As many small business owners will tell you, customer reviews can make or break a company. In this era of social media, no other review factor appears to have more power than Yelp. ClimatePro has done extensive research on Yelp, with the aim to understand its impact on our business model and its influence on our customers. While we understand some aspects of Yelp and its review system, we find that some information regarding its use and impact still seems vague. This is especially the case if you read Yelp’s guidelines. Their guidelines can be a little ambiguous. In plain speak, Yelp’s guidelines say one thing but it seems they follow them loosely.
We do advertise with Yelp and for good reasons. As the infographic below indicates, there is an incredible amount of interaction happening between business owners and customers on Yelp. We’ve come to realize that our market and targeted customer base favors Yelp and we wanted to take full advantage of it. Admittedly, we where slow to adopt Yelp to our marketing program, but there are great examples of window tinting companies who have do so. Many of those that have don e so now have 25, 50 and 100+ Yelp reviews and I’m sure they can provide testament to the power of Yelp.
Yelp’s Impact on Business
Yelp is a scary thing for business owners. For one reason, there is no review process for users submitting reviews. Users don’t even have to verify they actually made a purchase or even visited a business! This leaves business vulnerable to random negative reviews. Understandably, you will always have difficult customers, no matter what you do or how good your services are. You may even have customers upset because you’re unable to work for them. For example, during certain times of the year a business may be over-capacity and unable to take on new clients. This could upset potential customers and they are allowed to leave reviews if they like. This may seem unfair, but that is just how Yelp works at the moment.
In our opinion, Yelp becomes very difficult for a service business compared to say, a restaurant. A restaurant may serve thousands of customers per year (like this one), where a service business may serve far less customers on a yearly basis (like this one). A restaurant can easily afford to have the random negative reviews. For most restaurants, because they are getting hundreds of reviews, it tends to balance out or even overshadow the negative ones. However, a service business like window tinting may only get 1 review a month, so 1 negative review can really hurt. It can have a huge impact on a small business.
As far a reviews getting filtered, we’ve seen this happen with both positive and negative reviews. It has been observed that some reviews are displayed then filtered, then back again. How the Yelp review filter really works is a mystery. From our experience, we’ve had no issues with positive reviews being filtered before we started advertising on Yelp.
Regarding reviews, part of the issue is that Yelp actually encourages business not to get ask for reviews, which is odd, in our opinion. In our case, at times we have asked customers to review us and they did but because they where new to Yelp (the review they gave us was their first review), that review was filtered. Yelp appears to reasons that the review is untrustworthy because they are a new account or have no other reviews and no Yelp friends. Watching these kinds of reviews closely, we’ve seen that, as soon as the users/customers started posting other reviews or added friends to their Yelp account, their review would become unfiltered and displayed. With that said, what can a small business do to utilize Yelp as a part of their marketing program?
Harness the Power of Yelp
Fortunately, there are a few things that we small business can do.
- Do everything in your power to avoid negative reviews. Sounds simple, right? This involves every aspect of your business. Most upset customers tend to inform you first of their displeasure, so take the time to stop a negative review before it ever hits the web by correcting the situation right then and there.
- Encourage more reviews from happy clients. You constantly need to have processes in your business that encourage customers to provide you feedback. That way, you’re always adding positive reviews to sites like Yelp. That way, if you do get a negative review, it’s not nearly as damaging because you have many more positive ones. It’s good to note that, as far as reviews being filtered, if you work constantly to get more reviews it should balance out. Also remember that sometimes negative reviews will be filtered also, so that could be a positive. In some ways, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have negative reviews from time to time. No business is perfect. If you have tons of positive reviews and a few negative, that’s OK. Most consumers will reason and see the mix for what is: you can’t make everyone happy. This also holds true if you receive a negative review that is ridiculous. Most savvy consumers will see right through that review and read the positive ones to understand what your business is about.
- You can respond privately to negative reviews. We always try and do that. We honestly want feedback from our customers and if it’s negative, so be it. We can reach out to the customer and see if we can remedy the situation and if so, we could ask the customer to possibly update their review with their experience. We may not get a full 5 stars but at least the public will see that we are responsive when issues arise.
- Never respond to negative reviews negatively! You don’t want to respond to negative reviews when you are upset, and you never what to be harsh when responding to reviews. We don’t like to publicly respond to negative reviews. It appears to highlights the negative review even more. Our goals is to try to remedy the situation privately. Responding to negative reviews publicly just complicates the situation further, in our humble opinion. Our time would be better spent getting positive reviews. (Ok, unless you’re this guy and you can write the best response EVER.)
Yelp is nothing to be ignored. You may notice that if you Google your business name, your Yelp profile probably shows up right under your website, if not before. Yelp is here to stay, so businesses need to be proactive and make the most of it. Make sure your profile is accurate, add tons of pictures and keep up with all the reviews.
We can fight it all we want, but your customers are using Yelp. Embrace it! If you business is doing a good job you should have nothing to fear. On the other hand if all you seem to get is negative reviews, it might be wise to stop blaming Yelp and take action.
We’d love to hear from you. As a small business owner, how has Yelp impacted your business? As a customer, how do you use Yelp and how much does it influence your decisions?