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.

Lessons learned:

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.

What is your opinion? Write your comments in the section below.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

10 Responses to “Complaints about Yelp’s Advertising Policies forces changes”

  1. Frank Brinkman Says:

    Some actions were absolutely required to sustain their business. Yet, when all the actions are taken into consideration Yelp has made this website business friendly which biases the results in favor of business. I am sorry but I will not use Yelp to differeniate which business to use. There are better local critics to pay attention to. The BBB has been excellent source to check to ensure the business is ethical and resolves consumer complaints.

  2. Tweets that mention Complaints about Yelp's Advertising policies forces changes | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Adele Berenstein. Adele Berenstein said: Yelp complaints force Yelp to change advertising and user review display policies. http://icio.us/0k5tu1 […]

  3. Customer Satisfaction tip - Monitor Complaint Aggregators | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] my post on Yelp and an update on Yelp’s new advertising policies on this […]

  4. Michelle Says:

    Yelp is terrible & I will NEVER rely upon their reviews ever again.

    I went to a hair salon that had rave reviews & I started losing my hair after that.

    I spent over an hour writing up my negative review & a few months later I happened to be on their site & saw that it’s removed.

    I e-mailed them & they claimed it’s b/c the review could have been spam.

    LOL, who spends over an hour on a spam review?

    Happened again, I posted another negative review on someone else’s profile & I just went to look now & it’s gone.

    It’s absolutely ridiculous.

    Michelle

  5. Adele Says:

    Michelle,

    Thank you for posting your experiences with Yelp. Every new technology brings with it some good and bad features. I am sure Yelp, as an organization, has its pressures as well…what is spam? What is real? Is this a competitor trying to bad mouth an organization? Are there advertising revenues at stake? There are many factors involved.

    I think a public review system is a good thing. Eventually, the bad does get weeded out and the consensus of the crowd will prevail.

    There are many ways to complain about an organization..and I have written about a few of them on my blog…Sidewiki, Google Maps, Complaint sites such as Ripoff Report, Complaints.com and Get Satisfaction. So my advice is to spread your complaints around. Tweet about them. Look at more than one place when you research where to spend you money and time.

    I hope that helps. Thanks again for commenting.

    Adele

  6. kathy bates Says:

    yelp is some garbage. the shoe is on the other foot funny. now there getting the complaints, my how the table turns. i have no sympathy for them they desire to be discredited for there wrong doings.

  7. Cindy Says:

    Anyone who has experienced yelp’s manipulation please sign in at Small Business Owners Against Yelp on facebook. We might be small individually but not in masses!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Small-Business-Owners-Against-Yelp/115465111886641

  8. MsPaws' Holly Says:

    thank you Cindy. I found your comment/complaint looking for a place to post a complaint about Yelp. Unless one pays for advertising with them, they will only show bad reviews placed by people who have either not used my business or were a nightmare customer. Two Yelp advertising sales people said straight out to me ” With paid advertising, your ratings will improve”.
    I believe that’s called graft.

  9. Adele Says:

    Thanks for your comment.

    I am sure this action by the advertising sales person who spoke with you is not an acceptable ‘best practice’ in the industry. I wonder if you escalated to their manager, if the manager would agree that this is the way they operate. Your sales person might be using unauthorized techniques just to get sales. His / her manager would want to know.

    If, however, this is the policy of the company (they claim it isn’t) and there are enough complaints, like this one, Yelp’s credibility with consumers will wane and they will become irrelevant.

    So I would recommend that you escalate to the sales person’s manager. If that fails, use all the publicity available to you through social media to get your complaint message out. You are entitled to be heard.

  10. JenniferP Says:

    I have pretty much the same story as everyone else, except I have truly been researching how many small business owners have or are being affected by yelp.

    I have seen businesses with filtered reviews 3 times that of their regular reviews. And, guess what? The filtered reviews are primarily 4 and 5 star reviews, while the posted reviews are 1 and 2 stars for the most part.

    Please join me in my fight against yelp. Any difference that can be made at all is still a success. Pleae like, http://www.facebook.com/yelpisafraud

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