I’m fascinated by Yelp. Sure, a dark part of me loves the drama
, but I’m most taken by business owners being so terrified of the platform. Especially when there are so many well-documented benefits to being active on Yelp:
And yet, the mere idea of a handful of customers leaving negative reviews is enough to stay clear of the site.I wanted to find out who was right, marketers or the business owners, so I started testing assumptions.
Question 1: “Are business active on Yelp?”
At Kasasa, I service community banks and credit unions. To answer my question I looked at 100 reviews on 20 institutions (10 banks / 10 credit unions) across 9 communities.
Only 1 institution had claimed their Yelp page. If you think this sounds bad, it’s actually pretty accurate across verticals. According to Yelp’s 2014 investment deck
, there are 6.6 million businesses listed. Only 80,000 of them had claimed their page and were active. 1.2%
Result: Assumption confirmed. It seems that those fears (plus resource and know-how restrictions) are enough to stop businesses from getting on.
Question 2: “Are business owner’s fears valid?”
When I worked at Main Street Hub, we would field thousands of reviews every day. I asked our data scientist for a distribution of star ratings for the past year.
This looks a lot like what Yelp publishes as their rating distribution.
In both samples, ~68% of the reviews were 4 or 5-star.
Result: No. Yelp is a pretty positive place. Faith in humanity has been restored.
Question 3: Can you do anything about those negative reviews?
Going back to the banking survey, there were three major areas of complaint; the service, the products (loans), and the branch (hours, location, cleanliness).
What did most people complain about?
90% of the negative reviews were focused on service. What’s more, in 27% of those reviews, the reviewer mentioned an employee by name. Someone specific ruined the experience.
That’s hugely important for several reasons.
- If you notice a trend, you can coach and develop specific employees.
- You can reach out and apologize, or better yet, have the specific employee apologize for the mistake. You have the chance to make the situation right.
- If the reviewer left the full name of the employee, it actually violates Yelp’s reviewer guidelines and the review can be flagged for removal.
Don’t think apologies matter?
- You are being given the chance to right a wrong.
- You’re replying not just for the reviewer, but the prospective customers who are looking for active business owners. (According to Everyone’s a Critic, 70% of customers check reviews prior to purchase)
- Customer centricity has been linked to profitability, and building a company culture around reviewing and acting on reviews helps ensure this centricity
Okay, but do customers really care about responses? I looked into it. This data was pulled from some fellow community managers at Main Street Hub on which of their responses received follow-up responses from the reviewer.
64% of replies to 5-star reviews received a customer follow-up.
14% of 4-star
9% of 3-star
10% of 2-star
4% of 1-star
Results: Okay, so my assumptions here were a little wrong. It seems like if people are pissed, then you only have a 4% chance of writing them and getting a response. However, if a customer is happy, you have a 64% chance of getting one. Consider the potential for encouraging a follow-up visit or a referral.
Since these reply statistics were aggregated from different community managers, I wanted to do a qualitative examination of what tactics seemed to crop up and contribute to getting a successful reply. Here are some commonalities:
- Everyone used some visual element to separate the question from the body (colon, line break, double dash, ellipses)
- 1-star reviews that received responses always had “sorry” or an apology in the opening sentence.
- End your response with a yes-or-no question:
- Was this your first time dining with us?
- Do you happen to recall the date of your visit?
- Did anything catch your eye for next time?
- Do you have a favorite dish at our place?
- Be human, reply with a casual tone and sincerity.
- Bring extra attention to the question in the signature. “Hope to hear back,” “Eager to hear more.”
- Be concise. 3 sentences or under.
Go forth and prosper
Yelp is a happy place, and hopefully this study and these tactics give you the confidence to claim your page and begin responding. Have a tactic you use for Yelp? Let me know in the comments!