Yelp: Help My Reporter Cred. Do Something Dumb! Please!
Sigh. Once again I am writing to praise Yelp. Yawn. Just read about their new business services on TechCrunch. At first, the headline made me think they were somehow allowing businesses to manipulate the results and I thought, "Oh no! I just defended you this morning!"
Nope, in fact, Yelp has done something smart. They've created a mini-portal for businesses to measure and properly respond to Yelp reviews, plus make sure their basic stats are up-to-date. (i.e. hours, phone no. etc) This is a smart move on a few levels.
1. While there are a lot of "hardcore Yelpers," for most people Yelp's value is a directory of easy to find basic info. It's incredibly important this information stays correct as Yelp grows.
2. A few savvy local businesses I've talked to actually love Yelp when they get a negative review. Because they hear more unvarnished truth. They can both fix problems and directly reach out to the customer who had a bad experience. Yelp's new portal explains this to the companies that don't yet get it. (Although many more will still just shoot the messenger and hence shoot themselves in the feet.)
3. Yelp is offering tools for businesses AND consumers, while still putting consumers first. I have all but stopped using Opentable.com because of several bad experiences where it was clear Opentable put businesses first and doesn't practically care much about its customer experience. Ok, so in advance of a flood of Opentable zealots commenting-- I actually complained on a few occasions to Opentable's customer service people and they pretty much told me I was just welcome to not use the site if I didn't like how restaurants used it. So no one is going to convince me they have good customer service! :)
Because Opentable does actually serve an important role in a busy person's life, I've always fantasized that maybe Yelp would branch out take it on somehow. I know this isn't at all what this announcement does. Opentable is a fairly robust piece of software for restaurants, not a tool to manage community. My gripes aside, they have actually built something very defensible. Still, edging into providing services for businesses gives me hope that one day Yelp does more than just give me information.
Ok, so, here's something negative to say about Yelp just to balance things up: It's search is still pretty weak, and it is dominated by Marina kids. (That last one was for you, Stoppelman!)
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