You are going to visit our nation’s capital and are looking for information on places to go and things to see and do.  But first, you want to find out the best place to park.

So you open the internet browser of your smartphone and type (or go to the Yelp app) to access a local search, networking and review service known as Yelp.


What is Yelp?

Consumers can find information and write about local businesses such as restaurants, nightlife, and beauty and spas.  As Yelp claims, “Real people. Real reviews.”

Each business listing on Yelp will contain a summary five-point rating, specific entries from reviewers, and a page dedicated to information about the business.

How to Use Help

In this case, you would go to Yelp, type “parking downtown” under Search For, and “Washington, DC” under Near, then click the Search icon.

The first result to pop up is for the City Center Parking Lot.  Clicking on their link results in 16 reviews from Yelpers.  One typical review, from Elissa H. of Northern VA, states:

“This lot is huge and centrally located.  Easy to catch the Metro or the Circulator to get to destinations that don’t have parking.  We parked here on a Saturday to go to the National  Portrait Gallery and it was $10 for the day and they are open 24 hours.  It’s right along the DC Circulator route so you can get into Georgetown, Adams Morgan, etc. without worrying about where to park the car.  Great for suburbanites needing to park in the city!”

According to Yelp, as of September 2013, about 80% of Yelp reviews are 3+ stars because “people love to talk about the things they love.”

Yelp and Your Business

At this point, you may be wondering if any of your customers have recommended your business.  Go to Yelp and enter similar descriptive information to find out.  With approximately 117 million unique visitors using Yelp each month, you may find that others are learning about your business at the site, too.

Bad News?

But what if you find that a customer has posted a negative review?

Wikipedia states, “Yelp has been criticized over the fairness of negative reviews on the site.  A competitor can easily write an anonymous, negative review.  Yelp states that it will not censor reviews, but it will remove suspicious reviews.”

In fact, Yelp indicates that it has an automated review filter to “protect consumers and business owners from fake, shill, or malicious reviews.”

If a customer has posted a negative review of your business, you have recourse.  At the bottom right of each reviewer’s entry on Yelp is a link that states, “Add owner comment.”  Click on the link to provide your side of the story.

Look at a Complaint as a Gift

I tell my social media audiences that studies show that your satisfied customers will usually tell 5 to 8 others, but your upset customers (if you have any) will tell 10 to 16.  In fact 1 in 5 will tell 20 people how ticked off you have made them.  The problem is that there is only a one in 25 chance that the customer will every complain to a business owner about a negative experience.  But, as you can see, just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean that a customer isn’t spreading venom about you and your business in the community.  At least with Yelp, you have the opportunity to address this issue and set the record straight not only for this customer but for other potential customers who will be reading this review.

A best practice in a negative situation like this is to first thank the Yelp reviewer for his or her comments.  If their statements are incorrect, without becoming defensive, gently educate them on the facts.

If the reviewer has pointed out a shortcoming of your business, indicate the steps you have taken or will take to resolve the issue.  Your concern, openness, and transparency will set you apart from those potential customers view as  a disinterested corporate bureaucrat.

If the majority of the reviews for your business are positive, potential customers are usually smart enough to know to discount the opinions of the few who are likely easily disgruntled.

Get Involved

According to Yelp, signing up for a business account “takes about two minutes and it’s completely free.  It’s a great way to get involved in the Yelp community and ensure that a business puts its best foot forward.”  Click here.