When I travel for work, I like to treat myself to a nice meal at a local restaurant, preferably a place I can’t find anywhere else. Nine times out of ten, I hit the jackpot on a great meal. I’d love to brag that I have a knack for sniffing out local hot spots, but the truth is that I owe my success rate to Yelp.
The mobile app search bar allows me to put in the type of food I’m looking for, and location services hone in on my precise GPS location. With a touch, options instantly populate my screen and the first thing I look at are the ratings and reviews. I’ve gotten pretty adept at identifying the planted reviews that are too perfectly written and edited, and the cranky customers who clearly can never be made happy at any dining establishment. The rest of the reviews, especially if there are ten or more remaining that have been written in the last six months, give me a pretty good idea of the food and service I can expect.
I often wonder how many of those reviews are written while the customer is still in the restaurant, while the experience is fresh in their minds. Then I wonder how many restaurants – or any business for that matter – check their reviews on a weekly basis and use it as a tool for self-evaluation and improvement? This is unadulterated feedback that provides valuable insight into the perception of your business and is literally shaping the opinions of future customers. Don’t you owe it to yourself to check what people are saying about you for all the world to see?
Yelp is big, announcing that 100 million unique visitors accessed the site in January 2013 alone. And the playing field isn’t just yelp.com anymore. There is Google+ Local (aka Google Places for Business), angieslist.com, urbanspoon.com, tripadvisor.com, local.com, and the list goes on and on and on. Go here an expert’s top review site list and a few tips, go to http://www.marketingzen.com/online-business-review-sites/.
We know that consumer reviews are important. I believe the speed at which the feedback gets posted and businesses respond is what will determine who ultimately wins the consumer review game.
I leave you with a note of caution for how you stimulate this feedback. On a recent layover in Dallas, I saw this sign on the bathroom wall next to the sinks and paper towels. With not quite dry hands, I scanned the QR code out of pure curiosity. It led me to a quick survey asking about my “experience” in the DFW airport bathroom. I thought, “TMI, people, TMI,” but kudos to them for the honest effort to solicit feedback before nasty reviews get plastered everywhere. Frankly, it was one of my better airport bathroom experiences, so I appreciate that they asked and apparently have been working to improve.