I’ve never actually used Yelp to either read or write reviews of eateries or stores, though I do write some reviews on Google. In general I don’t place a lot of stock in them, but it’s clearly a popular service with many younger consumers. The company is breaking some new ground this week with an “exciting” announcement which will take their service into the realm of the halls of government. You will now be able to write reviews about federal agencies and possibly even hear back from them.
We are excited to announce that Yelp has concluded an agreement with the federal government that will allow federal agencies and offices to claim their Yelp pages, read and respond to reviews, and incorporate that feedback into service improvements.
We encourage Yelpers to review any of the thousands of agency field offices, TSA checkpoints, national parks, Social Security Administration offices, landmarks and other places already listed on Yelp if you have good or bad feedback to share about your experiences. Not only is it helpful to others who are looking for information on these services, but you can actually make an impact by sharing your feedback directly with the source.
Well, that’s certainly “exciting” isn’t it? But if you were going to roll out this new project by selecting one government agency to feature, did it have to be the TSA? I mean… does anyone like the TSA? I’ve spoken to a couple of people who work for the TSA and even they don’t like the place. Still, the gauntlet was thrown down and one of the first people to pick it up was former HP CEO and current presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. She’s apparently not impressed.
This is a good deal for both Yelp and Uncle Sam if nobody else. Yelp should obviously know that trust in and approval of government institutions is at record lows and there won’t be a ton of five star reviews popping up. At the same time, the government gets to demonstrate how hip and cool they are, connecting with all the kids on these slick online applications. (Even though this one has been around for more than a decade.) The investment on the government’s part is minimal since they can probably just assign some group of interns to sit around and read the reviews and pick some to respond to with canned agency talking points developed for the task.
As previously noted, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of most of these user review sites. There are, no doubt, lots of people out there who are using the tool in good faith and trying to share their own experiences with other consumers. But those seem to be mixed in with huge numbers of five star reviews from the company and its agents and matching (or exceeding) one star reviews from competitors who want to damage their business. And it certainly doesn’t help the company’s reputation when there are repeated stories which at least imply that Yelp can remove good reviews from places that don’t buy advertising or charges people cash to have bad reviews removed.
Still, if we don’t take this too seriously it should at least provide us with a bit of fun during the dog days of politics. I doubt Fiorina will be the only one to jump on this bandwagon it will give the pundits something to occupy their time. Meanwhile, I’m off to write a review of the IRS.