Online business rating sites can be a double-edged sword but the pros outweigh the cons, a Tauranga hotelier says.
One of the world's largest social media and business review sites, Yelp.com, launched in New Zealand today with promises to revolutionise the retail/hospitality/services industries by holding businesses more accountable and educating consumers of their options.
Users rate businesses based on their experiences and use the site to find good businesses based on other people's recommendations.
Originally launched in the United States in 2004. Yelp is now used in 21 countries and had more than 100 million monthly visitors in January this year.
However other business rating sites were already operating in New Zealand and were a mixed blessing, Quest Tauranga franchise manager Duncan Drummond said.
While feedback, positive and negative, was useful for a business, the sites were sometimes used by "serial complainers" who unfairly gave the business a bad name, often in the hope of receiving a discount, Mr Drummond said.
"That to me is an unfortunate downside to these sites, hopefully they're in the minority," he said.
On the other hand, the sites were also a vehicle for people to give positive reviews and could be a "powerful marketing tool," he said.
"I think the pros always outweigh the cons because you have to be able to accept criticism and respond positively to it, ie examine your business and see if you can improve it."
Mr Drummond said he had no problem with the launch of a new business rating site, except that he may have to spend more time responding to unfair reviews.
"If if gets to be a dozen [rating sites], if it gets to be two dozen, where does it end? Do we have to devote one staff member to just answering these sites?"
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason said Yelp was similar to an existing website called Tripadvisor. The site had been operating for more than ten years and was popular with consumers, he said.
"Tripadvisor is not universally liked by restaurants and hotels in particular, because of perceived pettiness by some customers and also of unethical competitor activity."
Yelp would likely be popular in Tauranga because the Tripadvisor model has been successful in the city, Mr Mason said.
"I have used Tripadvisor and find it quite helpful but take some of the reviews with a grain of salt, because it's amazing how petty some people can be.
"However as far as local business owners are concerned, it's a reality of running a business and it's advisable to develop ways to monitor and manage their customer service."
Other businesses said rating sites were "here to stay" and provided equal opportunities of promotion for each business.