I know, you probably hear the word Yelp and instantly think, Ugh. And I would completely understand why you would think that. I too had – and maybe on a smaller scale, still do have – mixed feelings about the third party review site. But the reality is that Yelp is one of the most widely used and respected online search and review services so businesses can’t afford to ignore it, especially if it’s popular in your area.
Here are my top 10 strategies for growing my company’s online rating using Yelp.
1. Be strategic about who you ask to review.
In the beginning, I asked everyone who we serviced to rate us on Yelp, and that got me in trouble. I never really knew who was happy with their service. I knew who I thought should be happy, but then would be taken aback when their not-so-stellar review ended up online. Now, I only ask people who I know are thrilled because they have communicated their high level of satisfaction to me via their one-click survey through Quality Driven Software (www.QualityDrivenSoftware.com).
2. Promote Yelp reviews.
I did this by posting the Yelp logo on my website and on all printed materials. In addition, when someone rates us a top score through Quality Driven Software (QDS), they are taken to a landing page that requests a Yelp review. Since I have good reviews and rank top three in my service area, I can confidently display the “People Love Us on Yelp!” sticker.
3. Provide a great service.
Especially to Yelpers. I won’t lie. If a referral source comes from Yelp or Angie’s List, they will get a better quality of service, simply because we’re aware of how they heard about us and we are more diligent to be sure that their service goes flawlessly. (aka: scared into accountability!) That is because we know they read reviews about our business and hired us based on those reviews so if something should go wrong in their service, we sure do know where they will go to air their grievances!
As part of our quoting/sales process, we ask how the potential client heard about our business. When they indicate Yelp or Angie’s List, this information goes in bright highlighted marker on the printed work order and on the admin note for our schedule to ensure that someone great is sent out. This was a great proactive approach when first trying to get our name out there in the Yelp community.
4. Don’t pay for Yelp advertising.
For a long while, I did not pay for any of Yelp’s advertising options. I had always read that it doesn’t make a huge difference in placement so I never tried. I can tell you that as of two months ago, I started dabbling in Yelp advertising and so far I am not seeing a significant impact on my business. That’s not to say that Yelp advertising doesn’t work, it may just mean that I’m not spending enough or choosing the right program.
5. Never ask someone to remove or change a review.
It makes me cringe when I hear about a business owner asking someone to remove or change their review. I find that it comes across as self-serving, at best. It’s just tacky! I can only think of one instance when I asked someone to hit the delete button. It was when a past client of ours gave us a 1-star review and I quickly realized that the review was meant for the company she hired after ours based on the details of the review. When I contacted her, she was embarrassed, apologized profusely, and felt so bad about it that she gave us a 5-star review and after some time rehired us. Other than that type of rare situation, as hard as it may be, I take the bad review, deal with it, and learn and grow from the customer’s bad experience. Plus, there are a few things that I do that often result in either a changed score or a review being deleted altogether. I’ll go into that in a bit.
6. Do not pay or bribe clients to post a review.
That actually violates Yelp’s Terms of Service (TOS) and can get you banned from the site, ensuring that your hard work on your listing will surely go to waste. Instead, I ask for honest feedback, which is discouraged by Yelp but does not violate their TOS. Because I am extremely grateful for someone posting a great review, I will send a $5 coffee card as my way of saying, “Thank you for taking the time to post such a great review!” But we would never offer someone that card in exchange for their review.
7. Encourage employees to ask for reviews on your company’s behalf.
In the past, our staff fully realized that the more business we have, the more they earn. Therefore, our teams in the field and our office staff both took an active part in asking clients to provide online reviews. Today, however, we realize that while that statement is true, we need to be strategic about who we ask. Before we risk finding out publically that a client was unhappy, we first gather an internal survey to see how we are doing. You can use any system you like, but QDS was built for service owners in mind and works wonders for my cleaning business. Client surveys that score top scores are then asked to provide a Yelp review.
Our office staff does an excellent job tracking who has been asked and who has already given us a rating. Every Friday, a report is generated through QDS that gives us all the passing scores for the week. Our office manager sends the client a personal message asking for a review, with instructions on how and where to post for their convenience.
On the flip side, once in a while, a glowing 5-star review is posted and I can automatically tell that it will be filtered into the filtered section. Usually, that review will stay on the main page until Yelp’s algorithm decides what should be done with it. This is the perfect time to encourage clients to upload a profile picture, add friends to their profile, check in to businesses via Yelp’s mobile app, connect their account to Facebook, and write a few more reviews to establish their authority with Yelp. We typically also send the reviewer a friend request and follow them. Finally, we encourage them to write other reviews so that we can find them “useful” in order to show Yelp that the account is authentic and worthy of being counted toward the overall company rating.
I have been fortunate enough to have a couple of terrible reviews be removed for containing promotional material. This means that the poster mentioned a competitor. They blatantly said things like, “I think I’ll go back to XYZ company, they were much better!”
8. Work on the “not recommended,” filtered reviews.
Filtered reviews, regardless of scores, do not count toward the company’s review count or score. This can be a blessing and a curse! Many times, a great review ends up in Yelp’s filter, “not recommended” area. This can be a bummer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s stuck there for good. Many of our company’s negative reviews thankfully did not hold value in Yelp’s eyes and ended up being filtered. This is because the poster most likely opened an account to write a negative review then never gave Yelp a second thought. Yelp only wants to showcase real posters who are active on the site.
9. Flag and report negative reviews that violate Yelp’s TOS.
Posters must adhere to Yelp’s posting guidelines or they risk having their review removed. Things that can get a review removed include foul language, threats, or hateful language. If you are not sure, flag it. The worst Yelp will do is notify that it does not violate their TOS and the review stays. Unfortunately, reviews that are false and “made up” or facts exaggerated will not go away. The best you can hope for is that the poster does not meet Yelp’s standards and that the review ends up in the “not recommended” section, otherwise known as a filtered review.
10. Every review counts, so fight, fight, fight!
Your response to a negative review can make a big difference in how the poster responds. Anger or defensiveness in a business owner’s response is neither helpful nor effective. Acknowledging the company’s role in their unsatisfactory experience, saying, “I’m sorry, let’s get this resolved!”, and being selfless in working out a solution, is the best approach-Even if the poster is wrong! Handle a review correctly and you’ll be amazed (I’m always amazed!) at how many people will delete the bad review all together, or change it to a 5-star. Of course, all without ever asking them to.
When responding to a poster, I keep in mind that there are two audiences. The unhappy customer and probably more important, everyone who ever reads their review and your response. It’s important to show that you are committed to providing excellent customer service and serving your customer’s needs before yours. My business is my baby and when someone posts something negative, it almost feels like someone is calling your baby ugly. Therefore, it’s easy to be reactionary and feel the temptation of slamming someone online. Just don’t do it. Instead, write what you want to write then give to someone who doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the situation proofread for you. Online business owner groups are a great platform to get that type of help! In fact, QDS has a Facebook group called Quality Driven. Post there and I will be happy to review your response and suggest edits.
Sample responses you can use when responding to a negative Yelp review:
*I am genuinely sorry
*I’m so embarrassed as a business owner to read this brutally honest account of how our company failed you!
*I don’t want you to leave you with a bad experience, please contact me
*I want to understand and somehow make this right
*Thank you for your honesty
*What you went through is not ok-I will call you in the morning with ideas as to how best we can make this up to you
Finally, a genuine letter of apology, a gift certificate to a nice restaurant or something of the sort, and verbiage such as, “Here are our options to get this fixed” go a long way toward conveying that you are committed to fixing their issue. Many times, clients will be so impressed by the measures you’ve taken to remedy the situation that they no longer feel like the terrible review is warranted.
While this article was intended to help your business establish a Yelp following, I do want to emphasis that using a survey system to measure your client’s satisfaction levels is going to be key to not only maintaining a great Yelp presence but also having a successful business. There are many survey platforms available but in my opinion, none come close to the reporting that is offered through Quality Driven Software. I invite you to check it out! www.QualityDrivenSoftware.com