Yelp ~ flourishing or failing?

On: July 23, 2015
In: News
Views: 847

It’s been more than ten years since Yelp has been founded, and the online review site has grown to be one of (if not the) biggest consumer review website available. Since April 2015, it is estimated that the website averages about 142 million visitors monthly, and has accumulated around 77 million reviews. With over 2.1 million local businesses to review and an estimated $118 million quarterly revenue, Yelp is certainly in the big leagues now.


But with the value of Yelp stock decreasing and Facebook’s two latest actions – including the addition of professional and trusted reviews on restaurant Facebook pages and the new tool Place Tips, which features the photos and reviews of businesses from people you actually know – Yelp may have to rethink its credibility and concept. Are you going to Trust Christina C., someone you’ve never met, or a professional restaurant critic from New York Magazine? This is especially true since the website now has a new target industry: healthcare.


Yelp offers customers a rating from 1 to 5 stars in which they can judge their experience. That works fine if consumers are judging a business based on just one aspect (like cleanliness, or availability of products). But according to an article from DelawareOnline, healthcare isn’t being judged on a few general expectations, and people have very different mindsets when it comes to what makes their experiences with doctors and physicians positive and negative.


When it comes to doctors, people rate their experience as negative if the nurses or doctors are rude, or if they waited a long amount of time and their appointment with their doctor was a short amount of time. On the contrast, with physicians, it seems patients only care about the result (is the cancer gone? Can I move my arm?) and don’t even take into account wait times or staff demeanor. It’s not hard to see the difficulty; doctors and physicians do the best to treat a patient in the best way they see fit, and sometimes this means less than stellar results. Does that warrant a Yelp review that has real, damaging consequences to the doctor? Or should the patient simply accept what they are given?


The public’s expectations about other businesses are also extremely varying. Take restaurants, for example; when looking at Yelp reviews for one popular Tucson restaurant, the most recent review was given 5 stars. You’d think the review would be extensive, expanding on the food, service, and other details. Instead, the review said, “Such amazing food and an eclectic menu that my vegetarian girlfriend absolutely loves”. A 13-word review that barely gives any information about the restaurant doles out the highest praise. Meanwhile, a Yelp review that was given just a couple weeks ago read, “The food here is really good. I love the pastry case, I love the local coffee, I love the extensive menu. The problem is…waiting in line for 90 minutes or more” and was given only 3 stars for something the restaurant can’t do much about.


It seems that Yelp needs to do some rethinking: they need to cater more to their customers’ varying needs instead of giving a much too simple rating system that reflects not only many different aspects of businesses and now healthcare, but also a wide array of consumers that value many different aspects of those businesses. A restaurant’s good food but poor service might earn the business a 5-star Yelp review, or a doctor’s dedicated and effective treatments but cold bedside manner might earn a 1-star review. Yelp is still a powerful tool that can help or hinder a business; it’s both great, free advertising and marketing or can be a death wish to those businesses that receive a few bad reviews. If not…Facebook might become the new Yelp.



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