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Analyzing Reviews to Improve Efficiency and Increase Revenue

With Jeff Toister and Emily Washcovick

61 minutes

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Online reviews often contain hidden clues that can help your business improve efficiency, retain customers, and increase revenue. Using examples from real businesses, Jeff Toister, author of The Service Culture Handbook, reveals a simple process to quickly analyze your reviews and benefit from the findings.

In this recorded webinar from June 2022, you will:

  • Discover a step-by-step process to analyze your reviews
  • Learn how to identify new revenue opportunities
  • Decipher clues to help you improve efficiency


Jeff Toister Author, Consultant, and Trainer

Jeff’s first customer service interaction ended in a service failure. Vowing to learn from that experience, he became obsessed with customer service. Today, he guides organizations that want to build and grow a customer-focused culture. Jeff is the best selling author of four customer service books; over one million people have taken one of his LinkedIn Learning training courses; and he is a keynote speaker ranked as one of the top customer service professionals in the world by Global Gurus.

Emily Washcovick Senior Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert at Yelp (moderator)

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily hosts educational webinars and networking events to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through thought leadership and speaking engagements, she shares industry insights that a variety of entrepreneurs can leverage for the future of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

Emily: You are in the right place for chatting with myself and Jeff Toister about analyzing your reviews. We’re going to discuss reviews and everything from gaining insights to how it can impact your bottom line and help you grow your business.

Jeff is actually an expert in customer service and also how to really motivate your staff to provide the experience you want, which is a fun topic of his that we won’t even dig that deep into today. But he really has a breadth of experience working with business owners of all different sizes on their own customer journey, how they make customers feel their brand and experience their brand. And he does a lot with online reputation and reviews as well.

So this webinar today that we are putting on is the culmination of a lot of projects that we’ve done together, and particularly a review analyzing method that Jeff has been using for years now to help his clients better leverage what people are saying about them online.

So I’m going to turn it over to Jeff, to intro himself, but before we do that, I did want to let you all know about a couple of giveaways that are happening in conjunction with this event. The first is for being here live, you have a chance to get Jeff’s book, The Guaranteed Customer Experience for free from Yelp. We bought a hundred copies. So when you get that follow up email, hopefully tomorrow, but no later than Friday, it’ll have a form asking for the address where you would like the copy of your book sent, and then it’ll come to you in a couple of weeks and it’ll be a great reminder. Have you implemented anything from this webinar? Are there other tips you can take away from Jeff’s expertise?

And the thing I love about that book is it is extremely manageable. You can take it piece by piece, read a chapter, do a little worksheet, try to implement something in your business. So without further ado, Jeff, let me hand it over to you to officially intro yourself and get us rolling on what we’re going to dive into today.

Jeff: That sounds good. Emily, thanks for having me here and Yelp, I really appreciate the partnership. And for everybody tuning in, we’re going to take an interactive look today at three businesses, and we’re going to take a deep dive into their Yelp reviews and find ways to increase revenue, improve efficiency, increase or improve the customer experience.

So very quickly about me. My background is I’m obsessed with service and customer experience. And what I do today is I research and I write and I speak about how do organizations like yours create the best possible experience, get employees obsessed with service.

And I have to be really honest with you, I’m lazy and lazy people I think are really innovative. What do I mean? I’m always trying to save time. I’m always trying to do things a little bit more efficiently. And so what I’m going to share with you today is a shortcut to very quickly look at your business reviews on Yelp and find ways to improve your business.

As Emily mentioned, a couple of giveaways. One is the book, The Guaranteed Customer Experience. So when you get that email, please share your address. This is a start to finish manual for not only improving customer service, but attracting more customers to your business. And once they come to your business, making sure they have a great experience, and if anything goes wrong, which things do, how do you recover that business. So it is a start to finish look at customer experience.

And then Emily, another thing we’re giving away today is one lucky participant, you have to be signed in to this webinar at the end, but we’ll do a random drawing and one of you, we will do a one on one review of your business’s Yelp reviews, and we’ll do the same thing that I did with three businesses we’ll introduce to you today. So make sure you stick around to the very end.

The last thing is this will be very interactive. I want to show you the process, so you can do this with your own business immediately after the webinar. So the only tool you’re going to need is a piece of paper. I should say a piece of paper and maybe something to write with. Okay, those two simple tools. If you have those at the ready, then you’ll be able to play along as we do the review analysis for three businesses today. And we’ve got three amazing businesses to talk about. So I’m excited about that.

Emily: Me too. And I can’t believe I forgot the best part, the sit down with Jeff to evaluate your reviews. I have to tell you all that when we were setting this up, I reached out to some of my contacts to see if they would like to do this evaluation process with Jeff, and like many of you, they are extremely busy and they weren’t sure what it was going to be like and all of them could not stop sharing after the fact how valuable it was for them. It really was a deep dive in a quick succinct way to get a lot of information and insights. And we’ll show you guys what that produced for these businesses. So I’m excited for one of you to win that today.

Also, we have some love in the chat from people who have been following Jeff’s work on LinkedIn and working with him in the past. So just remember this doesn’t have to be your only dose of Jeff. You can find him on LinkedIn. He’s always posting things. He actually has a newsletter too, that you can get great tips and advice. I’ll have him tell us more about that later, and we’ll include it in the follow up email. But lots of love for Jeff, we’re so glad for his time today. And let’s get it going. Let’s dive into what we did with these businesses and who we talked to.

Jeff: Let’s do it. I’m excited.

Emily: So should we start with Bird Bird, give them a little bit of a taste or should we start with our process? Should I walk them through the high level a little bit of what we were sitting down and doing?

Jeff: Let’s just jump right in.

Emily: Perfect.

Jeff: I think Bird Bird’s a great place to start and we’ll use that to showcase the process that we went through.

Emily: Fabulous. And I think just to set the stage for you all, I know that time is important for you, and it’s sometimes hard to implement these new things, but you all took the time today to show up. So we know that it’s important to you and we will be giving learnings and takeaways that wrap around the whole element of your business and impact the bottom line.

So I want to bring that front and center, the fact that sometimes prioritizing your online reputation or engaging with customers digitally can feel like something that you put off or that you deprioritize when you’re busy. But Jeff and I are going to show you how you can keep on top of it in a very high level, manageable way, and in an impactful way that actually does make it worth your time and effort.

So let’s dive right into Bird Bird Biscuit. I absolutely love this business. I discovered them through people trying to feature on my podcast. They’re a business based in Austin and they are really just taking the breakfast game to new levels. They’re all about their biscuit sandwiches and really everything they do is counter interaction.

So it’s not this deep, longstanding relationship with customers where they’re talking to them over hours of a meal, but somehow they’ve been able to really express who they are and what they care about and their personality, in my opinion, into the customer experience. And I think that really shines through in their reviews.

When Jeff and I first looked at featuring them, we thought to ourselves, man, they have a lot of positive, I don’t really know what we might dig into here, but that is the learning and takeaway of so many of these stories today. Even if you’re doing so many things right, there’s still insights that you can get from what your customers think after they interact with you. So, Jeff, what did we find when we talked to Bird Bird. Show us the details of what we dug into?

Jeff: Well, one thing I want to bring up before we begin is just acknowledge that Bird Bird Biscuit is facing the same challenges that I know many of you are facing. Staffing is a huge issue, resources. With the pandemic, they had to convert a small inside dining room into outside seating only, and they haven’t gone back because they’re so busy.

They were featured as a Yelp top 100 eatery for 2022, which seems great, but it means they’ve got this huge line of people all the time. So they converted the entire facility into one kitchen to be able to really keep up with all the orders they’re getting. And so to your point, Emily, when things are going well, and you’ve got a long line of people, what could possibly be the problem? And I don’t know if it’s a problem, but we definitely spotted some opportunities and had a great time.

So let’s dig into the analysis that we did. If you are playing along, you want to try your hand at this, one thing, take this piece of paper and I’m going to ask you to, hopefully you can see this, draw five columns and just number them one, two, three, four, five, across your paper. This is what I call a check sheet.

In a moment, I’ll share with you exactly what I’m going to do with this. But the five columns represent the various stars that your business can earn on a review. So five star, four star, three star, et cetera. So it’s helpful to have this handy and prepared before we start diving into reviews.

And I’m going to start by taking a look at Bird Bird Biscuit’s Yelp page. They have two locations. This is their Manor Road location in Austin, Texas, the original location. And you can tell they have a four and a half star reputation, which is outstanding and over 1,100 reviews. So this is a very popular business. And we’ll get to some businesses that don’t have as many reviews a little bit later, so don’t worry if you don’t have 1,100 reviews, there’s still some insights to be had.

Now here’s the starting point. We want to go down, and you can do this with your own business as soon as we’re done today, and go down to the reviews. And the first thing you’ll notice right here is the default is what’s called Yelp sort, which is designed to be helpful to consumers. But what we want to do is change that and we want to go to newest first. And the reason we want to go to newest first is I want to look at the most recent trends. When I’m evaluating my reviews, the things that happened most recently are the freshest. It represents what’s going on right now. And so I want to take a look at that.

Now we’ve got them in order, and here’s what I’m going to do. I did this review with Bird Bird Biscuit owner, Brian Batch, back in April. So it’s been a couple months now, and since then they’ve gotten tons of reviews. So I’m looking at this review, starting with Sabrina for the very first time right now, as you are. And let’s just do this together.

So if I’m doing this check sheet, what I would do is I’m going to go through, let’s say 30 to 90 days worth of reviews, depending on how many reviews you’re getting. And all I want to do is with each one, I want to look at the review and I want to look for either specific things that are positive or specific things that are negative. And then I’m going to go to the column that corresponds with how many stars this person gave. I’m going to write those things in that column.

So if you’re following with me, let’s look at Sabrina’s review and let’s look at some specific things and decide, were they positive or negative? So this place was worth the hype. That’s great, but it’s not very specific, so we keep going. The biscuit is so buttery and full of flavor. Okay, so biscuit, that is a specific thing. And was it positive or negative? It’s positive.

So what I’ll do is on my check sheet, I’ll just write biscuit with a little plus next to it. And the reason I’m doing that is because I’m going to go through each of these reviews for 30 days or 90 days and each time I see biscuit and it’s positive for a five star review, I put a little, little tick mark next to it. So I’m just trying to see how many times people who give five star reviews, mention the biscuit or mention anything else.

Now, if you’re looking at this, is there anything else that you would put? And we can do this together, maybe via chat. When you read the rest of Sabrina’s review, what else jumps out as specific things that are mentioned, and then are they positive or are they negative? There’s one thing I can see in the next sentence. So via chat, it’s just a test for you to play along, what do you see?

Emily: Yep.

Jeff: All right.

Emily: We’ve got long wait, negative.

Jeff: Okay. And so Emily, it’s great that people are seeing that so clearly. And so what I would do is I’d write, wait or wait time, and instead of a plus, I’d put a minus. But this is a five star review, so notice that Sabrina’s saying, hey, this is worth it. The biscuit is amazing, but the wait that’s a negative. And so in my five star review column, I’ve got biscuit for a positive, wait for a negative. And-

Emily: And I have to say, Jeff, that part of this process is so important because I think a lot of business owners look at reviews as five star, great, and we write off any potential insights or feedback that could be in there. Even though they love you and said five star, they might have some criticism for you that you can glean or learn. So for me, when we did this the first time, that was the biggest aha moment right away was, wow, I can gain some insight here, even though they’re gushing about us predominantly.

Jeff: Absolutely. And so, if you’re playing along with this, let’s go to Cecilia’s review, which is the next review also on June 20th and let’s do the same thing. What’s a specific thing that jumps out and is it positive or negative? And if you want to respond via chat, what do you see? I know this is kind of a softball, but I promise you, I’m looking at this for the first time, just as you are. So does anything jump out as a positive or a negative that’s a specific thing?

Emily: Online ordering, positive.

Jeff: Okay.

Emily: Best biscuits, positive. Seating options, positive.

Jeff: And let’s pause there, Emily. So notice for the first review I wrote biscuit positive, and now the second review also biscuit positive. So I’m going to put a little tick mark, so that biscuit positive for five star reviews, I’ve got two mentions now. So as I go along, maybe a lot of people mention that, the more tick marks I have, the more strength I see that as a trend. But notice there’s a negative in there, if you have to look carefully. Does anyone spot the negative? What negative do people see in Cecilia’s five star review?

Emily: Worth the wait.

Jeff: Worth the wait.

Emily: So the wait is negative.

Jeff: She’s not ranting about it. She’s not like, this wait time, but she’s like, there’s a wait and it’s still so awesome. So you know both Sabrina and Cecilia said the wait time as a negative, but everything else is still so good, I want to give this business five star. So next to wait time with a negative, I’m going to put another tick mark. So you can continue this process and it goes very quickly once you get the hang of it. I’ve done up to 300 in 30 minutes. So you can really speed through this.

Now, here’s what happens, let me come back to you. We did this in April, so anything from June and and May, of course hadn’t happened yet, but here’s the completed check sheet for Bird Bird Biscuit. And I’m going to ask you via chat, does anything jump out when you see this check sheet? I know it’s a little small, but you could see, I did six 60 reviews over 90 days. This took me about 30 minutes.

And just see if there’s things, quickly as you scan, you could share via chat. Are there positive or negative trends that jump out? And as you’re looking for that, you can see, they didn’t get any one star reviews, but they did get some two, three, and four star reviews, even though most of the reviews are five star.

Now I’ll give you some hint, you got to look down. It’s like 10 items down, but biscuit definitely gets a lot of love from the positives. Where is it? The wait time, there’s a couple of negatives there.

Emily: Right below, two down, busy, wait. Yeah.

Jeff: What are people saying via chat, Emily?

Emily: I love that they’re seeing a bunch of negatives in five star reviews. So reviews are varied, even though most people love it, there’s a few who won’t. So I think what they’re seeing is in the five column, you still have a handful of negatives with a bunch of check marks next to them. Portion size, positive. What else? Biscuit, both two star and five star. Oh, that’s interesting, Samantha. So she’s noticing that someone over here in two star was saying the biscuit was still good, but then also there was a two star because the biscuit was negative.

Jeff: Right. And those are, to clarify, different reviews.

Emily: Exactly.

Jeff: So in one the biscuit’s awesome, but because of other factors, two star review. And someone else said the biscuit is too dry, so it’s a negative and that’s something we’ll come to in just a moment. So, okay. So you’ve gotten a good flavor for how quickly you can get into some granular trends. So let me pull back and tell you about a couple of things that Brian at Bird Bird Biscuit was already doing really well.

One of the things I liked about talking to Brian is that you could tell, he was passionate about the business, he was passionate about creating a great experience. And one of the things he did was a best practice was anytime there was a negative comment about the food, so you saw in that two star review, someone said, the biscuit’s too dry, or you saw even in some of the other reviews, sometimes people would not be thrilled with the food, even though most reviews were like, this is amazing.

So what Brian would do is he would try to retrace the order and verify that was made correctly. And I thought this was such a great idea because here’s … Imagine two different scenarios. One is this guest just doesn’t like your food. It’s not to their palate. You can’t please everybody. And that happens and that is perfectly okay. Biscuits in particular, as someone who’s married to a Texan, biscuits are personal. There is a way to do it and there’s a way not to do it. So there’s a lot of emotion attached to that.

So Brian’s okay with that, you can’t please everybody, but what he’s worried about is did we not make our best biscuit on that day and that moment, because we hired someone new and they haven’t mastered the recipe, or it wasn’t as hot as it needed to be, or it didn’t have the right amount of sauce. In other words, he’s using it as quality control because he wants to verify if we serve someone a biscuit, it’s got to be the way that we intended it to be served. And so I thought that was a fantastic thing he was already doing.

The other thing he was already doing was he was responding privately to all of these reviews, which I think is fantastic because he’s letting each person know, positive or negative, thanks for sharing your feedback, it’s very valuable. So I admit it was, initially, a little tough to find, well, what can I share with Brian that might be useful or insightful and a couple of things came up.

One is the wait time. And you all already knew about this, you spotted this immediately, that the wait time is a potentially big issue. They’re so popular. But when I brought this up with Brian, I’ll give you the stats, 25% of all reviews had a negative comment about wait time, including 33%, one third of positive reviews, of five star reviews. One third said, hey, but the wait was an issue.

So why do we care? Because eventually, if people don’t want to wait, they stop coming. And what Brian noticed as we were talking about this is they have an online ordering system where you can order, or there’s also a kiosk when you get there, but he said, the challenge is that you can’t really tell how far ahead the line is because there isn’t a physical line. There’s just people gathered around waiting for their order. People don’t have a sense sometimes of how long it will be.

And so one of the thoughts that came out of this of helping people with wait time was managing the perception of wait time. If I’m not sure how long it’s going to be, I don’t know, but what if I knew it’s going to be 15 minutes? Okay. Or what if I knew, hey, next time you come, order ahead, use it online and you’re not going to have to sit around waiting. So there’s an educational component that comes into that. And that was one of the things Brian realized was missing that there wasn’t somebody there to educate people.

So here was the idea, but also the challenge. The idea was let’s have someone act as an ambassador to let people know here’s where you are in line, here’s how to place an order. There are also a few comments where were people confused about the menu a little bit, like the special dietary restrictions, I want a gluten free, or I have this particular allergy, am I okay?

So the idea is let’s have an ambassador greet people, create personal connections, walk first timers they have … About a third of the people that were visiting Bird Bird Biscuit were from out of town. So they were first timers. They didn’t know how it worked. And it’s a fantastic idea. Now here’s the challenge, staffing.

Brian told me, in fact, I got an email from him just yesterday, sick outs are such a huge problem, hiring enough people and then keeping them healthy. It’s been tough enough to keep up with the rest of his operation, he has not been able to do that or implement that ambassador idea just yet.

So there’s a real challenge that we could all probably relate to, but at least it’s an insight to say, hey, even though I’ve got this big line, I want to keep that big line and I can make people happy by maybe having an ambassador to engage people, answer questions, make the process even better.

Now there’s one other thing that came out, and that is this idea of going beyond just the biscuits, when you get a negative comment. Brian noticed that after we were doing this analysis, that comments about coffee and tea were also generally pretty negative. And not that you go to Bird Bird Biscuit for coffee or tea, but maybe you’d like that along with your meal. And so he investigated.

Recently, he told me he investigated how they were making their tea and he thought that they weren’t making it the way they needed to. And so they were actually going to revise their process for making tea based upon just a couple of negative comments. And so, it was really a reason for him to investigate that and dive in deeper. And he found, hey, you know what, they’re right. A couple people have complained about the tea and it’s just not the way we want it to be. I think we can improve things. So that’s an example.

We’re not going to go as in depth to these next businesses, but you can see how we can really peel back a lot of layers and identify a lot of opportunities just by going through this simple process. Even with a business like Bird Bird Biscuit that is crushing it, there’s still ways to do even better.

Emily: For sure. I love starting there, because I think it was a really great way to show the process and also really identify all of the insights you can get that you might be overlooking right now, if you’re just looking at, was it a positive review or a negative review.

The next business we’re going to talk about is Ideal. And Jeff is actually a customer of theirs, so it adds another layer to the story. I feel like he better understands their operation because he’s been a customer. And they’re a home pro, so they’ll be great for a lot of my early folks who tuned in today and were chatting with us before we officially kicked off. Hopefully this one feels really relatable to you. So Jeff, why don’t you introduce the business to us and give us the meat of what we found in their analysis?

Jeff: Well, first I have to, of course admit, I’m clearly biased. I’ve been doing business with Ideal Plumbing, Heating, Air and Electrical for maybe about 20 years. And so my relationship with the business is different, I think than a new customer.

But they’ve been in business for over 50 years and it’s a community based business where there’s a lot of customers like me, very, very long time who couldn’t imagine doing business with anybody else. So it’s interesting. You’re established, you’re doing well, how could you possibly improve? Yet, we still found some really interesting insights.

We’re not going to spend as much time because I think you’ve gotten an idea of the process, but let’s just take a quick look if we can. So we’ll start with Ideal’s Yelp page. And one of the things that you’ll notice on this Yelp page, if you’re in home services of any kind, the things that customers can do right from the Yelp page, whether it’s request a quote, find out what services are offered, find out the service area, check your license, a lot of other things in addition to the reviews.

Now, Ideal has a lot fewer reviews than Bird Bird Biscuit, but there’s still some insights in there. So we’ll go down here and we’re going to change from Yelp sort to newest first. And here’s something I want to showcase is where Brian at Bird Bird Biscuit replies privately to reviews, it says from Don T, really I can tell you that the person who’s generally responding to reviews is Natalie Barillas, who spent some time with us doing the review analysis, but Ideal responds publicly.

And I like the public response. You can do both. The public response, it’s not just responding to and acknowledging that customer, it’s responding and acknowledging to everybody else who happens to read that review. So imagine I am looking for a plumber, let’s say, and I’m starting to look at the reviews and I see this five star review from someone in Sacramento and then all of a sudden I see this wonderful response from Ideal.

And I will tell you, it’s not our focus today, but if you are a small business owner and you’d say I just don’t know how to respond to those negative reviews … Let’s see if I can find one here. Here we go. Here’s an example from April and the responses that I’ve seen from Ideal to negative reviews are kind of like a masterclass. So just go back, look at Ideal, it’s in San Diego, California, and you can read some of their responses to negative reviews and it’s just incredibly, incredibly well done.

In this particular case, someone started with a one star review, got a really good response, I think that struck the appropriate tone. Hey, we appreciate your patience with us and the problem was more complicated and you were very patient and reasonable and thanks for letting us resolve this. And then you can see that it ends up getting a five star review.

So you’re not going to get that all the time, but even with that one star review, that’s great marketing because your customer’s going to see the one star and say, hey, what do people say when they’re unhappy? And they’ll see your response and if it’s really positive and it strikes the right tone that actually can help your business attract customers. So a little bit of a side, but as you can see, Ideal does a really nice job responding.

Now I’m going to skip ahead and I’m going to share with you their check sheet and we’ll, just like we did last time, via chat. Hopefully I’m showing the right one. A lot fewer reviews this time, but does anything jump out as you are looking at these trends. Via chat, if you will, what jumps out, either positive or negative? If you’re looking at all of these reviews that we looked at, what would jump out when you’re looking for trends?

Emily: We’ve got communication, good communication. Specific names of employees, that stood out of me too, Samantha. Price as a negative.

Jeff: I think those are the big ones. And Emily it’s great to see, even with far fewer reviews how quickly the main themes jump out once we visualize them this way. With fewer reviews, it just takes a lot less time. So it probably took 15 minutes to read through these reviews and put together this check sheet.

And so here’s a couple of interesting things that I discovered. Lots of names and different names too that tended to be in the five star category, but in some other categories as well. And often when names are mentioned, the feedback tends to be a lot more positive. And there’s a reason behind that. When you know an employee by name, you tend to humanize that person a lot more. So when you say, hey, Emily provided great service, she’s the best, we’re humanizing that. If I have a bad experience, I’ll say the person provided poor service.

So one of the things that Ideal does really well is creates these personal connections with their customers and that’s why you see so many names mentioned. And I can tell you as a long time customer, a lot of the technicians that have come to the home, I know them, they know me, they know my dog, they know my wife, it’s really cool, but what about that first time customer?

And it was actually something that we talked about as an opportunity, because if we don’t know the person yet, or how do we leverage that strength of knowing names? One thing that Ideals decided to do is order business cards for all of the technicians so that we could emphasize, as part of their training and part of their process, creating a personal connection with the homeowner, so that it’s not just Ideal, but hey, it’s Brian who came out to service my air conditioning system today, or maybe it’s Norris or Adam who came out to fix that plumbing leak, or it’s Abe or Gabe that came to fix the electrical issue. I want to know these people by name and it just creates a deeper connection. And so that insight from the reviews helped them say let’s prioritize this.

Now here’s the second insight that jumped out. Ideal offers plumbing, but they also offer electrical, heating and air conditioning service and they also do kitchen and bath remodels, yet when you look at their Yelp page, all of the reviews or almost all the reviews focused on plumbing, which is great. The plumbing, that’s how I discovered them. I had a plumbing problem and I needed somebody to fix it and they came through for me. They’re great at plumbing, but they do all these other things.

And so part of the insight was how can we get our customers to talk about some of these other services that we provide as well, so other reviewers might go online and say, hey, electrical service, topnotch, I highly recommend them.

And we started thinking about their processes and one of the things we realized is they have what they call happy calls, which is after a project’s been done, they often will do a follow up call and just check in and see how things are going. And they realized is that most of their calls were going to plumbing issues because plumbing issues tend to be the ones that are most likely to be an emergency.

Like I had a slab leak. One day I woke up and discovered that my bathroom floor was heated. I didn’t think it was heated. Well that’s because the hot water was leaking under the bathroom floor. Ideal came out and fixed it and it was amazing what great work they did. So it starts as an emergency and then create some relief. They do this follow up call, is everything okay? Yes, it is.

So that kind of explains why you get all these plumbing reviews, but what about all of these other projects? So something they’ve just started implementing is they’re trying to prioritize doing these, what they call happy calls or follow up calls for other types of work as well, electrical, HVAC, remodeling. And they’re finding as they’re starting to check in with more customers about different projects, they’re starting to get more reviews about other types of business as well.

So this is really early, we’ll see how it goes, but already they’re checking in with more customers and I think it’s going to lead to more opportunities for them. So a business that’s doing well, Emily, but still opportunities for them as an established business to do even better.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the happy calls insight was so cool because I couldn’t figure out why it was just positive reviews for plumbing or just reviews in general for plumbing, but she knew right away, because as soon as the trends became apparent, as an operational person, she could see the connection.

And that’s what I think will be so valuable for you all on the call is, you know what you think is going well in your business or, you know what you think customers find out about you because of, but you actually put a pulse on that, you might be interested to find out how they’re connected and how you can maybe create more content in these other areas. So I really loved that insight.

And honestly, I’m excited about our last feature. There’s so many good learnings with this one. Our last business is Tempoe Entertainment DJs, and they were another contact of mine who was on the podcast. They are a great business because they started as a solo operator, DJ Ryan. It was just him as a DJ doing weddings and birthday parties and life celebrations. And now he has over 15 DJs working for him in the greater LA area.

And their Yelp page is phenomenal, but even still with all of the great five star reviews, we were able to find some learnings and especially some areas of opportunity. So I’ll let you dig into the meat Jeff, but they are a favorite of mine and I think they’re a great example of how this program can work no matter what reviews you already have.

Jeff: Well, I was a little nervous at first because their Yelp rating is five stars and I was like, can I get like a four star in there? And the amount of love that they get on their Yelp reviews is just fantastic. This was the one where I was like, I don’t know what to tell you, congrats, but yes, we did find something and it turns out to be something that’s pretty important. So I’ll dive into that in a moment.

You raised an issue though, Emily and I want to come back to this, so I don’t forget. With all of the business that we reviewed, when we identified an issue that came out of the reviews, in each case, the business leader immediately knew the cause, or they immediately knew where to go look for more. In other words, it was something they were aware of, but it was just the reviews surfaced it.

And I imagine for those of you who tuned in today, you know about your business backwards and forwards, but sometimes when you’re so wrapped up in the day to day, you just don’t stop and think about, hey, maybe this is an issue I need to address. And I was really impressed with everybody, including DJ Ryan, when we brought this up, he’s like, you’re right, this is an opportunity.

So let’s talk about Tempoe. And as before, let’s jump to their Yelp page. So look at this, 869 reviews a five star rating. Believe it or not, five star is not the best. I know it might seem like it’s the best, four and a half is actually the best. There’s been some research that is done, that we almost don’t trust a business with all five star reviews. I think the exception would be a business like Tempoe, where they have so many reviews, then customers start thinking maybe they’re well earned.

But keep in mind when customers are looking at your business and evaluating the reviews you already have, they’re specifically looking for negative reviews. They want to know what customers say when things go wrong and they want to know how you respond and that’s tough to do when you have five stars.

But let’s take a look again and let’s see. We’ll go to the newest first and you see a lot of five star reviews, but let’s take a quick look and just like we did before, look at some of these reviews and you probably can see a few topics that come out. And maybe via chat like with this first one, is there some specific things Erika mentions in this five star review and is it a positive or a negative? So via chat. What do you see as you’re looking at this review? What jumps out immediately as either a positive or a negative that you might write down on your check sheet?

Emily: Positive, no worries.

Jeff: Okay.

Emily: Let’s see what else. Staff member came early to set up. Helpful, positive.

Jeff: And I don’t know if everybody caught this, but even the specific service. So the name of the business, you think Tempoe Entertainment DJs, they’re a DJing service, but they have other add-ons like a photo booth. And so in this one, it was a photo booth. And this is the other thing I want to point out, it’s a graduation party. So what type of event? A photo booth, a graduation party.

And then we look at the next one from Joy. I hired a DJ for school event, and then we have DJ Lorenzo. So a specific person. So we’re getting some insight around what went well and that’s actually really, really helpful. Now let me show you the check sheet. And we did this review, this was back in April again. So they’ve had a lot more reviews and they’ll look a little different.

There was one, I found one star review and I’m like, okay, a negative review, finally something to work with. And it was somebody who didn’t even book. So there was a communication mix up and they didn’t book the event. They have had since maybe a negative review or two from someone who did book the event, but boy, it’s tough when all your customers are happy.

So if we look at this check sheet, it’s kind of long. This took a little bit of doing, but I want to point out about five down, notice it says birthday. And so we have four people that mentioned birthday, and then let’s go in the five star column, a lot of people named, Mike and then Ryan. But look right under Ryan, the four people mentioned quinceanera, which is a 15th birthday. So you have sweet 16, quinceanera birthday parties.

So why do I mention this? Let’s pull this off here. As we were talking to DJ Ryan, we realized that a lot of these reviews, these positive reviews mentioned birthday parties, whether it was a sweet 16 or a quinceanera or another type of birthday party. And from a business owner, we’re all worried about staffing right now, we’re all worried about resources. And in the DJ business, Ryan explained that it’s very seasonal.

Right now it’s graduation parties and we’re in wedding season, but wedding season’s about maybe five or six months. And then we get to late November, December it’s holiday party season, but outside of that, things really slow down and it’s tougher to predict the level of business. But you know what’s not seasonal? Birthdays. They happen all year. And the cool thing about this is that they’re clearly crushing it when it comes to these birthday parties like sweet 16s and quinceaneras.

So when we talked about that, one of the things that Ryan realized is that even though they’re crushing it and they’ve got a great reputation, they weren’t really advertising that or pushing birthday parties on their website. So their customers were reviewing them …

It’s kind of the opposite of Ideal. Ideal is like, hey, we got all these services, but people were only focused on plumbing. And Tempoe Entertainment DJs is like, we’re DJs with a few other things and people are saying, yeah, and you’re really great for my birthday party.

And so what Ryan’s in the process of doing now, DJ Ryan, is they are getting film and pictures from all these great birthday party events that they’re doing and they’re building out part of their webpage to showcase this awesome business, which is also not seasonal.

And so I think that’s the real win here is even though we didn’t find, I think a lot of negative feedback, like, hey, stop showing people a great time, will you? I mean, people were having an amazing time when they hire Tempoe, but he was realizing there was a market segment that they were probably missing out on just because they weren’t advertising, but they could address really, really well.

And it was also going to help with staffing where the more birthdays you get, the more consistent your business is throughout the year. So that was the win, I think from that analysis.

Emily: Absolutely. And I loved that one because that just leaned right into what you and I like to talk about, which is letting your customers tell you what your competitive advantage is and really getting inside your customer’s head. So thinking that there’s something to learn from the positive is really a big takeaway of this whole evaluation process.

And it kind of circles back to why taking the time to do this matters and why you don’t just do this when you have critical feedback, but why you take a look at how people are responding to you when you do everything the way you intended to. So I think that was a good final example to run through.

For everyone who’s been on the line, we can certainly start to take live questions. I did have two things I wanted to address that came in that were not relevant to this process, but are relevant to Yelp reviews. So let me quickly address the common question about Yelp’s not recommended reviews because I had a couple of you pop in questions about that.

So if you’re not aware, Yelp has a review recommendation software. It’s constantly running and changing and it evaluates dozens of signals, everything from what we know about the reviewer, how active they’ve been on the site, how many reviews they’ve written. It’s also looking at other things like was this review solicited or asked for.

And that’s something that’s a little bit different about Yelp compared to other sites. We take a very strong stance on not asking for or soliciting reviews. And the reason is because that creates a bit of an innate bias. We would rather reviews happen and occur naturally on Yelp.

And so because of that, we require that if you send things like, for example, newsletters, you are not allowed to directly link to Yelp and ask for reviews. Those are the types of things that the algorithm might pick up on. And what it’s really trying to do is provide an even playing field for everyone. So we wouldn’t want, for example, the Starbucks of the world to get an upper hand on the mom and pop coffee shops, by being able to buy reviews, that would be an easy way that they could get an unfair online reputation.

And so this algorithm is one of many things in place to protect our consumers and our business owners alike. It looks at things like if people are writing negative reviews for their competition as well. So keep that in mind when you’re seeing reviews on your page that are recommended or not recommended, that’s what the algorithm is looking at.

And it’s constantly running and changing and that’s important because sometimes users write their very first review for your business and at the time the algorithm might not see that as a recommended review, but as they use Yelp more, that review might become recommended over time. So that’s something important to note.

The other thing I want to point out in relation to this is about the whole asking or not asking. And I know it’s a little bit counterintuitive sometimes and frustrating when you’re trying to build your reputation to not ask for reviews, but on Yelp, it’s much better, if you leave a trail of breadcrumbs or suddenly let your customers know that you have a presence online.

And what do I mean when I say that? I mean, having a link to all of your social platforms on your website, so people can click through, or for example, telling people to check you out on. You can share your reviews on social media, for example, anything to show customers that you pay attention to and engage with your online presence without specifically asking them for you to write that review.

The other thing that I want to mention is other platforms don’t have such a strong stance and they might allow you or give you resources even to ask for reviews. That’s okay to do that on those other sites. I just want you to understand the rules on Yelp so that you’re not frustrated or accidentally doing something that’s against our terms of service.

So I hope that answers those questions. I am always happy to chat further one to one, if you’d like, about that topic. I’ll actually put my email in the chat here for anyone who wants it. And the follow up email you’ll be getting will come directly from me. So you can get in touch with me there, if you need to chat one to one about any Yelp stuff as well.

Let’s see what we can get into in the Q and A here. This is a good question actually. Let me see if I can read this here. Okay. Here we go. Here we go. Okay. How do we try to encourage people to update reviews or even write reviews without asking for them, because she knows it’s not allowed? Great knowledge of that. Let me see if I can summarize these last few sentences here.

Jeff: Well, can I start on that one while we wait?

Emily: Yes, please, Jeff. Please.

Jeff: Yeah. So I think the updated review is a really nice outcome, but I think we put too much value on it and here’s what I mean. Negative reviews are beneficial to your Yelp profile. And I know that seems weird, but there is a vast majority of customers, there’s multiple studies that have been done that when customers look at reviews, they go to the negative ones. And if you don’t have any negative reviews, they don’t trust you. So they want to see your negative reviews. And so I don’t want to freak out about those. As a business owner, an occasional negative review is helpful.

Here’s what you can do to maximize that and make that negative review work for you, respond. And let’s go back to Ideal and I’ll show you again how they handled it. And you’ll see, I think this is just a masterclass in how do I get people to respond.

Okay, Emily, am I on the Ideal page? Did I go this … Okay. So let’s go to a negative review here and I’m going to go past this one from Juan because they get some negative views from time to time. Here we go. All right, so we’ve got a negative review from YH and it goes on and on and on. Look at this response though. Now it’s a little bit late and I think we would like to see a much faster response. It was a December review, an April response. So you want to be checking, I’d say once a week.

But if I’m a customer and I’m looking at all these wonderful reviews, I’m like, okay, they’ve got this great reputation, maybe I should hire them and then I see this one review and this person’s really, really upset, the first thing I realize is they’ve been a customer for 10 years, but then they had this obviously a really bad experience.

Look at this response though. It was really nice to speak with you. So I already know that there was a follow up that happened outside of this. And then the second sentence, sometimes we just need to apologize for things going wrong and try to improve it the next time around, if we get that chance. And it’s not defensive, it’s not saying here’s where you got everything wrong, it’s not arguing with this customer. It’s saying, hey, we appreciate that you’ve given us this opportunity and we appreciate that you’ve shared your feedback.

This has now turned this one star review into an asset because if I’m a customer and I’m looking at all of these five star reviews around it, and I see this one star review and this response, I’m thinking maybe they just had a bad day, maybe they’re unreasonable. Maybe something really did go wrong, but boy, something’s got to be worth 10 years of business. I really like the way they responded.

So I would worry less about getting the review updated. It happens sometimes, but I wouldn’t push it and just realize that this is wonderful marketing for your business exactly the way it’s laid out. You can’t control the one star review, but you can control the response.

Emily: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with that more, Jeff. And I think the other important thing to remember is if your goal is to get them to remove or update the review, sometimes that can come across in your attempt to make things better and that can really turn the customer off. If they get the sense that you’re not really doing this, because you care about their experience, but you’re doing it because you care about the star rating that could really put a big blocker on being able to move to a positive place and actually have a resolution.

Jeff: Yeah.

Emily: Okay, let’s see what else we have here. Actually, I have a good question from Lynn that I’d like to address, it’s about categories and more accuracy on Yelp. So Lynn, every single quarter we add new categories. So I always encourage people to check, but actually since the pandemic we’ve added an even different thing beyond categories called services offered and all legal categories fall within services offered, same with our home pros, local pros, any of the service based categories.

When you select that category, there’ll be a dropdown of services offered. There’s normally anywhere from like 10 to 40 services depending on the category. And so that should allow you to have a little bit more detailed precision on your offerings as opposed to what our parent categories have.

I know in legal services it can be challenging. So if you’re not finding the exact category, the best way for anyone to really emphasize a niche offering that they provide, that isn’t in a specific Yelp category is to be very word heavy on that information of whatever service you want to get known for through photo captions, as well as about the business content. So those are both free areas where you can add that information and really build up the fact that you offer those things.

I’d also always recommend doing searches on Yelp for what you think a consumer looks for in a big metro like LA or New York and see what certain category combinations some of those business pages have. It’s a good way to discover new categories that maybe you’re not aware of.

All right, let’s see. This is good actually. Does that slow response bring the one star review back to the top of the list? So Paul wants to know when a business responds so long after the review, does it move the review? And actually just so everyone knows, the way that consumers see reviews on Yelp is all different based on their settings.

So you remember in the very beginning when Jeff showed us reviews in Yelp sort, that’s the natural way that all Yelp reviews are sorted, which is at random by date, however, there is a functionality for it. It’s going to highlight any connections that you have, whoever reviewed the business first, and then it’s always going to show a review of equal or higher star rating than the pages star rating.

So let’s say you have a four and a half star page or a four star page, the first review will never be lower than a four star review. Does that make sense? So we’ll always have the top review equal or higher value than the star rating of the business, if you’re in Yelp sort.

So when you respond to a review, it’s not going to move that review or where that review is shown. That review’s order on the page is going to be based on what the consumer searched for and what keywords or phrases better search their need.

So let’s go back to the Ideal example, if I’m searching for a plumber and I click on the Ideal page and my settings are in Yelp sort, those reviews about plumbing are going to rise to the top of that Yelp page because that’s what I did my search for. Does that make sense? It’s going to try to highlight content for you relevant to what you’re looking for. And so by responding as a business owner, whether it’s a day later or six months later, you’re not going to impact that negative review getting more visibility.

Jeff: I think maybe the takeaway here is a faster response is better, but if you’ve thought, I haven’t been responding to my reviews, what if I start now? I think it only helps to go back to your older reviews and respond, even if it’s a quick response, because again, the public response is a signal to future customers. The private response maybe is for the existing customer who reviewed your business, but the public response is for future customers and that can only help.

Emily: Yeah. And I’m glad you mentioned that because we had originally talked about how you decide to respond to these and how the businesses we featured all have a little bit of a different strategy. I’m with you, Jeff in the belief that public response is always best. And the public response is not to win the consumer over, it’s to reflect your customer service practices, like Jeff mentioned, to everyone else, who’s looking at your page.

And so consider that when you think about your public responses. Don’t go back into a dialogue, arguing back and forth, what did or didn’t happen because that’s not helpful. Just show that you heard the feedback and you want to make things right, or take the conversation offline, show that you got in touch directly. Okay, let’s-

Jeff: Emily, I know we’ve got a lot of people that have been hanging out very patiently and they’re like, I might get a chance to win a business interview.

Emily: That’s right. Okay, let’s do our random drawing. Hold on one second. I already did my advance work for my drawing, so I can just throw all of these in. All right.I have my number. I’m going to randomize here. Do we have Jason Harmon still with us? Jason, if you could put your name into the chat to say I’m here, I heard you call my name, we will do the business evaluation with your business. Jason, can you chat in for me and let me know if you’re here. I can see you as if you’re active, which is how we were able to throw your name into the randomizer.

Jeff: The randomizer.

Emily: Just give me a little sign that you’re with us. Uh-oh, does that mean we need to draw again or should we try to reach out to Jason?

Jeff: Oh no, we might need to, yeah.

Emily: We might have to. All right, let me do another one.

Jeff: It’s going once.

Emily: See, I was prepared for this Jeff. Ashley says draw again. Okay, let’s see. I was prepared. I had a backup number in mind. All right, how about Paul McDonald? I know Paul knows how to use the chat because he asked me a question earlier. Paul, are you still here?

Jeff: All right.

Emily: He’s here.

Jeff: You’re the winner.

Emily: Okay Paul, we’re going to set you up with your special session with Jeff. I’m going to use the email address that you registered with to connect you to Jeff one on one and find the best time for you to do your evaluation together. Paul McDonald, my winner.

And don’t forget everyone else can still be a winner and get Jeff’s book, The Guaranteed Customer Experience. All you have to do when you get my follow up email for this webinar is reply or fill out the form that I’m going to include with your address. I will allow either. You don’t even have to do it the right way, you can just email me your address and we will get a copy of The Guaranteed Customer Experience to you. Paul, thank you so much for hanging around till the end and for everyone else for hanging around as well.

What do you think, Jeff, do you have some closing thoughts here that we can wrap on and send these folks back to their day with?

Jeff: I think we know that business owners and people working in small businesses are busy, they’ve got a lot on our plate, they’re doing great work. So I hope what we shared with you today can give you just something a little extra to keep raising the bar. You always have to get better and that’s definitely the right strategy right now. So thanks for joining us.

Emily: Thank you so much for taking the time. Jeff, thank you for coming up with this incredible content for our group. And for everyone who signed on, I really hope that you all can gain some insights from your customers and continue to look at your feedback as an opportunity to learn rather than something that you’re worried or afraid about.

So thank you again for tuning in today. We’ll see you all on the next webinar and you’ll all be getting the follow up email from me before the weekend. Send me your address and you’ll get Jeff’s book. Thank you all.

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