The other day, a business I work with ended up getting a rather unflattering review on Yelp. Not a big deal, but as I read through the lengthy diatribe, I realized that the negative comments were more of a personal beef that individual has, rather than a legitimate review of the business. So, as I have done in the past, I flagged the review and filed a report with Yelp. Several days later I was notified that the review would stay; they didn’t find it unreasonable or objectionable.
Am I disappointed? Yes. But not surprised. You see Yelp has a history of being difficult to work with. Of having an algorithm that filters out legitimate reviews, and leaves others alone.
A bit of a back story. The individual who wrote the review is someone who is known to me, and in fact, doesn’t like me. And I don’t even know why. But, just hours prior to the review being written, he was in the business in question for a meeting, not as a customer, and he discovered my affiliation with the business. And in his review he goes out of his way to target the “marketing team” and questions whether the business will survive, and in some ways encourages them to throw in the towel.
Never mind that the business is already successful, and is getting more successful every day. In the past week alone, we’ve gotten major positive media coverage on three local TV stations and two local newspapers. Word of mouth has been incredible, and positive traffic has been growing on both their website and social properties.
So we have a troll (who relishes the role of troll) and Yelp. Two of my favorite things! Yippee!
This troll hangs out on Yelp. A lot. In fact, he has written well over 300 reviews, mostly negative. Of gas stations. Mini marts. I mean, who has the time to review gas stations? And when you look at the businesses he has reviewed, a number of them are businesses that haven’t agreed to hire him as a consultant or for one of his lines of work. And yet Yelp isn’t privy to that sort of information, so there isn’t much they can do. Though I bet if I paid them, they’d “work with” me to make things a bit more reasonable.
So what do we do?
For the time being, we’ve decided not to respond. But there are a few things we will be doing, and that you should consider doing for your own business:
1. Claim and optimize your Yelp account
As of this point, the business in question hasn’t yet been active on Yelp, and has only gotten a small handful of reviews. But with a change in business model, and a much higher profile online, Yelp is becoming more important for them. We have now claimed the Yelp account and will be optimizing it, to make sure all of the information is correct.
2. Pay attention to Yelp and other review sites
I don’t think this business has paid much attention to brand monitoring. One of the first things I did was set up Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts. I also discovered a tool called Reputology that scours review sites like Yelp for new reviews. In fact, that’s how I was notified of the review in question in the first place. It is incredibly important to monitor your brand online to find out what others are saying about you, whether good or bad.
And it’s not just Yelp. You need to pay attention to reviews on Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon, Foursquare, Google, Facebook, and the like. They are all important.
3. Cultivate a Yelp community
In about six years of being around, this business has only gotten about five Yelp reviews. That needs to change. People use Yelp as a means of finding out where to go an what to do. While I’m not a fan of the platform, I do recognize it’s importance for end users. What we need to do now is carefully find ways of encouraging our customers to write honest reviews. Not beg for good reviews, not give incentives for good reviews, but at least let people know we are on Yelp and would love for them to review us. This is the tricky part. Too many reviews in a short period of time, or too many reviews from the same IP address (even if from legitimate customers) and Yelp’s algorithm gets antsy. Yelp doesn’t want you gaming the system, so don’t. This is something we’ll be working on much more intentionally in the future, as we seek reviews that we know will be good, and will outweigh any bad reviews we get.
4. Provide great service and up your game
For us, this is business as usual. We will continue to provide the great products and services for which we have become known, and will even be working to up our game. The owner of the business pushes this all the time, and exemplifies this in the way he interacts with customers. This business has an incredible business culture that is contagious. This will continue to help. We know that 99% of the people who leave will leave happy. Many of them will tell others. But that’s not enough. We will continue to work on that final 1%, trolls notwithstanding.
5. Don’t feed the trolls
As I mentioned before, we haven’t responded to our Yelp troll. Yet. We might. We have to weigh our options carefully, and if we respond, respond properly. Trolls feed on improper responses, so you have to move very carefully. The nature of the review is such that I think most people who read it can see through it and recognize it as the work of a troll, not a legitimate customer with a legitimate beef. If we decide to engage him, it will be in a very positive way, not as an attack in any way. That just makes the business look bad.
The Yelp game is not a fun game to play. As we all know, and as Peter Blackshaw confirms, “Satisfied customers tell 3 people, angry customers tell 3,000.”
We live in a culture that is more inclined to complain than to praise. It’s our job as businesses to change that aspect of our customer culture. We can work hard to make them happy, but that won’t necessarily garner positive reviews. But we’re working on it, and it will happen.
So when the trolls and Yelp collide, don’t worry. Put a plan into action that makes sense, and move forward. Don’t spend time worrying about a bad review here or there. Listen, but move on, and be great at what you do.
People will know. They will find out.
How have you dealt with trolls who hang out on online review sites?
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: 5 Steps to Take When Yelp and Trolls Collide
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