The world wide web has been a boon in many ways for consumers. All the various social media outlets and review centers have provided countless consumers with a mechanism to share both their good and bad experiences with various businesses. Even those who don't share their own experiences, often log on to review the satisfaction level of other customers. In many cases, after reading all the Yelp reviews for a particular company, the information provided either convinces the reader to do business with the company or they decide to move on in search of another.

Reliable or No?

On the surface, it would seem that review centers and social media outlets are a great place to conduct research before deciding to invest one's hard-earned money in a product or service. However, now and then the news media will report on a story where a business for whatever reason, became controversial and was swamped with negative Yelp and other social media reviews. It's unfortunate, but it does occur.

Assuming all their reviews are honest ones, for the average business, most reviews come from individuals who were either very satisfied with their interaction with the company, or the reviews come from individuals who for one reason or another were very dissatisfied. In other words, the reviews will most likely seem extremely positive or extremely negative. This actually makes sense since it is typically a very positive or very negative experience that provides enough motivation for a person to take the time to type their thoughts. If a particular company who is not currently in the spotlight has very good Yelp reviews, then chances are the customers leaving the reviews truly are happy. If the reviews are all poor, then the reader could surmise that customers either had an average experience which they did not bother to report, or their experience was negative enough they felt compelled to share it with others.

Spotting Fake or Incorrect Reviews

In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as a fake review and no one leaving a bad review would ever mistake one business for another, but these events do happen. In other cases, a person's experience is entirely subjective. After all, who is to say that everyone will enjoy the "5-star" sushi offered by a particular restaurant as much as "RegularRestaurantReviewer456" does?

As with everything else, it is up to the review reader to do their due diligence and discern for themselves whether the reviews listed seem to hold up under critical scrutiny or whether they don't pass the smell test. If a review discusses the "poor treatment" offered by a dentist, yet the review page is for an ear, nose and throat specialist, then clearly the one who left the review was in error and the poor review should be reported to Yelp. At that point, they can review the erroneous review and remove it. In the case of a bevy of bad reviews, the reader might want to read between the lines of reviews such as "I've heard this place really stinks" to consider whether the individual leaving the review actually ever did business with the company in the first place.

A Company's Response

Yelp actually provides tools to business owners to help them present a professional image on their Yelp business page. It speaks well for a business if they upload helpful photos, provide exclusive Yelp deals and if they advertise their company on Yelp. Probably the biggest credibility factor for companies, though, is how they respond to negative criticism. If a customer leaves a bad review, does the company even respond at all? If they do respond, do they offer an apology and some type of resolution to help turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one? If the business in question handles a negative review with professionalism and grace, other readers will note that and will walk away with a favorable impression of that business.

The best way for companies to perform well on Yelp is to do it the old-fashioned way. Provide excellent products and/or services, and offer great customer service every time. Doing this, along with availing themselves of all the helpful tools provided by Yelp and other review centers, will go a long way to building the excellent reputation that successful companies strive for.