It may come as a surprise to lawyers, doctors, and real estate agents that clients are reviewing their work on the hyper-popular Yelp.com. With 66 million unique monthly visitors in Q4 2011, and over 25 million posted reviews, it is no surprise that Yelp has become the go-to consumer tool for discovering local services. While many turn to the growing site for gauging restaurants and hair salons, the masses are scanning reviews for professional services as well.
There's nothing stopping professional service firms from getting the same reputation management benefits of Yelp ratings and reviews as entertainment services. Here are a few tips for implementing a professional service-specific Yelp strategy.
1. Make a profile before someone else makes it for you. There are plenty of cases of businesses ending up on Yelp without actively signing up themselves. As clearly stated in Yelp's FAQ section, "[it] license[s] basic business information from third-party data providers…and from [its] users" to set up certain pages. Instead of leaving yourself blind to former customers and clients that could be reviewing your services, take control of your Internet real estate and set up a Yelp profile before a stranger has the chance.
2. Manage your front-office staff. First impressions are, more often than not, everything. When writing a Yelp review or choosing between three or four stars, clients will remember the faces who greeted them first - be it receptionists, nurses, or assistants. Even if the doctor's visit went smoothly or you helped a client win a case, the overall disposition of your office is powerful enough to turn a shining review into a lackluster one. Communicate the importance of etiquette and accessibility to your entire staff in order to leave clients with something positive to relay.
3. Build a robust profile. When building a business profile, Yelp offers countless fields to fill in - and they all deserve some attention. Even seemingly basic details, such as photos of your office or explanation of payment methods, are worth including. Yelp pages get premium placement in Google search results, increasing the likelihood that potential clients may see your Yelp profile before your actual website - so it should be just as informative. Take advantage of more advanced profile widgets including "Meet the Manager" and "Recommend Like-Minded Businesses," which help give your firm a richer online personality.
4. Encourage reviews from current or former clients. Once your work with a client or patient is complete, there is no harm in asking them to consider reviewing their experience on Yelp. This is the easiest way to rack up credibility and, if you're confident that the service you provided was a success, you're likely to see plenty of positive feedback. Even if the reviews you receive aren't all five stars, they're still wins; take comments as constructive criticism and use them as foundation for improvement. If you're uncomfortable asking for reviews outright, include a link to your Yelp profile on your website and in your email signature instead.
5. Interact with Yelpers. Many businesses assume that Yelp is a one-way venue for consumers and clients to voice praise or bad experiences. The beauty of Yelp, however, is its interactivity. As a service provider, you should take the time to publicly and privately respond to reviews - both positive and negative - on a regular basis. Some professionals worry that replying to negative posts sheds an unnecessary spotlight on the blemish, but if done tastefully, an owner response can take the edge off a scathing review. Letting clients know that their opinion matters puts you in the proactive spot. While it may be too late to rectify the precise problem, you can still salvage a relationship (or potential referral) and make changes for the future.
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Kim Cabot is director of marketing and product at RW Lynch, a marketing platform for personal injury attorneys, where she oversees company branding efforts, weband internal product development, and B2C marketing for the Injury HelpLine, a service that has connected over three million potential victims with lawyers in their area. Prior to RW Lynch, she held various roles working with different Bay Area startups. Cabot received a BS in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and is currently finishing her graduate studies in business at University of California, Berkeley.
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