I found this story on “Yelp Terrorism” amusing. It seems that the owner of a Massachusetts jewelry store, George Pelz, was “terrorized” by an anonymous Yelp reviewer that claimed all manner of poor customer service, fraud, and malfeasance. George swears the customer experience is a “complete fabrication” by a “Yelp Terrorist” that is out to destroy his business. He sued in an attempt to get Yelp to disclose the identity of the reviewer, which Yelp has steadfastly refused to do. Yelp has in turn engaged their legal counsel in the wrangling to assure that “anonymous” reviewers maintain their right to free speech without any possibility of retribution by the reviewed entity.
George’s isn’t the only sad Yelp review story:
Portland Restaurant Owner Calls Out Yelp
Can You Be Sued if you Give a Bad Review on Yelp?
Obedience School Sues Yelper $65k Over Negative Review
None of this publicity is good for George or for Yelp. In fact, Yelp has been the subject of lots of bad publicity lately associated with the documentary movie “Billion Dollar Bully.” The movie alleges that Yelp has some business practices that amount to extortion – (mimic a northeastern mobster accent) “if yoos don’t pay up on these advertising fees you never know what type of poor reviews might hit your Yelp account tomorrow. Just sayin . . . .”
I do not recommend George’s tactics for combating Internet terrorist that are holding your good name hostage. The days are coming when the tolls paid to connect to customers will become higher and higher for those businesses that do not build their own online connection to their customers. Big Internet names like Yelp, Google, Amazon, Angie’s List and a whole host of new startups with massive amounts of venture backing are all focusing in on the service contracting sector (particularly home services, but the commercial folks can be assured they will be targeted as well) as the next big payday for Internet commerce. Uber showed that it can be done in the transportation services space, and now taxi companies are under the gun to figure out how to make up for all the customers they lost (and will NEVER get back). Don’t be like the taxi companies. Don’t lose your customers forever to a savvy Internet competitor (or terrorist). Get ahead of the Internet trolls by establishing your own online connection to your customers.
If you are not using technology to provide your customers with every opportunity to review and appreciate your service work, why not?
- Do they get online notices to facilitate and coordinate scheduling?
- Do they get online service reminders?
- Do they get pending arrival notifications?
- Do they see the work you performed in living color with photos and video in an after service online communication?
- Do your quotes arrive online with a simple “Approve” button to bind them to your terms and your pricing?
- Do they have an account with you to review and retrieve all of their service history so they don’t have to file it themselves?
- Is it easy to launch a review or a request for service from any of these online service artifacts?
If you meet your customers online, eliminate administrative hassles, and provide great customer service, their happy footprints all over the Internet will overwhelm any potential “terrorist strike” on your business.
Don’t be like George. Surround the “online terrorist” with your own customer army that is engaged in perpetual service with your business. You will be living in the lap of luxury while the terrorists are banished to some Tora Bora cave in mountains of Afghanistan.