Yelp Attack: Using Digital Jabs to Get Better

Social media is free, but the expense is dear. Yelp is a costly tool that will kick the hell out of your business and at the same time, like a well-honed social media program, be a relevant asset.

Not negotiating with Yelpers isn’t a quizzical strategy. Getting into it over somebody’s “table too close to the kitchen” tête-à-tête isn’t worth your time. Instead, capturing what others are saying is good business sense, especially when the feedback is grounded in a modicum of reality.

A 360-degree review is an honest look at all angles. There is a reason why businesses up and down the foodchain use similar a strategy to examine the performance of their top brass, for instance, by folding in the views of customers, subordinates, suppliers, and leaders. The idea is to get a grade based on honest dialogue from all vested parties. Shouldn't the same be true for our customers’ experiences?

If somebody has a legitimate beef about slapdash service or a cold order of mahi-mahi tacos, we need to hear about it. What used to be a comment card — hardly ever used — or a “can I talk to the manager?” moment now precipitates useful feedback at the speed of two fingers and a good digital connection. Good or bad. Customers have a nasty/noble habit of being honest. Harness that honesty to get better. Didn’t Per Se just get skewered by the New York Times? Didn’t Thomas Keller take that spanking to admit that all wasn’t right on the haute cuisine front? Pressing the reset button can be a shockingly painful but necessary stab in the spleen.

Nobody likes getting picked on. Constructive criticism is an antiquated idea. Criticism stings, constructive or not. So turn it around and get past the rough edges. Get better or get out. There is enough competition that if you elect not to take Yelp’s sandy irritant inside the pearly shell, changes can be made. Those changes usually include a vacancy or a visit to the help wanted section of Craigslist.

Filtering is a necessary function — read between the Yelps. If somebody has a positive experience, there is a small chance that they will actually be inclined to say so. How many positive experiences do you have in the course of a day? From morning coffee, a stop at the bank, a package dropped at the post office, a quick lunch at a sandwich spot, to another coffee, there are myriad opportunities for the quality experience train to slip off of the tracks and crash onto Yelp.

It is only when that happens, that we (usually) take to the digital pulpit and voice our displeasure. Run those interactions through the filter. One person griping about a chilly reception by the twenty-something hostess fiddling with her phone can be written off. When those reviews start to look alike, maybe it’s time to have a serious talk with Brittany about stashing her phone during the rush.

Like Brittany’s cell phone addiction, Yelp is not going away soon. Get in front of the social media dagger and learn to dodge the jabs, but heal the serious wounds. There will always be knucklehead idiocy freely dispensed from behind the screens of anonymity. Laugh about the whackjobs taking the time to get their pants in a twist about the errant cigarette butt on the sidewalk. At the same time, listen with concerned intent when those voices resonate with real vision about lousy meals. And be smart enough to know the difference.