I spoke with a restaurant owner who was struggling with a serious business problem. His restaurant had a few reviews on Yelp, all of which gave poor ratings. So, anytime his prospective customers were checking out his restaurant, they were immediately turned off based on what the Yelp reviews had to say.
Review sites like Yelp or CitySearch can be incredibly helpful for consumers looking for stores, restaurants, spas, hotels, service providers and so much more. Not only do they provide an overall rating (like 3 out of 5 stars), but individual users can write reviews with specific details about the atmosphere, the cost, the quality, service or other elements of the business. This can be immensely insightful for consumers researching a particular place, or even comparing places. As a business owner, it can mean that review sites like these pit you and your competitors against each other based on your ratings and what previous customers have to say.
That said, it's critical for you to be aware of your presence on Yelp and similar sites, and try to either reinforce a great rating or respond to your poor rating with an action plan. Here are a few steps to take:
1. Think of your customers and why they are saying what they are (good or bad). Did you ever go somewhere as a customer and receive great service and think, "I'm going to write an awesome review about this place," or "I'm going to email the manager about my great experience!"? Many people think this, but few actually take the time to do it. However, people who have a bad experience and think "I'm going to give this place a horrible review on Yelp," or "I'm going to tell everyone I know never to come here," are much more inclined to actually do it. A bad opinion or experience will spread much faster than a good one. So, it's in your interest to consistently focus on providing superior customer service to encourage positive reviews and feedback. And if those bad reviews you received are legitimate, make sure you address those concerns.
2. If you have a poor rating because of a few bad reviews, let go of the resentment you're holding for those few reviewers and put your energy into actively getting new, great reviews. Your final rating is a combination of all of the reviews you receive. So, if you have only 3 reviews and they are all bad, your overall rating is bad. However, if you have 3 bad reviews and you solicit 10 new great reviews from other customers, your overall rating is going to drastically improve. There is power in numbers here. The key is to actively seek more positive reviews. Consider printing small cards to give to customers as they leave with a reminder to write a review on Yelp or CitySearch. If you communicate with you customers via email, send them an email after they've been to your place of business and include a direct link to Yelp or CitySearch and ask them to consider writing a positive review. Include links to Yelp or CitySearch right on your FaceBook page (chances are, people that are your fans of FB are probably willing to say good things about you).
3. Analyze these review websites regularly. It's easy to have a big push to improve your ratings, and then forget about it once you've achieved the rating you wanted. But, it's important to monitor consistently to ensure that any negative reviews are addressed immediately. Also, if you do have a great rating as a result of your hard work, go ahead and tout it! Put it on your website, your FB page, or even on your printed materials. It might mean a lot to your customers or prospects to read "We have a 4-star rating on Yelp because our customers love us!"