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July 1, 2015

From a modest startup in 2004 to the publically-traded and very influential company it is today, Yelp’s ability to impact your company’s business isn’t something most organizations can ignore. As of April 2015, Yelp was averaging 142 million unique visitors each month.

According to a Nielsen survey commissioned by Yelp in 2012, four out of five Yelp users visit the website before spending money and 93 percent say that doing so leads to a local purchase. Of course, the figures undoubtedly vary depending on the type of business and items being purchased.

Regardless of whether you like it or not, Yelp is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The following are some simple things a business can do to utilize Yelp to its advantage and minimize the fallout from negative posts. This list is not all-inclusive but simply a starting point.

Put a business profile on Yelp. You can describe your business and give a brief mission statement. You may also note your website and refer to other places where people can find out positive things about you. For example, some businesses reference their Better Business Bureau status or encourage potential consumers to check out the company’s Facebook page or Twitter profile.

Review posts regularly. At Animal Behavior College, we check sites like Yelp several times per day. Depending on your business, you might only need to check once or twice a week. Just be sure that you do check.

Try to learn from posts. It is a sad but simple truth that no matter how good your customer service is and how wonderful your products/services are, you will never be able to satisfy everyone. That being said, if you are getting negative posts and the feedback in these postings show similar complaints, this is something you need to look at. What can you do better to minimize the complaints? Yelp can be quite useful as a learning tool if you are open to being receptive to the clients’ feedback.
Positive posts. When we get a positive post on Yelp, we make it a point to respond. Positive posters are thanked for their feedback with a return post and encouraged to come back to our business again.

Negative posts. Dealing with negative posters is a bit trickier. Upon reading a negative post, it is best to simply wait two to three days before responding. There are a number of reasons for this. First, negative posts can be upsetting and it is a better strategy to write a response after you are calm, cool and collected. Additionally, Yelp has very sophisticated filters it runs all posts through. Posts from reviewers with incomplete profiles and zero posts (besides the negative one they wrote about your business) are sometimes hidden by Yelp. This means they are not viewable unless a user specifically clicks on a link at the bottom of the reviews page. Far fewer users click on this and thus a smaller percentage of users see hidden profiles. So wait a few days and calm down. Then, assuming the negative post is still in plain view, respond with a nonconfrontational message in which you apologize for the poster’s negative experience and let them know that this is not usually normal. It is best to avoid long, drawn-out explanations because they often invite additional responses that you can’t control. Don’t engage in arguments with people. Some folks like confrontation and multiple back and forth postings about the same complaint rarely end well for the business. Also, try to put things into perspective. If you have numerous positive posts, a few negative ones can actually stimulate more business because some folks feel that they make the sum total of all your reviews seem more real.
Encourage posting. Yelp discourages businesses from cherry picking customers to write Yelp reviews. What’s more, you can’t pay Yelp to remove negative reviews or post positive ones.

However, you can ask all your customers to please post their comments about your business on Yelp. Of course, you had best be sure that your business practices are first rate or you could be opening yourself up for more problems. However, if you are running a decent business with a genuine regard for your customers, you will most likely receive more than enough positive posts to make up for the occasional negative ones.

Next month, I will discuss how to address negative posts in more detail, as well as how to generate more positive posts and possibly even connect with Elite Yelpers.

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