As an investor in Yelp, I was delighted to discover this blog post by Peggy Wynne Borgman, the owner of Saratoga Spa. In it, she admits to ranting about the dark side of user generated content for months before recently changing her tune and "falling in love" with Yelp.
Initially, I wondered: why the sudden change of heart? Had a savvy business person at Yelp managed to bribe Peggy into becoming a fan? Nope. This love affair is genuine.
Peggy figured out that the "web 2.0" experience for local search is about two-way communication. She discovered that Yelp provided her with a way to monitor her spa's reputation very efficiently. Now, she checks Yelp daily. Any time she notices an "issue" with her spa's reputation, she can address it by starting a dialog with the unhappy customer.
In many cases, she manages to get a second chance with these disgruntled customers and win them back.
Before Yelp's existence, these unhappy customers would simply stew on their bad experiences and trash the local vendor among their friends. The poorly performing local merchants never even knew they were doing such a bad job. Thanks to Yelp, business owners get access to timely feedback and, more importantly, they can address issues that emerge in the feedback. Isn't it every business owner's dream to know what customers think and get a chance to fix the problems?