The trouble with Yelp

The trouble with Yelp

Small business owners face a growing problem when it comes to controlling their reputations online, especially since Yelp's popularity has grown. This site allows customers to write reviews of companies. The reviews are public, which allows consumers to find new establishments to try. 

However, Yelp is arguably hurting small businesses more than helping. For instance, Ed Wells, owner of Chowderheads, told Business Insider that he thinks that some potential customers haven't come in because they've read some negative reviews. The restaurateur also pointed out that many regulars ask about the comments posted online. 

"It's very scary as a restaurant because I'm sure people avoid coming here because of the rating. The customers who do come in ask me about why the rating is so low," Wells said. 

Indeed, this is a terrifying prospects for every entrepreneur. All it takes to harm a company's reputation is a single negative comment and a poor rating on Yelp. Any potential customers who see the criticism may choose to do business elsewhere instead of risking a poor experience. 

However, the fact that Yelp is allegedly hiding positive reviews in favor of negative ones is likely the most terrifying prospect of all. Fox 5 San Diego recently reported that two local business owners have noticed that praise doesn't frequently appear on the website while criticism is everywhere. Michael Schenk, owner of Sliders Burgers, told the news source that customers have said they've written nice reviews, but they were "filtered out" by Yelp. 

Unfortunately, Yelp is another hurdle that entrepreneurs have to clear in order to succeed in the modern marketplace. However, small business owners don't have to allow a few bad reviews to harm their companies. The following are a few strategies that professionals can take when Yelp starts damaging their enterprises' reputations. 

Respond
Inaction is the absolute worst strategy to use when bad reviews appear on Yelp. Small business owners should respond to every single criticism by reaching out to users and asking what the real problems are. This shows that a company actually cares about its customers and their experiences and doesn't treat everyone like another faceless buyer. 

Myron Corp. recently gave the perfect example of how to respond. An angry customer posted a review on Yelp regarding an order of promotional wall calendars. A representative from the company reached out to the author and provided a phone number and email address for customer support. 

These steps are ones that every entrepreneurs should follow when negative reviews are published on Yelp. First, this strategy allows customers to connect with employees to discuss their experiences. Further, the approach shows other site users that the organization cares enough about its clients to go over problems and mend fences. 

Have fun with it
While reviews can negatively impact a company's reputation, it isn't exactly a doomsday scenario. In fact, some business owners have turned negative Yelp reviews into positive situations by poking fun at the comments. For instance, Neatorama reports that JoeDough, a sandwich shop in New York City, turned comments into a joke by using a sign.

"Come in and try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life," the advertisement read. 

This sign tackles all of Yelp's drawbacks, such as the hyperbolic nature of most of the reviews and the fact that food is completely subjective. The advertisement showed that small business owners can turn any negative feedback into something fun. 

What's more, the cheeky sign also helped JoeDough gain publicity for all the right reasons. The Atlantic Wire notes that the eatery's sign was a minor viral hit as it was posted on numerous websites. 

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