Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .
You open a business. You market it aggressively. You do your best to serve your customers. You have a few “learning experiences”, but over all everything goes well. Then tragedy strikes. You get “yelped”. Some customer who you barely remember posts a scathing review of your product or service on the consumer feedback site Yelp.
Think it couldn’t happen to you? If you’ve got customers in the local retail sector, you’re most likely on yelp. For those of us working for companies that sell to the enterprise, we have our own demons. Our disgruntled customers are as likely to buy domains of “ourcompanysucks.com” and make a career out of vilifying us. But we have infrastructure for that. We have huge multi-touch marketing teams and great PR departments and legal representation if needed and about a million ways to engage our customers directly using a number of different channels, some of which we’ve covered here.
But what do you do if you’re a small corner shop? Your options are much more limited. Much of your revenue base is dependent on new customers, meaning you’re not able to preempt negative reviews with your own information. But even if that weren’t the case, you don’t likely have a very large marketing budget. And if you were going to use it for anything, it would be to get new customers, not lose old ones. Unfortunately, many business owners are facing this situation now.
Could this mean the end of business as they know it? Maybe for the bad ones. If you remember, authors found themselves in a similar dilemma as Amazon’s user reviews system became more relied upon than the publisher’s canned marketing pitch. Today however, more books than ever are being sold through Amazon and with rare exceptions do authors have trouble with allowing every single customer to have an open public forum with anonymity and almost no barrier to entry to posting their review. Its just become part of the paradigm in publishing – if you want good reviews produce a good product.
I’ve spoken to some local business owners about their reaction to yelp and its effect on their business and without exception all were driven to improve some aspect of their service because of it. How is this a bad thing again? It’s certainly not a bad thing for the folks at yelp, who’ve seen the unique visitors triple over the last year. As a business owner, I’d be terrified of yelp to the point where I’d go out of my way to satisfy each and every customer as if they were the Internet Yelp’r from hell. As a customer, I really digg that.