Last weekend was a bit of a nightmare for me: I had been suspecting it for a few days, but by Saturday morning I knew for certain that our main drain was blocked.
It’s easy to take our underground drainage system for granted… that is until it all goes wrong. Then it becomes a top priority, and given that our rather ancient pipes connect with a cottage next door, I knew that this was not the sort of job which could be put off.
This didn’t faze me as I have tackled this kind of job before and keep a very long piece of plastic piping for such rodding pleasures, so I knew I could sort this problem myself without resorting to calling in outside help.
Well, two things happened almost at the same time: my trusty piece of plastic piping got jammed about 10 foot down the length of the drain, meaning that I now couldn’t even close the manhole cover, and then I felt my back ‘go’, in spectacular fashion, experiencing very painful spasms which effectively rendered me useless on the DIY front.
I now had no choice but to hobble to the phone to call in the experts… but whom should I choose?
Sure, when you have non-urgent jobs around the home, then you can draw on past experience and recommendations from friends. But when the job is urgent then sometimes you need to rely on information derived from (supposed) trusted review websites.
Here is a list of my trusted websites, along with a quick guide on how to determine whether customer reviews are in fact true or fabricated…
www.Checkatrade.com – A free service which, according to their site, lists 16,387 recommended and monitored trades, services and providers. I mention this company first simply because it was a drainage engineer, chosen from Checkatrade.com, who came out on a Sunday and unblocked my drain and relived me of £120 in record time.
I was grateful to have the problem resolved, but somewhat disturbed when I later discovered that Checkatrade had been the subject of a watchdog investigation back in October of this year.
Three issues were at the core of their investigation:
1. The apparent inability to leave feedback before a service had been completed i.e. a company not turning up for an appointment as booked.
2. The removal of a trade from our site who had a complaint and then reappeared under a slightly different name without the complaint showing.
3. The 21 day period before which a negative comment will be posted on the site.
I’m really pleased to say that Checkatrade have since responded to each point raised in full and have instigated some changes to put matters right where it was clear that their service could be improved.
‘Which?’ Trusted Trader http://trustedtraders.which.co.uk – This service is available to anyone searching for tradespeople in the home improvements and motoring repairs industries. It was recommended to me by the same Checkatrade engineer who visited me last Sunday – he is a member of both organisations and felt that on balance, the Which? Trusted Trader service had the edge in terms of overall reliability.
Their traders have apparently gone through a rigorous assessment process before becoming a Which? Trusted Trader.
www.Trustpilot.co.uk – This is an open customer review site. They quote: ‘All reviews are open to the public. Trustpilot encourages everyone to share their opinions and contribute to the community. We push for transparency, so we don’t censor comments.’
I love the openness of their review system, but like many review sites, it’s subject to abuse, as it is possible for featured companies to orchestrate reviews from people who have never used their product or service prior to leaving a review.
www.Amazon.co.uk – Amazon are another company who, although they enjoy an un-rivalled reputation of general trust, also have a constant battle to keep their review system ‘real.’
They have recently helped their cause by instigating a system where customers can effectively rate reviews themselves, by saying whether they have found a review to be helpful or not. They will also tag a review as ‘verified’ if it has been left by someone proven to have actually purchased the product.
www.Tripadvisor.co.uk – This site, for all travel related reviews, is really helpful when planning a trip at home or abroad. It too has suffered from the same kind of abuse. It has usefully started to display a red warning flag at the top of any hotel that it feels has been writing fake reviews.
TripAdvisor claims to track the IP addresses of computers from which reviews are written. The site is alerted if multiple reviews come from the same IP address, signalling that hotel representatives may be writing fraudulent reviews from their offices.
Clearly the whole issue of review credibility is a tricky issue and seemingly quite difficult to police. But there are a few simple precautions one can take in order to sift out the good reviews form the bad:
• Look for ‘user experience’ details – If a review mentions specific experiences, about a hotel for instance, this is far more credible than just a whole string of glowing superlatives and adverbs about a product or service without actually mentioning any specific detail.
• Check the wording and phrasing – If a review uses trade terms, such as ‘well-appointed rooms and ergonomic desk chairs’ for a hotel, then it’s quite likely that such a review has been written by someone from within the hotel industry, rather than a customer.
• Check the reviewer’s back history – Click on the name of a reviewer to see what else they have reviewed and be cautious of ‘single review’ accounts.
• A mixture of reviews with different ratings can be a good indicator – This variety in review rating score is possibly a better indicator for a product such as a book review, than a hotel experience. From my own experience as a book publisher, I positively welcome a mix of reviews as it reflects the reality that everyone experiences things differently.
• Beware reviews written in poor English – Bad spelling and grammar can be an indication that a review might have been poorly translated from another language. Gives more credence to well-constructed and grammatically correct reviews.
• Conduct additional research on forums to back up your findings.
Until next time, have a great week.