It’s a scenario familiar to almost everyone. You and your friends made an impromptu decision to eat out but have driven off without deciding on a restaurant. Chinese food sounds good, but there are tons of places to choose from and no one in the car has a favorite.
So you grab your phone, type “Chinese food” into a search engine, and press send. The search results populate with rows of restaurant review pages. Four stars or more grabs your attention first; if all else fails, you’ll try three; anything below that, and goodbye Chinese food. Mexican sounded better anyway.
What is Yelp?
Yelp is a medium for customers to publish reviews about local businesses with which they engage. Yelp lists almost all types of business, from remodelers, to fitness centers, to restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Why should your small business consider Yelp?
In an age where you can find almost anything you want or need online and order it instantly, brick and mortar businesses who don’t utilize technology are at an inherent disadvantage. Businesses that establish themselves online are constantly taking part in that vast, consumer-driven conversation called the internet. Highly successful companies are able to maintain a robust virtual and physical presence simultaneously, but at an enormous cost of money, time and personnel. Smaller businesses need to find inexpensive, practical, yet effective ways of keeping up with the online conversation while still minding the store.
One of those effective ways is establishing a Yelp page. When you type “Chinese food [your city]” into Google, it’s usually Yelp review pages that populate the first page of the results. Imagine what type of visibility that might bring your company if your business makes it into those results.
Let Yelp help
Having a Yelp page looks good for prospective customers, feels good for your customers, and is good for your business.
- Looks good. The first and most obvious is that a high score on Yelp provides immediate visual confirmation that your business is worth looking at more closely. Using crowd sourced reviews inspires instant, instinctive trust from prospective customers and current customers alike. To maintain that trust is the hard part—and Yelp can help you there, too.
- Feels good. Returning customers are customers who not only value what your business provides, but also how you provides it, and, most important—especially for brick and mortar businesses—who provides it. Yelp allows you to engage with your customers the same way you do your family and friends. You can thank positive reviewers in person or with Yelp’s private messaging tools, and reach out to negative reviewers the same way. This will remind your customers of why they visit a local business like yours—for the personal relationship they can build will your establishment.
- Is good. This unique combination of luring a customer in through a classic rating system and keeping them around through ultramodern methods of instant feedback and detailed exchange, is now a standard feature of the great internet dialogue. Yelp allows you to jump right into that dialogue, actively participate, and still focus on the day to day needs of your business.
- BONUS: Lenders such as Credibly and Lending Club are now starting to use Yelp to help determine a borrower’s risk level— a good looking Yelp page could make it easier for you to get small business loans or secure less expensive loans going forward.
Questions and concerns
With all of this focus on the beauty of stars when they come in fours and fives, the question of what happens if you can’t maintain such a standard becomes important. Assuming that you do everything you can to keep your customers happy, the likeliest way for that to occur would be a disgruntled former employee, irrationally embittered customer (they exist!), or dishonest competitor manipulating your rating on purpose to reflect low levels of customer satisfaction.
The best way to identify and counteract such behavior is to keep current. Check your reviews daily, so that you can respond quickly to customer complaints. Many Yelp merchants have found that identifying mistakes, apologizing for them and taking them into consideration next time a customer walks in is enough to change a sour review. If your overall score takes a sudden dive, look for telltale signs of bad faith such as people posting under aliases rather than their real names. You can also search a reviewer’s Yelp history for evidence of trolling. If you do find evidence of wrongdoing, report it to Yelp; they cite having a vested interest in preventing this stuff.
A study performed by economics professor Zhongmin Wang of Northeastern University suggests that Yelp’s reviews are more balanced overall than those of its main competitors. 80 percent of all Yelp reviews, Wang discovered, are three stars or above. Combine that with the fact that Yelp reviewers are an active bunch—Yelp’s once-and-done review crowd stands at only 9 percent. Yelp is a good organic way to hear customer feedback and tell a buzzing community of potential customers about your business.