Luther Lowe, Yelp’s Manager Of Local Outreach, called me a few days after I sent my open letter to their CEO.
I was very impressed that Mr. Lowe actually called me back. The last time I dealt with Yelp, it was with their sales team, whose tactics seemed straight out of Boiler Room. Mr. Lowe apologized for the experience I had and went on to explain just how and why they filter user reviews. He said that the accuracy of reviews is of primary import for Yelp and they made the decision that while they may remove valid reviews, it’s better that they be seen as a source for “real” reviews. It’s because of this that they filter people who their algorithm reads as being one-off reviewers.
He also apologized for the sales experience I had and said they would talk to my rep specifically.
The end result of the call: mixed I guess.
First of all, I respect that he called me and spent about 20 minutes on the phone with me. I understand what he meant by making sure that their reviews are above reproach and honestly, that’s what I’ve always liked about the site to begin with.
My next reaction is that he really didn’t address the sales force’s orientation towards the hard-sell. I recommended that he really change the way they sell their services as it’s unnecessarily aggressive and offensive for a product that most local businesses should be able to profit from. It didn’t seem like he had any intention of changing it though.
So, on the one hand, I was pleasantly surprised to get a call back and have more faith in Yelp but still am puzzled at their sales approach. I can’t imagine it will work for the long haul.