What makes customers come back to your business? Many times, customers are drawn to memorable experiences rather than products—whether that’s great sales interactions, unique branding, exceptional customer service, or personability. In this fireside chat from the 2022 Women in Business Summit, hear great examples of creating memorable and unique experiences for your customers that will keep them coming back.
- Caisy Lun, owner, Taste Restaurant
- Niki Burt, community manager, Yelp
Caisy and her mother Elsa took over Taste in 2019 to bring an authentic dim sum experience to Indianapolis. Taste prides itself on making 30 different types of dim sum by hand each day and regularly pulls back the curtain to allow guests to see the intensive process behind making the specialized dumplings. At Taste, the philosophy is quality—no skimping on ingredients and no cutting costs—only great dumplings.
As a Yelp community manager, Niki supports small businesses in her hometown of Indianapolis by shedding light on their products, services, and what makes them unique. Niki loves all things Indy and is excited to share the best places to eat and connect communities with local businesses.
Emily: This next session that we’re going to have is going to be led by Niki Burt, our Indianapolis Community Director. And Niki and the entire Community Management team at Yelp are so near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. The first one being that they actually work in their local markets. We have over 125 cities across North America with community managers and directors in them. And they create memorable experiences for consumers and people in their city.
Emily: So it is no surprise at all that we have Niki leading this session, which is titled creating memorable customer experiences. And she’s going to be joined in a little bit by Caisy, the owner of Taste Restaurant. But first, Niki, why don’t I hand it to you so you can tell these folks a little bit more about the Community Management team?
Niki: Hi, yes. Thank you so much for having me, Emily. You’re the best. I always love hearing from you, so I’m honored to be here. As mentioned, I am the local Community Director in Indianapolis, and I am super excited to be here because I think our community team has some of the most fun jobs ever.
Niki: So what is a community manager? A community manager, like Emily said, there’s over 120 of us scattered throughout the major cities across North America. And each of us serves as a boots-on-the-ground contact to help local businesses and connect them to the community.
Niki: We are each as free to be as creative as we want in our own cities and work on projects that really benefit what’s happening locally. I’ll touch on the ways that we can partner with local businesses in just a minute, but everything I will be sharing today is completely free for businesses.
Niki: If you’re like my grandparents, and you say, “What is the benefit for you then? I don’t understand.” The community team really, really just takes joy in celebrating local businesses. And we benefit simply from getting our community out and about and going into the doors of your businesses, which is the bread and butter of Yelp.
Niki: So we don’t have an office in each city, but we do live in the city we represent. We’re super passionate about that city. We know it like the back of our hand. And so if you do have a community manager in your city, they’ve probably been into your business before or heard of your brand. So for example, I’m in Indy right now. I was born here.
Niki: I’m from here. I work out of coffee shops all around town and I make it my mission to try to visit as many businesses as I can, so that I really know what’s happening locally. A big part of our role is also building relationships, so we love it when businesses reach out on social media or email or in-person. And so we’re always trying to build those connections with you.
Niki: Okay. I made a list of how your local community manager can help you. And I’ll go through each of these more in depth in just a second, but I wanted to share that all of these things are things that your community manager is already doing in your market. And so if you ever reach out to them, there is usually a really simple way that they can fit you into the plans that they already have in the works.
Niki: So for example, we can help by giving you free tips on your Yelp Page, we can host a Yelp event with you. We can share what you’re up to on our social media. We can feature you in one of our weekly newsletters (we have two). We can include you in an upcoming media hit. We could sponsor one of your events that you might be hosting, or we just want to meet you and become friends.
Niki: As mentioned, there’s a different community manager in every city. So if you’d like to see if there’s a one in your city or you want to get in contact with them, you can scan this QR code right now, and you can fill out the form that it’ll lead you to. And then after you fill out that form, your local community manager will reach out to you and find some fun way that you two can be partnering. And they’re going to put the link in the chat too, so if you miss this QR code, no worries. You’ll find it in the chat.
Niki: All right. The first thing I always look at when talking with a business owner is I always look at their Yelp Page. So I always look to see if there’s any free tool that could be added that would help them reach more customers. And so at any point, you can always send a link from your Yelp Page to your CM for them to just take a peek at, give you a thumbs up. I always recommend just starting there.
Niki: Okay, there we go. And then once you have your Yelp Page set up, you’ll be able to talk about fun things such as hosting or participating in a Yelp event. And this is my favorite part of the job, because I mean, everyone loves a party. So every community manager hosts at least two events a month in their city, with many hosting more, so some host up to eight a month. So it’s almost every week or so we have an event happening.
Niki: We can do week long events or single night events, so if you have a small business that doesn’t have capacity for a big group, we can spread it out over a week, or we can do one combined party in a single evening. So I wanted to give some examples. So right now in Indianapolis, we’re doing an event series called Hot and New Around Indy. It’s an event series that features 12 free experiences at businesses that opened within the past year.
Niki: I’ve been joking that it’s almost like my personal bucket list of events and just businesses people may not have gotten to reach yet but are really eager to try. So we had a week long event last week at a new fried chicken restaurant, where attendees could pick up a meal of their choice anytime between Monday and Sunday.
Niki: This week, we have a week long event at four businesses that are located next to each other. So attendees are popping in the plant shop to get a little mini cacti, they’re popping in next door to get a chocolate chip cookie, then they’re walking next door again, to the local movie theater, to get a buy-one-get-one movie ticket, and then popping in the skate shop to get a Yelp water bottle. And so they’re experiencing four businesses in one swoop.
Niki: And then as I mentioned, too, we can do in-person parties. And those are always really fun and a great way to get everyone in the same room and hearing from the business owner at once. But when working with us on an event, how it works is that we’ll make the event page. We market it, we fill RSVPs, we send reminder emails, do social media posts, all of that behind the scenes work. And then you focus on what you are good at, which is providing that service or item to the group.
Niki: So the point of this event is always to get new people through the doors. So when I create an event, there’s always a question with the RSVP and I say, have you been to this business before? And then I always try to confirm people that have never been, so we’re ensuring that we’re getting all new people through your doors and experiencing your business, so they can become future customers.
Niki: And we can partner with any type of business too. It doesn’t have to be food. So we’ve done pizza parties at auto body shops. We’ve done escape rooms with local locksmiths. We’ve done an art class at a local boutique, et cetera. So if you can’t think of an idea, your local CM is great at doing this, and so they can always bring in added elements to your business or figure out if there’s a way you can fit into an event they’re already planning. And the main focus too is to always keep these events totally unique and different from anything your community’s experienced before.
Niki: I wanted to share a few examples of these unique elements. And so you can see on the left, at an event we did about a year ago, we brought in a local break dancing crew to perform in the middle of an event. We had Yelp branded cocktails. The event in the middle was at an apartment building that was under construction. And so attendees got to wear hard hats and be the first to see one of the apartment rooms. And then we had snacks and things like that to take to go.
Niki: And then on the right was an event at a restaurant, and it’s a burger restaurant. And to make it super unique and make the event go viral and just really special, they made this huge stack of burgers. And then they also had, they made this huge vat of nachos and the owner climbed onto the top of the ladder and poured cheese down. And it was raining cheese down about 10 feet onto the nachos. So there’s always fun ways to quirk up the events and get all of the attendees taking photos and sharing about your business.
Niki: Two more things I wanted to mention before I pass it to Caisy. We do a lot of social media, so your local CM is always looking for good high quality photos. We do a lot of meet the owner posts and giveaways too. So if you have any photos and you want to be featured, send them our way. Again, it’s free to be featured. And then we do a lot of media hits locally, and we cover all types of topics. And if you reach out with a story, there’s usually some kind of way we can fit it into an upcoming segment.
Niki: All right. Without further ado, we have Caisy here. Caisy, if you want to go ahead and turn on your camera and unmute yourself, we’d love to hear from you. We just did two events with Caisy. And so I wanted you to be able to hear about her experience from the business owner side. Caisy, take it away. And she got married this weekend, so congratulations.
Caisy: Well, thank you, Niki. You’re always such a joy to work with. And hello, everybody, my name is Caisy, and like Niki said, my family owns a dim sum restaurant in the great city of Indianapolis. Yep. Yep. And I just want to give a huge thank you, actually, to you Niki and Yelp for just the tremendous support they’ve shown us these last two years.
Caisy: I think Niki’s effort to build such an incredible community around small businesses in our city, it’s just so, so impactful during a time, as you know, it’s been quite difficult because of what’s happening in our country and the world. So anyways, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts. And to all of you business owners, I want to congratulate you on making it. I know the pandemic is not over, but just the fact that you’re here today and that you’ve survived is such a testament to the resilience that you have and the strength that you have.
Caisy: And I’m just so honored actually, to be part of this group and to tell you a little bit about our story. So thank you so much to all of you. Just a little background, so my mom took over our dim sum restaurant, Taste Restaurant in 2019—actually fall—so not too long before the pandemic. And our family has always loved food. Actually, I always joke that we are people who live to eat and not the other way around, and food has always been important.
Caisy: And it was actually really important to us when we immigrated to the states in the 1990s, because it was something that helped us with our home sickness and ease anxiety of building a life in a new country, right? So food has always been such an important thing in our lives. And I just want to share that when this opportunity came up, my mom was about to actually retire, but she wanted to do something, give something back to Indianapolis.
Caisy: So when the restaurant came up, the opportunity to take over a restaurant, she took it up. So that’s why we started. I want to share a favorite quote of mine by the chef, Dominic Crenn. She said that, “I’m not serving a menu. I’m serving you a story. I’m serving you my soul. I’m serving you a conversation, and I want you to talk back to me.” So this conversation, I believe, doesn’t only happen at the table. It is really like the before preparation and the follow, afterward, that makes this whole amazing experience that you have.
Caisy: And I think sometimes when you go to a restaurant, we don’t necessarily think about all the efforts beforehand to bring you that plate of food on your table. And I feel like, when Niki and Yelp reached out to us, they gave us such an amazing platform to have this conversation, not only with Indianapolis, but with the Yelp community nationwide.
Caisy: So what we did was we hosted an event where we taught the community how to make pot stickers. So everyone could meet our chef, learn our story, and see that dim sum is actually a work of art. It’s actually very difficult to make dim sum. We have over 30 dishes, so it’s just incredible efforts on our staff’s part. And the event was actually coupled by a week-long event where Yelp hosted a special dim sum sampler that we made especially for Yelp and people can come pick it up.
Caisy: And sure enough, they didn’t only pick up the samplers. They ordered lots of food for our restaurant, so that’s amazing. More importantly, it was just so heartwarming to meet everybody in the Yelp community, across the country. It was so, so much fun. And the impact of this event was so great because I’m a filmmaker by trade, so I know how important it is to tell a story. And with this event, we were able to share how our chef goes into the kitchen, 7:00 AM during the week, and wraps hundreds of dumplings.
Caisy: We have, again, over 30 dim sum dishes. And I really believe that each dumping has a background story to tell and how we just put incredible efforts into really shopping for the freshest ingredients, because our number one priority is show people that we care through our food. And we’re so committed of everybody eating the freshest ingredients possible. Right?
Caisy: Many stories like that, we’re able to tell. And I feel like, through this event, we were able to finally tell a coherent story to fully express the meaning and the heart of everything that we do. And the end result, I have to say was tremendous. Our Instagram gained so much traction. The attendees who came to pick up the samplers, we’re still seeing them today, and this event was many months ago. So we definitely made many new friends because of this new event.
Caisy: Anyways, I will stop here because I can go on and on about how great Niki is, how great Yelp is. I could go on and on about food, but I just want to encourage anybody here today, please use this incredible free resource that is the local Yelp community managers, because it’s an incredible tool to use. And it’s an incredible chance to make friends and be a part of something much bigger than just your own business. Right. So anyways, thank you so much, everyone.
Niki: Thank you, Caisy, and that is so true. Something amazing that Caisy did during the event is she not only just started teaching everyone how to make pot stickers, but she started, she created slides on the backend to share the history of dim sum, explained what dim sum is, showed photos. And then we learned that their chef comes in every morning at 7:00 AM. We learned that each one is made from scratch.
Niki: So I think it is a really important element of hosting the event, is not only making people fall in love with the products or the service that your business is creating, but also the people behind it, and to again, show the story and that full picture that you might not get if you’re just ordering takeout on a whim.
Niki: So Caisy did a wonderful job at that. And Caisy, you always give me chills when you talk. You’re so encouraging and we’re so happy for you and sharing your business. And so thank you so much for speaking with us. Again, if you’d like to reach out to your local community manager, it’s free to host events and get that exposure. So I always encourage people to definitely do that and at least start building that connection. And again, that link is in the chat. Emily, thank you so much for having us both. I’ll pass it back over to you.
Emily: That was awesome. I love hearing more about how you guys interact with each other. It’s just a really great example of the work you all can do in your local communities with our community managers and Caisy, thank you so much. I was over here like, my mouth is salivating thinking about having some dim sum. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to have dim sum all the time and I haven’t had it in a while, so it’s on my list for this weekend.