Sharing Customer Testimonials-Bad Practices
Some bad practices of companies when sharing customer testimonials include distorting or leaving out the bad parts of a shared testimony, or sharing a customer's details or testimonial without permission. These practices are unethical and also against certain guidelines specific to sharing testimonials.
Distorting, or Omitting Parts of a Shared Testimonial
- Experts reveal that the level of influence of testimonials on buyer decisions is significant. Consequently, many businesses attempt to "bend" (distort) testimonial guidelines when sharing their content in a manner that might lead to "the worst" outcome.
- While giving testimonials, customers may make claims about a business that may not be true. Companies need to refrain from using (publishing, promoting, or sharing) such testimonials. It is better to ask such consumers to rephrase.
- Companies are not compelled to share or "use the exact words" of a customer's testimonial. According to a recent publication made by Boast, a testimony "may not be presented out of context or reworded" in a manner that distorts the endorser's opinion or experience in any way. There are appropriate ways of handling negative comments which often get to be part of a feedback or testimonial than covering them up (through distortion).
- The FTC guidelines in the United States specify that published endorsements (testimonials) should be "truthful and not misleading." All testimonials shared via TV, print, radio, blogs, and word-of-mouth marketing are required to be truthful (not distorted) and not misleading.
- Distorting or omitting parts of a testimonial made by a customer while presenting or sharing the customer's testimony (testimonial) is a bad practice. It is unethical and against the legal guidelines, as discussed above. Several publications, including a recent Boast article and some published regulations, frown upon the practice.
- A recent publication by the Verge reveals that the United States Federal Trade Commission recently imposed a fine of $12.8 million on Cure Encapsulations for using fraudulent (distorted) Amazon ratings. This fine got imposed on the company for allegations of fraud done by "misrepresenting" (sharing distorted) endorsements, reviews as well as testimonials.
- Although some businesses get tempted to share made-up testimonials when they don't have sufficient or adequate testimonials, sharing these fake (made-up) customer testimonials constitutes false advertising as well as fraud and should be avoided.
- It is important to avoid sharing made-up testimonials because consumer protection groups, the FTC, Department of Justice, as well as other organizations prohibit the act may specify fines running into thousands of dollars, fees, or appropriate jail time to defaulters.
- Companies that do not follow the guides may come under investigation. The FTC has the mandate to investigate if a practice used to share a testimonial is unfair or "deceptive under the FTC Act."
- A shared testimonial that deceives a customer is a crime and is a bad practice.
Sharing Customer's Details or Testimonial without Permission
- Sharing the name, picture, or video in a testimonial is known to make it more trustworthy. This process makes customers more comfortable. However, doing so without the consent of the customer is unhealthy, and experts insist that customer's permission should get sought and acquired before sharing their testimonial.
- Good feedback can get shared as a testimonial after the consent of the customer is secured.
- Sharing a customer's details or their testimonial without the customers' permission is a bad practice. It is unethical, is against the legal guidelines, and can give rise to "legal or privacy issues" and fines for a company as discussed below.
- Companies should not share customer testimonials without obtaining the concerned customer's consent. Doing otherwise raises avoidable "legal or privacy issues." Interested companies should get their client's written permission before publicly displaying their testimonial on websites or other marketing materials.
- Some laws (including sector-specific regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the United States) prohibit sharing of a customer's (patient's) testimonials without an agreement or an authorization form duly signed by the patient. Defaulters can get fined (up to $25,000) and also have a plethora of restrictions imposed on them.
The study investigates bad practices (things/mistakes to avoid) for companies when sharing customer testimonials, and examines testimonial sharing guidelines published by government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The study also examines guidelines published by organizations that help companies share their customer testimonials such as Boast. A recent Boast publication revealed that many business organizations (companies) are trying to "bend" guidelines while presenting (or sharing) testimonials. They do this by implementing certain practices identified by the publication as bad. The study has researched why these practices are considered bad practices based on existing guidelines, rules, or regulations that prohibit the use of such bad practices and challenges that companies may encounter or get exposed to by practicing identified bad practices. The study assumes that sharing a testimonial in a manner that violates or breaks legal principles, agency guidelines, regulations, or laws in a way that exposes a company to avoidable challenges is a bad practice.