As a business owner, you dread reading new Yelp reviews. Sure, you enjoy the warm fuzzies of the more positive comments, but you know that, at any moment, a nasty one-star review can splatter to the top of the list.
These negative, rage-dripping reviews can do a lot of damage to your business’s overall Yelp rating. What’s worse, you know that potential customers on your Yelp page might read a nasty review, and think twice about giving you a try. And even worse: you build your business, you struggle to hire the best people you can find, you spend whatever free time you have left thinking how to improve your offering, and then a random stranger horsewhips your baby in the public square.
You try to remain objective and open to constructive criticism, but the best of us will reel in defense and despise the review along with the reviewer, and let’s be honest, along with Yelp. This negative review isn’t constructive criticism – it’s not even disguised as criticism. It’s an emotionally-tinged vengeance-seeking drive-by aiming to cause damage to your business.
Regardless of Yelp’s intention, Yelp’s format encourages this type of malicious horsewhipping. People who write criticism for a public audience can’t help but have a different agenda than someone offering criticism directly to the subject of the criticism. When writing for a public audience, the reviewer feels a need to entertain, to justify to the audience that it will be well worth their time to read the review. And if they’re upset, the obvious way to express their dissatisfaction in an entertaining way is to exaggerate, to insult, to smear, and to vilify.
And this gets to the heart of the matter: Yelp encourages a toxic relationship between business and customer by giving dissatisfied customers a bullhorn and a wrecking ball. There very well might be nuggets of constructive criticism buried in the nasty review, but the format makes it nearly impossible to extract, and the business ends up resenting their dissatisfied customers. The dissatisfied customers get their revenge, but they don’t ever get satisfaction. This is a lose-lose situation. This is toxic.
And where’s Yelp when this bloody online skirmish between business and customer plays out on their property? Yelp washes their hands of it and plays the part of the innocent bystander, the aloof referee, then allegedly offers its mafia-style services to businesses desperate for justice or remedy.
Customers need a feedback channel that encourages a more healthy way to communicate their experience to a business – one that encourages constructive criticism, where the only audience are those who are in a position to rectify the matter and to make things right. It’s up to the business to provide such a feedback channel. It’s up to the business to provide Real-Time Feedback.