I have recently added a new local account, The Option House Restaurant in Bradford, PA, the next town over. I soon discovered that they while they had a new business and a stellar local reputation, their on-line reputation was less than savory .
Sam Sylvester, the dapper 75 year old owner, moved back to his home town after 55 years of world travel, for help & support caring for his terminally ill wife. After her death and with the help of Rosie (his high school friend) as a marketing manager, he embarked on on a whole new life, but this time in Bradford. This spring, he opened a lively pub and cosmopolitan restaurant in an early 1900′s building that he had meticulously restored.
Bradford, PA was home to one of the first oil booms in the US. and in the early years of the 20th century, oil field owners would stop into the Option House for lunch and to trade oil contracts. It became an elegant depression era Vaudeville stop before falling on hard times in the 1990′s and early 2000′s. When it was shuttered it had become a less than reputable bar on the first floor and a flop house on the upper floors.
In a few short months early this year, after months of restoration, Sam opened the restaurant to rave local reviews. It doesn’t take long in a small town like Bradford for an excellent restaurant to become wildly popular. But as I soon found out, after contracting to build a new website, their on-line reputation reeked of sleazy rooms and a disreputable bar. From their Yahoo Local review (here is the Google cache):
Now that this place is under new ownership it has been completely restored to its former glory. Everything has been restored and renovated! This used to be one of the trashiest places in town, and now it is elegant and beautiful!!! You really have to see it for yourself. They now offer fine food thanks to the acquisition of a high end chef from another local business… 5 stars
I have to be fair: I haven’t really been to this place since I was about 23. It seems like a lot of underage people hang out in here. I guess that would be cool if I were underage. when I used to go there a lot, it was great.
On-line reviews have become the double edged sword of on-line marketing for many small business. Greg Sterling repored on recent research that Online Reviews Influence 84% of Americans. They are a reality that impacts sales whether they are truthful or not, current or not, spammy or not. I decided to see how Yahoo would respond to my desire to have the review noting service to underage drinkers pulled down.
Yahoo, like Google, has a link next to each review to report abuse or inappropriate content. However, unlike Google, Yahoo has in place a real customer relation process that is communicative, thorough and fast. Within minutes of noting my issues with the review I received this email from Yahoo:
This is an automated message regarding your recent request for Yahoo! Local Customer Care support. Your message was received, and you will hear back from us within the next 48 hours with an answer.
Thank you for reaching out to us. We look forward to helping you!
Yahoo! Customer Care
Similar to their communications when I list a business with Yahoo, it was a prompt albeit automated response that was friendly and offered the promise of a solution within 48 hours! I have become cynical about customer service, particularly in Local Search, in our times but I could hope. This morning, 24 hours after requesting removal I received this from Zach Daemon at Yahoo:
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Local.
We appreciate your report of potential violations within Yahoo! Local. We have completed our evaluation and have taken appropriate action, as per the Yahoo! Terms of Service and the Yahoo! Local Review Guidelines. For further details on Yahoo!’s policies, we invite you to visit the Yahoo! Terms of Service along with the Yahoo! Local Guidelines.
Please know that we cannot disclose any action taken on another user’s account. We’re unable to make exceptions to this rule.
As always, please feel free to continue to report any potential violations within Yahoo! Local.
Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Local.
The review was taken down. Yahoo’s behavior in this matter contrast sharply with Google’s review removal antics. There are a number of reasons why Yahoo’s behavior makes perfectly good sense and should be the model that any website with a review process in place should follow. It was quick, it was communicative, it was fair and leaves the business owner with not just a sense of relief but trust. Most importantly, however, it will improve the user experience. Isn’t that what search is about? Google would be well served by following Yahoo’s lead.
A quick abuse report submit, 2 emails & a blog post later I can now move on to helping the client market their business on an even playing field. If you are ever in Bradford, stop in and tell Sam that I sent you.
Hats off to Zach Daemon and Yahoo.
P.S. I know that I promised a critique of Google’s review policy. But rather than rehash old gripes I will send you to recent postings detailing my complaints and my (the ever constructive critic) suggestions to improve the review removal process.