February 20, 2017

Darnell Holloway of Yelp: Bad Review 33 Percent More Likely to Be Upgraded with a Quick Personalized Response


The below conversation with Darnell Holloway, Director of Business Outreach for Yelp (NYSE:YELP), is the last of three interviews that took place at Salesforce’s Small Business Basecamp in New York City earlier this month. The event brought together Amazon Business, Chase, LegalZoom, FreshBooks, Revel, SquareSpace, WeWork, Zenefits, RingCentral and Yelp to help show small businesses how CRM and related technologies can help them scale their abilities to find and keep customers more efficiently.

Discover How to Respond to a Bad Review on Yelp and More

Holloway shares with us how small businesses can compete, thrive and survive in the Feedback Economy, why Yelp doesn’t recommend small businesses ask customers to leave reviews, and why the speed at which you respond to a negative review can be critical to getting it updated to something more positive.

Below is the edited transcript. To view the full conversation, click on the embedded video below.

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Do you know how to respond to a bad review on Yelp? Darnell Holloway, Yelp's Director of Business Outreach says that a quick and personal response is best.Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about Yelp from a B2B perspective.

Darnell Holloway: Yelp is a fantastic tool for business owners. The first thing that any business should do is claim their page on Yelp. It’s super easy. You go to biz.yelp.com. You have access to a suite of free tools that allows you to add photos to your page, complete your profile and also respond to reviews. That’s the entry point for any business out there. Everybody out there should go claim their page. It’s going to allow you to start managing and verifying and connecting with consumers.

Small Business Trends: Tell me what the review [feedback] economy is and how important is it today for small business to be a part of it?

Darnell Holloway: The Feedback Economy is a concept that we now live in a world where consumers are relying on online reviews for every type of purchasing decision. When it comes to Yelp specifically, we know that reviews play a big part in where people are going to spend their money.

Nielsen did a study. They found that 82 percent of Yelp users are on the site because they intend to buy a product or a service, and of course they’re going to look at a business’ reviews. It’s important for businesses to pay attention their reviews.

I will say that Yelp is a platform that allows businesses to roll up their sleeves and engage when they are getting reviews. I mentioned that people can respond. That’s part of that suite of free tools. Every business out there should get in the habit of responding to their reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, within 24 hours.

Small Business Trends: How do you help a company recruit their customers to write reviews for them on their behalf? What’s the best way for them to go about doing that?

Darnell Holloway: I’m glad that you brought that up, because we recommend that you don’t ask for reviews. That might seem counter-intuitive, but instead, what you want to do is focus on good customer service, first and foremost, in the offline world. There is a direct correlation between customer service and reviews on Yelp. Our data science team found that if somebody mentions good customer service in a review, that review is five times as likely to be five star versus one star.

The first thing is you want to be customer-service oriented if you want to get good reviews. The second thing is you do want to engage with your profile as well. You want to do things like adding photos, adding content. Why? Because the more content you have, the more traffic that you’re going to get on Yelp, that flywheel starts, and then you’re going to get more reviews as well.

You also want to let people know that you have a presence on Yelp, so while you don’t want to go out and solicit reviews, you do want to let people know that you’re on there. You can do that by putting html badges on your website. You can put signage in your storefront. We give stickers away that say, “Find us on Yelp, at Yelp.com/brand”.

Responding to reviews is incredibly important. One interesting bit of information that our data science recently surfaced is that if a business responds to a negative review within 24 hours, if they send a personalized message that reviewer is 33% more likely to upgrade the rating and the review.

Small Business Trends: Any other factoids you could share?

Darnell Holloway: Another interesting trend for Yelp right now is that transactions are on the rise. Yelp has always been about connecting people with great local businesses, and at the same time, it’s undergone a little bit of an evolution. When I joined the company back in 2009, it was a desktop review site. Yelp.com, you go to Yelp, you read reviews, you find the businesses that you’re looking for, and then you go there in the offline world.

Now, we’ve evolved into a great mobile app. Most of our searches are happening on mobile. Most of our content is being added via mobile devices. Also, people are transacting directly from Yelp. It’s a transactions platform. I think that’s a interesting trend for businesses to pay attention to. We see a lot more Yelp users engaging in that way.

If you’re thinking of restaurants, we recently acquired Eat24. We also have Yelp Reservations, so people can now order food delivery or book a table through the Yelp app. If you need to go to the dentist, we partner with Demandforce. If you need to buy flowers, we’ve got BloomNation on there as a partner. I think that’s a interesting thing, an interesting trend for businesses to pay attention to.

Then also, we developed a tool recently called Request A Quote, that allows service-based businesses to take quotes directly from people on the Yelp app. Let’s say that I have a leaky faucet in my apartment. I could use the Yelp app and find a plumber, and I can request a quote right there from the app. I can also take pictures of the pipe underneath my sink. At the same time, I can also request quotes from multiple plumbers to make sure that I’m finding the person who’s available, who would come to my place within an hour or so to get the work done.

I would say that’s an interesting trend for businesses to pay attention to is the transactions. Start to think of Yelp as more than just a review site, but also a transactions platform.

Small Business Trends: The review and the transaction are happening nearer and nearer in proximity, closer and closer in time.

Darnell Holloway: If you are a business, one thing that you mention in terms of time, I highly recommend that you respond to your reviews within 24 hours, but as far as when the transactions happen after a review, it’s important to know that people can write reviews on their Yelp app as well, and a lot of that content is happening on mobile devices. You may see some of that as well.

I would also say that it’s important to note that business out there need to pay attention to their content. That’s something that we haven’t talked about as much, but literally, the content that they can control on their page includes photos and information about themselves. What we’re finding is that if businesses are adding more photos, if they’re adding content, they have a fully built-out Yelp listing, and they’re doing that from day one, they’re going to accelerate the rate at which they’re likely to get their first review.

Small Business Trends: Tell us where people can learn more.

Darnell Holloway: They can go to officialblog.yelp.com. They can also check out yelp.com/support if they have any questions, and then finally, they can claim their page at biz.yelp.com.


This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series. He is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

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