Wayne arrived at work and found someone left a negative review on Yelp for his iPhone screen repair service. It was glaring because he had a stellar 5-star rating until now. The review pointed out that an employee at the store was rude and arrogant. This struck Wayne as strange because has a mobile business and no employees. His best guess is that the irate customer left a negative review for the wrong business which had a similar sounding name. Wayne tried to dispute the review with Yelp but their policy is to not get involved in business vs. customer disputes, which I sort of understand because Yelp would become consumed with doing nothing but moderating disputes. Wayne also tried to contact the reviewer to ask them to remove the bad review. He has not received a response. Social media has become both a powerful business tool and a problem at times when it comes to online reputations.
In another incident, I was perusing the reviews of a favorite and popular restaurant which has 4-1/2 star rating on Yelp. I found a one-star review and it read, “I was very disappointed. The parking lot was full and we just left to go somewhere else.” Yes, they gave a 1-star review to a restaurant and they didn’t even go in the door.
How Yelp Works
So anyone, literally anyone can post reviews on Yelp. It can be a disgruntled employee, disgruntled neighbor, competitor, Internet troll, or run-of-the-mill anarchist. Yelp has no mechanism to verify if the reviewer even patronized your business. If you are the business owner and claim your business on Yelp, you can submit an online request to have a review … well, reviewed. But don’t expect Yelp to help. Their attitude is to let the chips lay where they fall and that the truth will come out over time. Small businesses with a small client base do not have the luxury of hundreds of reviews to drown out the few errant or unjustified reviews. So, unfounded allegations can certainly hurt a business' online reputation.
If you do lodge a complaint with Yelp, expect to be approached by a Yelp salesperson asking you to buy ads for $300-$1200 per month. Many business claim that they have been approached by Yelp salespeople who promise to hide the negative reviews if they buy ads. And if they refuse to buy ads, many positive reviews suddenly disappear. Or if they stop buying ads, hidden negative reviews will show up.
A recent Federal appeals court in California ruled that Yelp pretty much can do whatever they want: list a business against the wishes of the owner, hide bad reviews if a business buys ads on Yelp, or unhide bad reviews if the business stops buying ads. If this sounds like extortion, then you are in agreement with other business owners who sued Yelp exactly for this reason. Of course Yelp claims that this doesn’t happen and the reviews are listed by a software algorithm. Yet many business owners claim that Yelp ad salespeople made promises to hide bad reviews if ads are bought.
How to protect your business?
A business can protect their online reputation by, for lack of a better phrase, stacking the deck in their favor. It is in the business owners best interest to get as many satisfied customers to leave 5-star reviews as possible. So when some silly sod leaves a 1-star review because he feels that some grand injustice has been done and therefore should not have to pay, then it won’t affect the overall rating.
First, business owners also want to go to Yelp, Google, and Facebook to claim their business. This will allow you to put in all the correct information about your business like phone number, description, website, hours of operation, etc. You may not use social media but many people do and that is how they investigate your business and make decision to call you or your competitor. So the best strategy is to properly set up your business presence on those sites so you can control the prospective customer experience.
Next, when a customer has a good experience, then ask them to leave you a 5-star review on Yelp or Google or Facebook. You can ask or email them, “Please help me by leaving a positive 5-star review on Yelp.” Also insert the link to your company page on Yelp, Google and Facebook. Be aware that Yelp hides reviews if the reviewer only has one or two reviews so make sure that the customers you ask have a history of Yelp reviews. Otherwise, you can ask them to review you on your Google business page.
Business owners have a lot to worry about and your online reputation is one more concern that should be on the top of your list. So be proactive about maintaining a good online reputation on Yelp and Google so when a bad review comes, you will be in the best position possible to mitigate any impact it may have on your business.
Links to Help You Claim Your Business
Facebook: Creating a business page on Facebook
Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Owners