People Hate us on Yelp!

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Lots of small businesses don't care much for Yelp, the online review site which can have an outsize influence on driving traffic to or from a small restaurant or shop. It doesn't help that Yelp's business model revolves around selling advertising and promotional services to those same businesses--a practice which can feel a little corrupt at times. It doesn't help that some Yelp reviewers these days seem to feel entitled to special treatment because of all the reviews they post.

One California restaurant, Botto Bistro, has come up with a creatively subversive way to market itself using Yelp: they are campaigning to be the restaurant with the lowest score on Yelp, rewarding customers who post one-star reviews with coupons and freebies. Amusingly, Yelp has responded by taking down hundreds of one-star reviews of the restaurant, thus boosting its Yelp score.

I love this idea for a lot of different reasons. First, it plays well into the restaurant's image of "Italian cooking with an attitude," as other parts of their website mock clueless customer questions and aggressively demonstrate that they don't think the customer is always right.

I also like they way they turn the whole concept of Yelp on its head, rendering powerless a big company which can sometimes seem like a bully to the small business dependent on Yelp for new customers.

The data nerd in me also really loves the way they demonstrate that you can't take metrics and customer feedback at face value--you always need to ask what's behind the numbers. Here's a case where people who love the restaurant are giving terrible reviews because that's part of their brand image and shtick.

And finally, I like the way they've found to increase customer engagement by asking customers to do something silly and subversive and unique. Customers who are "in the know" can read the Yelp reviews with a completely different understanding than everyone else.

Botto Bistro has demonstrated once again that customer experience isn't about providing the "best" customer experience, but providing the experience which best matches what your particular customers will appreciate.

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