In the era of online review based decision making, websites like Facebook, Yahoo, Google Reviews, and Yelp have become a driving force in consumer spending. With any sort of mass media social influence, consumers have invested a lot of time into shaping these sites into what they are. Is that always going to present the most honest perspective of a business and the value you will derive from it? You would hope so, but there are a lot of factors that skew that view dramatically and you may not know just how powerful they can be.
Diligent Business owners now make it a regular practice to monitor and respond to reviews online, whether good or bad. To a consumer, this shows that a business owner cares about the experiences they have and are willing to address any disappointment that gets posted on review sites such as Yelp. This practice can also motivate online blackmail which is already something Business owners take issue with. My question is, are these sites regulated enough to prevent this form of harassment and should they be regulated more critically?
Considering that sites like Yelp, publicize Recommended Reviews while essentially hiding other reviews, the impression that a consumer gets is not always based on a fair or accurate portrayal of past guest experience. It is also common for a business owner to inherit the negative reputation left by former ownership or management. This can be a time consuming for the new business owner to address and they are not always successful. Additionally, a lot of small businesses only get a handful of reviews from consumers so one low rating can have a tremendous effect on the the business’s overall rating. It can be argued that this can severely impact a business in a financially negative way.
In a strange twist of Irony, as of the date of this post Yelp, itself, has 8387 reviews and and overall rating of two out of five stars. Here is a link to see for yourself, Link to Yelp’s Yelp rating .
You can read from the reviews that their marketing tactics, billing practices, and overall business is not well received by the public. They are consistently accused of manipulation, fraud, and misinformation. One would think that a business built on the public display of public opinion would be a little more careful with their own worldwide online reputation.
Yelp, and online reviews in general, cost businesses millions of dollars in management costs, loss in potential new business, and customer retaliation reimbursement. How can this be allowed to be legal? The fact that anyone can go online and leave a one star review without much explanation or accountability should be concerning to lawmakers. The monetization of coercion is basically what review sites have been able to thrive on and no site does it better than Yelp.
A lot of people believe Yelp’s model is misleading, abusive, fraudulent, and bad for business over all. They also charge for business ad placement and oppression of competitors visibility which seems in direct conflict of the business model they promote of a business not being able to remove a consumer review. It would seem that under closer examination, Yelp is exactly what it’s been used for, a vehicle for online blackmail and causing financial harm to business owners.
I think, Yelp should Help themselves by being more honest, careful, fair, and responsive to the needs and concerns of the very people who make them relevant instead of blaming algorithms for the influence their tactics will have on a visitor and potential buyer of your products or services.