracks, chips or were in several pieces in the box. They had not been well packaged for such fragile items. My wife duly got in touch with the retailer and was quickly refunded for the 10 mugs and told that she could keep the 2. She did, however, decline the invitation to order again for a home delivery!

As she appreciates others reviews of their online purchase experience – which includes getting the product to you in one piece and fit for use – she wrote a review for the retailer’s website. Here it is:

0 steve drake review

Seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Praising the product, but warning others that actually getting them in one usable piece may be an issue. Not unreasonable from a customer (my wife) who chose the online purchase route for convenience. After all, the brand experience is not just about the product!

A few days later she received “The Email”. It came from a “no-reply” email address used by the retailer. The subject line read: “Your review has been rejected”. It went on:


Your review didn’t quite meet our guidelines.

Would you like to try again?

Mmmmmm. So, she clicked through to read the guidelines. This is what they said:

0 steve drake review 2

Or in other words, “We really value your feedback, but we will only publish the bits about our products … not the bits about the total customer experience of buying online with us”

The guidelines are comprehensive for sure, and I completely get the “reserve the right not to post” for the reasons given about obscenities, advertising etc. However, to edit out the genuine, honest feedback of customers who have had the full experience (which means you do not get the product in a usable form) seems at odds with really wanting to engage with your customers.

How many other customers have had the same poor experience with the delivery of these lovely mugs? What other fragile products in their extensive range are also affected? What is the point of online purchasing and home delivery if the lovely products do not survive the journey? Does the retailer have a supply chain issue they need to address? If, as a potential customer, you knew this was more widespread would that affect your decision about making the purchase?

In fairness, I am sure that this retailer is not the only brand that takes this approach. However, it is the freshest in my mind through witnessing my wife’s irritation about how this was handled.

We still do not have our mugs (because we have not had time to get to the store), my wife’s review has not been posted, but she does have a very good dinner-party story … but not the kind that the good folk at this respected British retailer (or other brands for that matter) would like to see on their website!