As stated in the past, user reviews can be very helpful for users having trouble selecting a VoIP provider. While tons of information is easily accessible, it may be harder to find honest experiences with products, services, solutions, etc. User reviews offer consumers honest insights and feedback; however, how credible are these sources? Providers are capable of regulating and filtering user reviews when published on their own site, or even on third party sites (i.e. deleting bad reviews, or editing reviews to make them read a certain way). For example, Amazon was omitting negative reviews at one time. Aside from provider manipulation, reviews may be written by questionable sources—i.e. a writer endorsed/sponsored by a third party, or by the provider under a false alias. That being said, how can consumers navigate through user reviews when not all are credible? In response to this, we have put together some warning signs consumers should look for when dealing with a questionable source.

Volume: Just because there are a lot (or a little) of reviews does not denote authority. It is not an uncommon practice for many providers to pay an outside source to construct a review. Once it is written, the provider then pays Google to advertise the review. A good telltale sign of this is an excessive amount of highly positive reviews. Yes, if a product is popular it will undoubtedly receive comments and feedback; however, it is important to sift through these and look at the wording. If the messages are similar, vague, or overly positive you may want to consult another source.

Language: Aside from looking for a common tone amongst reviews look at the phrasing. More often than not, user reviews focus on the negatives of a product/service/provider.  Being as a user review is unbiased experience, it should not tip toe around an idea. Instead, it will state the issue, the reason, and sometimes a possible solution. Overly positive language does not mean a review is falsified or invalid though. After all, a good product deserves its own accord. Additionally, reviews are highly specific. A user review is one user’s experience with a specific product/provider/system/pricing. Being such, it should represent their encounter–meaning it should not be generalized. Generalizations have no place in a user review. Look for factors like pricing, and unique encounters within the review. Credibility aside, consumers check reviews for insights and feedback; therefore, if the review doesn’t have any, it doesn’t have any worth.

Profile: Again, many providers create aliases to post their own reviews, and thusly create an inaccurate portrayal of their product/service. In doing so, fake profiles will often be made. If a review seems fishy to a user, investigate the writer’s profile/account information. In researching the author you may find that the alias is indeed fictional. A good way to check this is by checking the authenticity of the publisher as well. Take a deeper look an the reviewer’s info, do a Google search for the person or company name, and find out if it is a real person.

Publisher: With the Internet being as vast as it is, it is hard to check the validity of sources, especially publishers; therefore, check the website/web source for heavy amount of spamming material, as well as the validity of the other reviews. Check other authors published on the same page. Check the links the main page take you to. Perhaps even navigate the site a bit. In familiarizing yourself with the publisher you may be able to better determine the credibility of a site. By examining the web source and all of its links and trappings, you can better establish the viability of the review. For example, heavy spam may insinuate financial bias—i.e. the website is paid to publish certain content. For example, if a provider owns a blog spot, or pays a third party to administrate a blog spot, reviews on that webpage will not represent an unbiased experience, rather they will embody the experience providers want users to have.

User reviews are nice companion pieces to service overviews as they provide a more in depth examination of hands on use. Additionally, they point to the pros and cons of the service/product/provider etc; however, if they are not written by a credible source they can sway consumers into an undesirable position. That being said, it is always necessary to consult a variety of sources.