You might have noticed a new section on Yelp recently: a category for “Public Services and Government.”
That’s the result of Yelp and the US federal government having completed an agreement that will allow federal agencies to fully utilize the popular online review platform.
Call it “Yelp for Government,” an initiative through which millions of Americans will now be able to share Yelp reviews and opinions of federal agencies and government services – TSA checkpoints and fire departments, say, or national parks, courthouses, and Social Security Administration offices that are listed on the site.
Yelp has already added terms of service for official government use, too. (No third-party apps and ads!)
And – just like business owners who use Yelp as a marketing and customer feedback tool – the US federal government can also claim their Yelp pages, track and respond to reviews, and use the feedback from Yelpers in order to make service improvements.
“The federal government is officially encouraging the public to rate their experiences with the biggest, most frustrating bureaucracy to deal with in the country – just like they would review the new Thai restaurant down the street,” wrote Lisa Rein of the Washington Post.
How Yelp can help
More than a few local business owners have, at one time or another, expressed their frustration with Yelp, choosing not to embrace the reviews and feedback they’re receiving on the site (this Italian restaurant, for example). So how exactly can this benefit the government?
Reviews can positively affect reputation. No matter how your politics swing, there’s a reason why the Washington Post described the federal government as the “biggest, most frustrating bureaucracy to deal with in the country.” But that can change.
By completing the Yelp agreement, public services and federal government agencies now have a structured opportunity to develop a more positive reputation. We’re not expecting five-star reviews across the board – Yelpers, after all, can be unreasonably mean in their reviews (and the government is fairer game than any) – but the agreement does demonstrate a great effort to boost transparency and accountability, within agencies’ respective organizations and in the public eye.
Yelp promotes direct engagement via social media. Sometimes, negative reviews and bad reputation are a result of the consumers – or citizens, in this case – feeling like their voices aren’t being heard.
That’s why the federal government’s previous agreements with companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been successful: they drove engagement with citizens in places where the citizens were talking.
By working with Yelp, Washington now has a new existing platform for engaging with and responding to the needs of citizens. No need to create a new “Yelp for government”; “Yelp for government” is Yelp. Agencies can simply create or claim their pages to gain access to the site’s free review management tools and features – for tracking feedback, responding to reviews, and publishing complete and up-to-date information on their services.
Feedback and data drive improvement. By allowing agencies and departments to utilize the Yelp platform, the federal government can foster a more effective level of feedback and, therefore, generate and manage useful data that might not otherwise be as easily accessible without the Yelp agreement.
What’s working and what’s not? How long do people have to wait to renew their passports? Are airport security screeners polite or rude to passengers? It’s easier for agencies now to find out – and subsequently make the procedural and operational improvements necessary to serve American citizens better.
“We’re moving into a world in which social media is the charge that fuels the circuit of collaborative public service,” said Justin Herman of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies. “This allows agencies to go in and engage, and dedicate customer service staff to monitoring the feedback.”