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How Yelp Can Help You

This mobile application and website connects people with local businesses, enabling customers to review these establishments.


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Kevin Newsum, customer success director for Monkee-Boy Design in Austin, Texas, spent six years building communities for Yelp. According to him, Yelp can help pet product retailers by facilitating an honest feedback loop between businesses and their customer base.

“Think of it this way,” he said. “Your customers are talking about their experience at your business anyway; Yelp provides an opportunity for business owners to know what they’re saying and to be a part of the conversation.”

“Yelp’s community of users connect online and off to share their opinions about local businesses,” said Morgan Remmers, manager of local business outreach at the San Francisco-based company.

Pet retailers indeed can increase business using this powerful tool. According to a 2013 study by Boston Consulting Group, small businesses see an average $8,000 increase in annual revenue by using Yelp.

Founded in 2004, Yelp currently sees 139 million monthly visitors worldwide and is home to more than 67 million reviews.

Managing Reviews and Your Online Reputation
Retailers can manage their shop’s reputation by responding to online reviews. To connect with consumers who have written reviews, Yelp offers two free options: sending a private message or posting a public comment. Whichever method you use, ask someone else to review your response before you hit the “send” button to ensure that your response is diplomatic and positive.

Respond to negative reviews promptly. Address the reviewer directly in a private message. Ask for more information about a less-than-positive experience.

When used properly, a public response to a negative comment can be your greatest public relations tool. Thank the reviewer for his or her feedback, and state your policy or clarify any inaccuracies in the consumer’s review. Public comments post directly underneath the review that you’re responding to, and everyone can view them.

“Negative reviews can be a helpful part of the process of serving your customers,” said Newsum. “The way you respond is key. Negative reviews can actually legitimize your positive reviews. It’s pretty unusual for any business to see only perfect scores. Negative reviews remind users that Yelp values legitimate reviews.”

Check out how Lauren Lee, the owner of Wags to Riches All Breed Pet Salon in Meridian, Idaho, responded to a negative review posted in June.

Review of Wags to Riches

“We have had the WORST luck with this grooming salon. We have a miniature schnauzer and her haircuts have been OK at best each time we have had her groomed here. The salon seems nice enough and clean enough, but the staff is not very friendly and they are very difficult (and often snooty) when trying to make an appointment. We have had our girl groomed here four or five times, and this last time we have finally had it with trying to deal with the staff for even making a grooming appointment. If you are willing to pay for a so-so haircut and be treated poorly, then I guess this place would do … I, however, would recommend taking your business elsewhere! “

Wags to Riches’ Response

“I’m truly sorry to hear that you have been unhappy with all of the groomings that your mini schnauzer has received from our grooming salon.  If we had known that there was an issue, we would have been more than happy to fix the haircut to your liking. In regard to the customer service that you personally experienced from any of the gals at the salon, I apologize if any conversation came off as ‘gruff’ or ‘snooty.’

We strive to be the best in the Treasure Valley at what we do. I’m also sorry to hear that you will be taking your pet elsewhere for their grooming needs and that you will be telling others to do the same. However, we do appreciate your honesty so that we as a team know what needs to be improved in the high-volume pet salon that we work in. Thank you for your feedback.”

Newsum suggests store managers respond to a positive review the same way they would respond to someone saying something nice about you in person—by thanking them for the feedback.

“Don’t feel like you need to respond to each and every review, positive or negative,” he said. “It’s one thing to be engaged, but you definitely don’t need to answer all input directly.

“Be engaged, but don’t feel like you need to ‘babysit’ your page on Yelp,” Newsum added. “Unlock your business on Yelp (biz.yelp.com) to take advantage of free tools, share the company backstory, review visitation statistics for your page and respond to reviews.”

Yelp refines tools and adds new ones from time to time, Newsum said, and he recommends that retailers reach out to the community manager in their area or contact Yelp for Business Owners to learn more.

Don’t Solicit Reviews
Let your customers know they can find you on Yelp, but don’t ask for reviews. Include a link to your Yelp business listing in your email signature with the words, “Check out our store on Yelp!” or place a badge and link to your Yelp listing on your website using Yelp’s review badges. Yelp provides the code, and you just paste it into your website. Retailers also can place a “Find Us On Yelp” sign on their front counter, window or stationery.

Using Yelp
There are four main elements on each business listing: Business Description, Hours and Website, Photos and Yelp Deals.

• Business Description: Your business description on Yelp should tell the story of your shop. Use this opportunity to tell Yelpers something about your business they can’t find on your website. You also can use this space to share updates and highlight community involvement and notable customers. (See the sidebars for some examples).

• Hours and Website: Forty percent of all Yelp searches come from a mobile device, so it’s vital to provide up-to-date, accurate information about your business hours and website for Yelp users searching on the go.

• Photos: Photos give retailers an opportunity to show how much fun your store is. Engage your customers by posting photos of them. Give Yelpers an inside look at what they can expect from your business.

Barkadelphia in Philadelphia shows off its business on Yelp with a business description (see sample business description from Canine Crews below), hours, address, phone number, a map and photos. With numerous reviews from Philadelphia dog owners, Barkadelphia’s owners are leveraging their exposure on Yelp to attract more business.

• Yelp Deals: Discounts and coupons, indicated by a green tag, attract Yelpers to your business. Yelp deals don’t necessarily have to be of monetary value. One offer might be an invitation to visit. For example, “Take a photo with our Halloween costumes.” Chances are such photos will be posted by customers and bring more attention to your store.

Check out the following Yelp Deal from Canine Crews in Chicago, which gives a 50 percent discount for new customers.

“Learn how Yelp works and then do what you would do anyway: Provide great customer experiences to give your business the best chance to succeed,” said Newsum. 


This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Pet Product News.

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