Businesses will soon have another online reputation tool in their arsenal. Yelp, a popular web site that not only provides listings of local businesses but allows its users post reviews, will begin to allow business owners to publicly respond to reviews.
This has not been the case in the past. In fact up until now, Yelp has been pretty steadfast in its refusal to give businesses significant access to its pages. Now that is about to change.
“Business owners for years now have been asking for more and more voice on the site,” said Geoff Donaker, Yelp’s chief operating officer. “As long as it’s done in a respectable way, it’s good for the consumer and good for the business owner.”
As Yelp has increased their popularity in the last few years, their relationship with businesses has become increasingly contentious as well. This is mostly due to the fact that business owners have not been able to respond to negative reviews as they can with other review sites such as TripAdvisor.
Just this year Yvonne Wong, a pediatric dentist in Foster City, California, sued two people over negative comments about her practice that were posted on the review site Yelp, accusing them of libel. Wong said she had no choice but to also sue Yelp because the company refused to take the review down.
This is not the only law suit to come as a result of yelp reviews. Recently Steven Biegel, a San Francisco chiropractor, settled a libel case he had filed against a former patient after they had posted a review complaining about Biegel’s billing practices.
In light of these types of situations as well as yelp simply maturing as a business, they have been taking steps to appease business owners. In fact, a year ago Yelp started allowing business owners to update their businesses’ profile pages and privately contact reviewers.
The latest step of adding public responses shows that the start-up company is maturing, said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, an Internet research firm. “They’ve received a lot of criticism about their perceived bias against businesses,” he said. “This is a concession to the needs and interests of small businesses who sometimes feel powerless.”
I’m not sure when this feature will be rolled out so if you have a listing in Yelp, you may want to keep a watchful eye on it. At any rate, this is good news for business owners and brand managers who want to stay on top of their online reputation.