Handling Online Reviews: Q&A with review website Yelp

Hi Rosie, can you please introduce the company and explain what services you offer?

Yelp is a website and app that connects people with great local businesses. Millions of people across the globe use Yelp every month to search for products or services. Yelpers have written over 67 million reviews of local businesses - from restaurants to beauticians, accountants to hairdressers and everything in between. Whilst Yelp is a popular consumer website, we also provide a ton of free tools for business owners which help them to grow their customer base and stay interactive with consumers.

Recent surveys reveal the growing importance of online reviews in the purchasing decision, do you reckon these are more influential than personal recommendations?

Both online reviews and personal recommendations are very important in the current business landscape. If you have friends on Yelp, their reviews always show up first which helps connect the two. Hair and beauty is one of the largest categories by review count on Yelp, and it makes sense because appointments can be very personal and people often get to know their practitioner too.

Recent research conducted by TNS has indicated that large numbers of review site users in the UK are turning to Yelp to help them make an informed purchase. In fact, virtually all UK users (99%) have made a purchase at a local business they found on Yelp. TNS also identified that Yelp users are more likely to provide repeat business than users of Tripadvisor.

How many reviews do people read in order to be satisfied about a certain business?

Each and every consumer will have a different approach on this. Some might read just one review, others might read hundreds to source the exact information they are looking for. Customers can delve into reviewers’ profiles to get a sense on what type of person they are. A new Mum might be looking for very different things to a partying student - so this can help people to find reviews written by people they can relate to. Other consumers might find other types of information to be more helpful than reviews - some will browse through photos, call the business, look at the opening hours and much more.

What's the percentage of positive reviews that makes a business trustworthy?

There is no percentage guideline that “makes a business trustworthy.” What I can say, is that it comes as a surprise to many people to learn that 79% of reviews on Yelp are neutral to positive - meaning people tend to share their good to excellent experiences rather than their negative ones. What’s different about Yelp to other sites out there is that we recommend only around 75% of the reviews submitted to the site. We do this so that consumers are seeing the most useful, reliable and trustworthy information possible. That’s exactly why 139 million unique visitors use Yelp each month to research where to spend their money with local businesses.

What's the best way to handle negative online reviews of your business?

Firstly, identify whether that review provides you with useful feedback. On Yelp, you’re able to respond privately or publicly to all reviews for free.  When it comes to responding to reviews that offer up constructive feedback about your business, always remain professional. This is not the time to start arguments - so keep it clean! Thank the reviewer for their pointers and share any updates that have been made to your business as a result of the reviewer’s feedback. 

Secondly, if that review isn’t providing you information that you can use to improve, remember that you can’t please 100% of your customers, 100% of the time. All local businesses deal with complaints in some capacity. It’s ok (and completely understandable) to sometimes walk away from a fire-fuelled customer if you feel there is no way of turning around the situation.

Thirdly, think like a consumer. If you were a consumer on a review site browsing for a business to choose, you’d be factoring in a whole lot of things: location, opening hours or even specific services on offer. Reviews are important too, but one negative review amongst many positives is not likely to sway a customer’s decision.

What will you be bringing to Professional Beauty visitors?

Yelp is hosting a seminar on how to handle online reviews about your business on the Monday at 12pm in the business skills section. Alternatively you can find us at stand U65 where we can show you exactly what’s being said about your business on Yelp, and how best to approach those all-important reviews. Oh, and we’ll have freebies on our stand. Lots of them. 

Don't miss out at Professional Beauty this weekend, on 22-23 February at ExCeL London. Free tickets are still available here.