By Lindsey Tolino
Yelp reviews can be excellent marketing or the bane of your business. Have you thought about improving your business based on reviews? Is it sometimes hard to know what is constructive criticism and what isn’t?
Here’s how to cut through Yelp reviews to improve your business:
If you have mixed reviews (3-4 star average):
- Look for major themes. What do people generally like and dislike about your business? For example, do people often write that the table service is rude? Do people regularly write that you have the best steak tacos?
- When you find the themes, it should show what your business is doing well and what it may need to improve on.
- When you know what your business is doing well, ensure that you’re communicating to your customers what you do well to create accurate expectations. For example, if people love your steak tacos, your ads could say ‘Best steak tacos in town!’
- When you know your weakness, decide if you should eliminate it, turn it into a strength or improve upon it. Let’s look at rude table service as an example. To eliminate it, you could get rid of table service altogether and convert to counter service and take-out only. To turn it into a strength, you could emphasize your rude service and use it as an edge like some restaurants have. To improve it, you could work with your servers to ensure they are serving customers more kindly.
If you haven’t been able to find major themes, issues may be related to inconsistencies in products or services. In that case, you may want to look into establishing some QA/QC processes to establish consistency.
If you have mostly positive reviews (5 star average):
Congratulations! But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from your reviews. You can always learn and improve, especially if you’re trying to grow your business.
- Use reviews to gain demographic info. Examining Yelp reviewers as your only demographic can be a bit misleading (because not everyone ‘yelps’), but it still helps to aggregate some data from Yelp to see who loves your business.
- You can use this information as a source of data to help you determine areas of potential business growth. For example, if college students seem to love your place, you may want to consider events, marketing or even new locations that serve them better.
If you have mostly negative reviews (1-2 star average):
I’m sorry, this can be rough. But you have to set the emotion aside for a moment to look at it intellectually. You have direct-from-the-customer information about how to improve your business, which is great news.
- If you have consistently negative reviews, it probably relates to the fact that you’re not delivering on customer expectations. Go back to the drawing board and examine what expectations you’re creating for customers. If you don’t know what expectations you’re creating, examine the negative reviews and cite the themes of customer disappointment.
- If customers expected something wrongly (i.e. you didn’t mean to promise it), then you need to implement better methods of communication (in signage, advertisements, website, etc.). This will ensure that customers have expectations consistent with what you’re promising.
- If customers expected something rightly (i.e. you do promise it), but are disappointed, then you need to examine what is letting them down specifically. If it is related to a product, use the reviews to recognize product issues and make it right. If it is related to timely service, examine your systems and determine bottlenecks. If it is related to quality service, examine your capability, culture and employees. Make changes as needed.
- After you’ve made changes, it is essential to let customers know that you have heard their feedback and changed accordingly. You might need to run a promotion, do a PR release or even rebrand. Ultimately, you want to ensure customers know that the old problems are resolved and that you will serve them better.
Yelp is a great source of information for analyzing and improving your business. Don’t be discouraged by harsh reviews. Instead, discern through them and use information wisely to greatly benefit your business.