REMODELING: Does Yelp have an official policy on rewards?
Morgan Remmers: We do. We discourage review solicitation or rewards to customers for writing reviews.
RM: What’s the reasoning behind that policy?
MR: We find that business owners create an unintentional bias. They want to incentivize or reward customers who are happy. It prohibits people from coming to the site; they don’t feel they can trust the information.
RM: How do you know that the review posted on Yelp has been solicited or that a reward has been paid for it?
MR: We have two controls. One is our review filter. The filter looks at a number of different objectives and data points. We created the filter shortly after Yelp was launched. We are looking for illicit reviews as well as reviews that someone has paid to have written.The second piece consists of people here who evaluate the reviews. We want only the most reliable and useful information about a business on our site, so that people come back.
RM: Many remodelers ask their customers to review them on sites like Yelp. Do you consider that a solicitation?
MR: There’s a big difference between telling the customer: Hey, we’re on Yelp versus saying: Hey, I am on Yelp, write me a review, here’s my laptop.
That difference is a game changer because when you say “write me a review,” the consumer feels like a marketing vehicle for a business. (See Yelp’s discussion of customer review solicitation.)
RM: What will prompt that customer to voluntarily go and write an online review?
MR: One of the biggest things is providing great customer service — a huge driver of online reviews.
RM: Restaurants get, sometimes, hundreds and hundreds of reviews. Remodeling companies get significantly fewer. Why?
MR: About 21% of reviewed businesses are restaurants. We include remodelers in the home and local services category, and about 11% of the reviews are there. A lot of this has to do with customer volume. A restaurant might serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have a seating capacity of 100 people. Compare that with a remodeling company that might do 40 jobs in a year. The number of reviews has to do with the kind of business it is.