A special thanks to Tom Pellegrino for his contribution to this post:
I actually have a few friends that work at Yelp have have talked to them about this exact thing … the criticism from business owners is that some user reviews are unfair, and there isn’t a proper mechanism in place to work out issues related to bad reviews (or bogus ones by people with an axe to grind, or even the competition themselves – which in the BMW case, some look suspiciously like a rival dealership). Yelp’s stance has always been – community first, consumer/user second and businesses last.
I can only recommend two things:
They can reach out to the bad reviewers via private message (but only once I think) … I suggest they do something more than just apologize or ask “what can we do to make you feel better” … actually invite them to the dealership for a free oil change or something similar, then ask them to post a follow-up review.
Otherwise, they’ll need to take a proactive approach to educating people about their business listing on sites like Yelp.com and citysearch, etc and ask for them to review their experiences at the dealership … perhaps even put a placard on the front counter, or a sticker in the window that say, “hey, we’re on yelp.com – review us!”
They’ll also need to constantly review their profile on sites like yelp, looking for bad reviews … I also suggest they get in a habit of sending messages of appreciation to positive reviews as well.
This is community building. At the end of the day, all dealerships are going to have pissed customers … it’s the dealers responsibility (and ours too as a service provider) to educate themselves on the tools out there and learn how to incorporate them into their everyday marketing efforts.
…. The third option would be to do business w/ yelp as an advertising business with an enhanced profile .. those negative reviews miraculously disappear or get buried – yelp’s been called out on the carpet for this many times. Sometimes they’ve even removed bad reviews the day before a sales call, only to have them put back up after a “no thanks”.