Yelp, a location sharing service, that was covered in an earlier blog post, has announced changes to its practices due to customer complaints! This is ironic because Yelp is supposed to gather complaints and compliments from users about local small businesses.
Yelp sold advertising on its site to small business owners but some small businesses called the advertising offering extortion. Several class action suits have force Yelp to make some changes to it policies.
Yelp provides filtering of user input, ideally trying to bring the most relevant to the site on each local business. Here’s a video that describes what they were trying to do. (note the video speaker talks really fast).
In addition to providing information for free to the local community, Yelp embarked on an advertising model to help pay for their site. Agents for Yelp would call small businesses offering paid advertising on Yelp’s site. Included in that offering was the ability to put their favored review above all others. And some reviews (perhaps some negative ones) seemed to disappear from the review site. If the small business refused the advertising offer, negative reviews that had previously disappeared, appeared on the site again. To some small businesses, this looked like extortion.
The announcement on April 6, 2010, included the following provisions
- Removal of a feature allowing businesses that paid for adverting with Yelp to place their favorite review above others.
- Users are now allowed to see reviews that were filtered from the business profile, so users can see all positive and negative reviews.
- Yelp has established a so-called Small Business Advisory Council whose members will provide the company’s management with “guidance and perspective regarding the concerns of small business owners”
- Yelp has also announced the ability for Small Business owners to add a video to an existing slide show feature on their profile pages, based on feedback from business owners.
Here’s an organization that practices what they preach. Yelp listened to their customers (the users of the system) and their customers and prospects (advertisers) and made changes to be more transparent and provide better service.
One has to wonder what effect the class action suits had on this decision. It is possible that the intention of the senior executives was not to implement extortion type policies but if you put an incentive on the managers of the sales organizations that call on local businesses to improve sales results, sometimes, the incentive drives the wrong behavior.
Every organization needs to look at its processes, measurements and incentives to ensure the right behavior with users and customers is supported and the wrong behavior is discouraged.
Work with your community. The fact that Yelp has set up an advisory council with small business owners is a step in the right direction to improve the relationship with local businesses and make the site more ‘valuable’ for all stakeholders.
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