It’s Friday night and you want to try a new restaurant. You know the drill- pull out your smartphone or jump online and Google that new hot spot that just opened up or simply type in “Best Restaurants (insert your location here).”
Within seconds you can make an educated decision of where to go based on the food, drinks, ambience, décor, price and overall feel of the restaurant by reading through ratings and reviews from Yelpers who have already visited the business.
In fact, you’ll probably already know you are going to get the fish tacos and a Coconut Margarita because Maria C. says they are “The best she has ever had north of the border.” Many local restaurants and businesses, however, have experienced the sting of a bad online review. Perhaps Kate W. thinks “service was slow and the fish tacos were incredibly soggy and over salted.”
In 2004, Yelp was founded on a simple principle; to help people find the great businesses in their local areas. Whether it’s that mouth-watering double cheeseburger, a perfectly styled haircut, or friendly neighborhood mechanic, Yelpers have written over 39 million local reviews to help you find what you are looking for.
Reviewers have rated their experiences – both positive and negative – with everything from events to restaurants, service providers, and even parks. In order to protect users and business owners from fraudulent reviews, Yelp uses its automated filter to remove fake or malicious content, making the final review count as legitimate and accurate as possible.
So how do restaurants and local businesses use these online reviews and social media tools like Yelp to manage their reputation and leverage customer purchasing patterns? As a restaurateur or chef, it’s easy to ignore Kate W. and say she clearly has never had a proper fish taco before. But it’s important to remember that her opinions still matter in the public forum!
A recent study by two Berkley economists certainly proves just how important her comment is. Their research found that “a simple half-star improvement on Yelp’s 5-star rating makes it 30-49% more likely that a restaurant will sell out its evening seats.” That’s nearly half of nightly revenues riding on a half of a star generated by customers’ online word of mouth.
But no need to Yelp about it! There are four simple steps that you can take to use Yelp to your advantage:
1. Fill out Your Yelp Page Completely.
Yelp is ultimately your business’ first impression to new customers. You want to make sure it’s a good one. Therefore, make sure your Yelp page is filled out as completely as possible with accurate and reliable contact information, business hours and any other necessary details.
2. RESPOND RESPOND RESPOND!
Yelpers will have both negative and positive things to say about your business- there is no way around that. However, the beauty of it all is that Yelp gives you the opportunity to respond to these reviews both privately and publically. Do not hide behind your mistakes because you disagree or because you are frightened. Respond judiciously and thank your loyal customers for their feedback or kind words! Dissatisfied customers might give you a second chance, and at best they have given you insight into what you can change and improve upon to become a better business. Who doesn’t want to be better?
3. Stay Connected
It’s important to stay connected on Yelp to engage with your customers. Make offers, announcements, and specials regularly to keep good customers coming back and to entice those people who may be on the fence about trying you out. It might be just the nudge customers need to walk in your door!
4. Display Your Yelp Pride!
Encourage people to write reviews simply by making them aware that you are on Yelp. Display the Yelp badge at your business, on your website, in your email signature, on business cards, etc. It shows that you are engaged with the community and it can inspire people to write positive reviews about the experience they had with the business, furthermore boosting up your overall rating.
Yelp and other online reviewing websites are here to stay, and are becoming increasingly important in how we select and evaluate the value of local businesses. These reviews are the new word of mouth!
So stay ahead of the game; use Yelp to your advantage to create an online presence, communicate with your customers, and manage your reputation to leverage the goods and services you provide in your community.