Yelp! Not just a stubbed toe

Posted by admin | Uncategorized | Thursday 25 February 2010 11:57 pm

Yelp! is not just something you do when you stub your foot–it’s a website that lets customers post reviews of businesses online. This is an increasingly common practice, especially for dissatisfied customers. This means that the businesses are having to offer better services, better products–and even free stuff!

To many customers, user-review sites have become the go-to destination for determining the best nearby services, with ratings on dentists, cafes, bars, mechanics and other businesses.

The freebies many owners are offering to salvage their ratings include free meals, exchanges for faulty products and second tries on services such as botched haircuts, Sterling said.

“This ups the ante for businesses,” he said. “You can’t really hide anymore.”

The rest of the article is mostly about the ethics of dealing with customers over Yelp–but it’s well worth a read. Yelp! is a website which can encourage web libel against many businesses, so it will remain relevant.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-reviews26-2010feb26,0,5795837.story

INTERNET

When customers yelp, everyone can hear it

Online reviews play a key role in local businesses’ reputations. Owners are taking note — and often action.


Hollywood transplant Caroline White figured a spa outing would be the perfect way to welcome her visiting mother to Los Angeles. ¶ But to hear White tell it, their afternoon last summer at a Mid-Wilshire spa was anything but relaxing: The facialist was late, the staff was rude and the business refused to offer an immediate refund. ¶ So the aspiring actress did what she always does when a business disappoints: She wrote a scathing review on Yelp, one of the many user-generated-review websites popularized in recent years. ¶ In the past, the spa’s owners might have ignored White’s online rant or not even seen it. But these days, many owners are acutely concerned about their online reputations and are offering disgruntled customers freebies, do-overs and other incentives to reverse harsh critiques on websites such as Yelp and Citysearch, industry observers say.

White felt the effect of that concern firsthand.

“I get a call from my mom saying, ‘You need to take your review down or they’re not giving me my money back,’ ” she recalled.

White’s experience, though relatively extreme, isn’t unique.

“It’s become a higher-stakes game in the last year as sites have become more popular,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst who looks at the effect of digital media on consumer behavior. “Before, someone might have said, ‘I’m never going to go there again,’ but that was word of mouth. It wouldn’t show up anywhere. But now it’s all public.”

“You can no longer, as a business owner, ignore criticism. You have to address it,” said Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence.

No one publishes hard data on how often business owners offer perks to dissatisfied customers; many of the exchanges are proposed in private messages and fulfilled offline. But anecdotal evidence shows the practice is becoming increasingly common.

The literature on dealing with angry reviews is growing, Sterling said, and third-party companies are popping up with promises to generate positive reviews and suppress negative ones. One company, Seattle-based Marchex Inc., aggregates and analyzes user reviews for business owners in a process it calls “reputation management.”

To many customers, user-review sites have become the go-to destination for determining the best nearby services, with ratings on dentists, cafes, bars, mechanics and other businesses.

The freebies many owners are offering to salvage their ratings include free meals, exchanges for faulty products and second tries on services such as botched haircuts, Sterling said.

“This ups the ante for businesses,” he said. “You can’t really hide anymore.”

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