But most companies' haven't yet figured out that it's coming at them - for good or bad. Yelping is all about the democratization of customer care and service. It might be the best thing ever from the perspective of a company's clients. Likewise, used thoughtfully, it could make a good company more successful and help those with problems to get them fixed. (And, although most things described in this way are truly overstated,) I think this one really creates a paradigm shift.
Yelp is a social network which started in San Francisco - it's a platform for rating anything its users want to comment on. Till now it's been basically used to rate organizations in the service industry like hotels, retailers, clubs, etc. It's becoming more national in scope as word of it gets around the country. Clearly it's value is being applied to an ever-increasing number of companies and other industries and I think it will evolve to become a force in business to business areas sooner than later.
Everyone is a customer at some point during the day. Over the years I have helped a lot of businesses to get more focused on the importance of using good customer care as a long term business strategy. Where the top brass of a company have an interest in and see or hear clients' feedback directly the organization is always better and more successful than competitors in most cases. Savvy leaders have known for a long time that their time, and the company's money, is better spent getting closer to their clients as opposed to increasing their spending on another new but soon-to-be-forgotten marketing campaign. Yelp provides a new opportunity for them while making it almost impossible for those who haven't yet realized the value of customer feedback to ignore bad comments as well.
Small Example: My daughter Jessica is an excellent hair stylist. She's based in San Francisco and works at a salon there called Flip. With Yelp, she sees feedback from clients about her work and what they thought about the salon. Getting a review that is positive with 5 out of 5 stars makes a big difference to her, the others in the salon, and to the company's success. If you were thinking of trying out a new stylist and see a bunch of unbiased rave reviews about her - don't you think you'll be likely to give her and the salon a try?
When someone or a whole company is getting raves from their clients, it's very energizing. Continous improvement becomes more of the ingrained culture. The customer is involved in raising the bar higher. If on the other hand, you are getting shredded publicly by clients who had a bad experience; it is probable that you are going to try to fix the hassles. In short Yelping is going to put the power in the hands of the company's clients to a greater extent than ever before.
I read an article in which a business owner said his business had gone through the roof after getting a series of positive reviews. In that article, he said that he got a better payoff from the Yelps than any of his past advertising had generated. Here's where we'll see another paradigm shift I believe - more money is going to be directed to customer service versus advertising or marketing as the full impact of the power of the customer makes its way through each industry.
Companies who disregard this trend ( "it won't impact us, heck we're in the manufacturing industry," blah blah blah)do so at their own peril.Tech leaders - help your company to see what's coming. You may be the only ones in the organization who will fully understand the importance of this 'geeky' trend!