Kaitlyn and I love food; Take that photo above as proof. However, we often have conflicts when leaving restaurant reviews. Kaitlyn has never written a Yelp review, while I have written only one. We worry about the reviews in general. Should they all be reviewers? Are people good? Do you want to intentionally ruin the livelihoods of others?
For this week's episode of Why You're That Button, we look at restaurant reviews and why people abandon them. We spoke with a Yelp Elite member, Dominek, and a restaurant owner named Benham about how Yelp affects their lives. Then, we take our questions to Brian Boshes, product manager of contributions and to the community, who explains why he believes that people leave evaluations and if they are destroying the fabric of our society.
You can read the transcript of our interview with Boshes below and listen to the previous full episode. Of course, you can find us anywhere you can find podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music and our RSS feed. Catch up on season 1, too, if you missed the first time.
Ashley: It's okay, we're back. Kaitlyn and I are here, and we have a guest. Brian Bosches, the product and community contributions manager at Yelp. Hello Brian.
Brian Bosches: Hello.
Ashley: Thanks for joining us.
Yes, thanks for receiving me.
Ashley: This episode, we're talking about leaving reviews, particularly of restaurants. And before going deeper into Yelp and its strategies, and how the product changes and all that, can you explain a little of what Yelp does?
Therefore, as a product manager for the contributions and the community, I have a double job, but the majority is focused on involving Yelpers to participate in the platform, so I am also creating very special experiences for our Elite Squad, and That's where some of the aspects of the community come into my work.
Kaitlyn: What are the reasons people use Yelp?
I think the top three tend to categorize most of the comments we get when we ask users why they contribute to Yelp. The first is altruism, and it tends to be the biggest, so there is the idea that they have taken so much advantage of Yelp, and want to give back to the community, or are champions of their local community and want everyone to their around you have the same great experiences that you are having.
The second is the experience, so these are your food journalists, or your food bloggers, or the people who are really participating in Yelp primarily for their own benefits. They like to write about their experiences. It's like your experience diary if you want.
The third topic is very oriented to feedback. Fortunately, most of it is a positive feedback, but it is giving feedback to other people, or mainly to the businesses themselves, so thanks for the great experience they had, or some suggestions for improvement.
Ashley: Do people tend to come to Yelp to receive positive comments? Or do you find it 50/50, as if people had a negative experience, want to tell the world?
Yes, I mean, fortunately, about 80 percent of the reviews on Yelp are your three, four, five stars. Comments, comments on Yelp tend to be very positive: five stars, obviously, is the largest cube of the three, four and five stars when you break it. Yes, I am happy to say that most of the comments are positive.
Ashley: Yelp can be incredibly influential on whether people go to places or not. I wonder how you will maintain the integrity of the community. There are bots and all that. So, how have you addressed the integrity of the community?
Yes, Yelp's integrity has always been a really important part of Yelp, and has been there since the first day. And we have, I will say as a multifaceted approach to make sure that that quality stays high in Yelp. One of our, I would say more human defense lines, is that anyone can report an opinion that he believes violates our Terms of Service. In fact, we receive a good amount of reports from consumers and business owners who say: "Hey, I think this review violates your Terms of Service, can you check it?" And someone on the Yelp side reviews it and if the moderator agrees, then that review is deleted.
We also have a recommendation software that analyzes each review that goes into Yelp and tries to determine if that is the content we want to recommend, and then those recommended reviews are actually those that are then displayed on the site and placed on the star . classification.
We also have a program called Consumer Alert Program here at Yelp, and this is a program that, if we find that someone is making extreme efforts to manipulate their star rating, through requests, or try to buy reviews, or make gifts, or other things that are against our Terms of Service. We let the consumer know that we just said, "Hey, there's something weird about the criticisms about this, it seems that they all come from the same business owner, or they all seem influenced in some way, just so they know, more or less a warning. " As a last resort, we can take legal action against companies or reputational management companies. You mentioned bots they are using, illicit tactics to manipulate the reviews. We have also done it in the past.
Kaitlyn: When you're talking about checking something to see if it violates the Terms of Service, what does that mean exactly? I would assume that restaurant owners get in touch with you or something like: "This did not happen" or "This photo is not accurate", things of that nature. What kind of verification process happens?
Well, our moderators do everything possible to validate the claims of both the reviewer and the business owner. I mean. we look at many different factors. Obviously, if the owner of the company had convincing evidence, it could be something that they can attach to their case and that could influence the moderator's decision, or help modify their decision, I should say. In most cases, as with photos, it can be a bit easier. For example, a person publishes a photo that may be a bit extreme or that is not part of a normal experience that someone would have in a business that, for example, the fly in the soup photo is one that we use as an example. We have the ability to not necessarily remove that photo, but it would not be part of the company's main photo carousel, but it could still be attached to that person's review because it reflected and experienced that person had in a company, but it might not be something that we want to promote as one of the main business photos, for example.
Ashley: Yes. Prioritization is something that interested us. You clearly have Yelp Elite badges, things like that. How do you prioritize which reviews appear first or which photos appear first?
For the photos, it's terribly complicated, and actually, I do not know much about the photo. For reviews, it is a multifaceted algorithm that analyzes different parts of the review. I can tell you that time is still a very important factor. The recap has a lot of weight, we know with consumers, so the most recent revisions tend to float to the top, and older revisions tend to float to the end. There are some other things that also go into the weighting there. Obviously, our Yelp Elite writes some of the best content and some of the most reliable content, we think and that is why we tend to show their contributions when we can. So those are a couple of things that can affect the ranking.
Another thing that also happens is that you can have friends and followers on Yelp, so we know that you probably care more about the opinions of those people than someone you do not know. So, if you have a friend, if you have connected with someone at Yelp, we will first show you their content, which is good. You may go to a business you have never been to before and then, suddenly, see, "Hey, I know that person, Oh, hey, they've been here and here's your review," and that's why Yelp knows that that's something that people like, and that's why we prioritize that too.
Kaitlyn: I do not know if you can answer this, but maybe you saw a while ago that there was a viral vice in which this guy managed to make a shed the best restaurant.
Yes, the best restaurant in London.
Kaitlyn: Yes, on TripAdvisor. That piece is very fascinating because it seemed pretty easy, even though everyone who came to your shed obviously hated it because it was horrible. How would you explain how that happened on TripAdvisor? Could that happen at Yelp?
I would like to say that it could not happen on Yelp. As for your other question, how it happened on TripAdvisor, you should probably get a TripAdvisor product manager in the program to answer that. They may not want to. I think that article made the rounds internally to keep us informed of our mission. Why it is so important to keep the integrity of the content on the site in front of everyone. We have our team running the recommendation software, but it's part of everyone's job at Yelp to make sure we stay reliable and that an article like that never really comes up on Yelp. They did comparative studies of different sites trying to play with the system, and in most of them, Yelp ends up doing pretty well, so we want to keep seeing that and continue to promote that in the review community.
Ashley: How to deal with angry restaurant owners? Do you simply involve the community or what do you do?
We have an entrepreneurial outreach team whose job is to understand the business owners, where that anger comes from and then channel it positively, either through product changes or at least scope to make sure the meme is out there. Yelp is doing what it can and we do not want to crush small businesses or anything like that.
As for being angry, I mean it's a kind of natural human tendency that you're going to focus on, even if you have hundreds of positive reviews, those two negative reviews will keep you awake at night, especially if those negative criticisms You think they're unfair, so sometimes it's just that it's difficult. It's something difficult. It is a human tendency to focus on that. Obviously, if there is any constructive criticism, if there is something that the business owner can use to help fix something that is wrong with their business, obviously, we encourage them to do so. We encourage you to interact with the reviewer.
Even last week, I wrote a review for a business. It's still a five-star review, but in the business, I was like, "Hey, what you sold me was a bit expensive," and the business owner approached. They used the free tools where they can send direct messages to the reviewer and said, "Hey, just to tell you it was a little more expensive because we were actually selling you a professional quality item that you can not find like a Home Depot and the installer should tell you, and I'm sorry that I did not do it. "I was like," Oh, great, that's very good to hear, "and I would never have had that idea if I had not written the review and then the owner of the company would have responded and then I went back and I edited the review, based on that. information to be a little more fair.
Once again, it did not affect the rating of stars, but it allowed me to clarify my opinion and it is like: "Wow, that was a great interaction", that if the owner of a business participates in the community, he can have it. That is an example of my own personal experience with that.
Ashley: It's funny because there's a restaurant in my neighborhood, in their bathroom, they post all the negative Yelp reviews they've received, so it's interesting.
As if it were a wallpaper?
Ashley: It's like a wall of negative reviews from Yelp, yes.
I saw once someone turned them into t-shirts. I think there was a pizzeria that put their star review on how their pizza had a lot of fat, and they turned it into a T-shirt. Obviously, it's great when business owners can take those and give them a positive spin or whatever they need. As I said, it is a difficult human problem to deal with negative comments. Obviously, when you put your heart and soul into your business, you will not want to hear bad things about it.
Kaitlyn: I do not make qualifications anywhere unless I'm using a shared car app, and then I automatically give it five stars because I feel there is a difference in bets. Even if I have a kind of bad dinner, should it be impacting someone's livelihood on that? I do not know. I certainly would not give anyone less than five stars in a carpool app unless they physically approached me or something. For me, the difference in my bet of spending $ 10 on a cheeseburger was not so good compared to the participation of a small business owner …
Ashley: the sustenance of his family.
Kaitlyn: being able to pay the rent. For me, I can not imagine the incentive to write a negative critique unless something deeply, deeply horrible happens.
That really prevents many people from writing a review. We have done many internal studies of both, which would stop someone who, for example, registered with a company and did not write a review. So, we know that they have been there and why have not they followed and written a review? Or someone who has written one or two reviews and then we do not see them for long. This idea is like, "Nothing extraordinary has happened to me in a business where I would like to leave that review" or "I've had a bad experience, but I'd still like to go there again before I leave." I would write something negative. "At least of the people we surveyed, we know that's out there, Obviously, there are some negative reviews on Yelp, so maybe not everyone has such a strong filter, but you're not alone in this idea of wanting to be really , really safe before giving your opinion.
Kaitlyn: I'm curious about how often you see people appoint specific employees of a company in their reviews. I worked in a food court at the mall for five years. It would be my worst nightmare for my boss to say, "Oh, this Yelp review says Kaitlyn was rude" or something like that. It is also impossible, like what am I going to do? Call that person back to the food court at the mall and talk about it in front of him? I do not know, that seems like a risky situation too.
For me, anecdotally, most of the time the people who call people in the reviews seem to be trying to reward them. They loved your server. They had a great experience with someone from a local business and, therefore, want to provide accessories or rewards to that person. Obviously, that is really good to see and if you are a lucky employee you like to see your name in that context, but the negative context would be more unfortunate.
Ashley: So, in general, how do you feel when you review the applications, only the reviews in general? The fact that someone can review another person for many different things has changed the dynamics between consumers and business owners. Do you like that new dynamic, or how do you feel about it, or how do you think it has changed?
I think the dynamic has increased the consumer's ability to trust untested things, so brands are incredibly important, they are still incredibly important, but with review sites, be it Yelp or TripAdvisor, or Amazon, I think people can , ideally, trust much more in the underlying product when they see that you have a great positive response behind it. Therefore, as a consumer, I am more likely to be more adventurous in my eating habits because I do not have to worry so much about entering, "Am I going to have a good experience in this new restaurant?" When "I'm buying something online that I can not feel, or touch, or maybe it's one of several products, at least I know enough people have found it useful.
I also think that the metadata that comes with the reviews are really important and something that Yelp also shines on. I use this feature called Search within Reviews a lot on Yelp because I now have a one-year-old son, and I like to have an idea of how other parents feel about it, so I can look up the word children or young children in a restaurant and listen to the critics who brought their children, so they can talk about the children's menu or things like that. So even beyond star rating, I can dig a lot deeper because there is this open-text review product that is available to businesses, products and everything in between.
In general, I think that the transparency and also the audacity of the common consumer has really increased.