Yelp now breaking down the meaning of its customer reviews with AI

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Yelp partnered with InMoment to integrate AI technology into its consumer reviews.

Yelp has teamed up with InMoment, a provider of customer experience (CX) technology, to help the online review site improve the user experience. By analyzing the meaning of customers' reviews using machine-learning technology, Yelp can now tailor its layout and experience to be more customer-centric. 

Yelp currently hosts 140 million consumer reviews, and the customers are filled with useful information. However, customers are increasingly rejecting long-form surveys that offer businesses feedback. Therefore, InMoment's technology isn't asking customers more structured questions, but rather gaining understanding from their own responses, says InMoment's CEO Andrew Joiner. 

"Yelp has proven that its community can utilize unsolicited feedback to find amazing local experiences across a wide range of industries. InMoment is applying its CX platform to bring unique intelligence to this feedback at scale, allowing businesses to learn what is fundamentally driving superior experiences and guide their organizations accordingly," he said. 

Reputation management is key to the success of retailers, as a bad brand association can make or break sales. According to InMoment, many retailers use management vendors for temporary reputation fixes rather than going to the root cause of the customer dissatisfaction. 

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According to Lisa Davis, vice president of communications at InMoment, customer experience has become the primary differentiator in retail. So with a platform like Yelp, poor reviews can break a brand’s reputation. 

"The stakes are so high, many businesses, including Yelp customers, attempt to massage rankings and review, but lack the deep intelligence to understand where and why the experience is broken, and and how to make changes that matter," Davis told FierceRetail. "Our platform is uniquely tuned to find meaning and drive change from rich unstructured data sets like Yelp’s 140 million cross industry reviews, empowering brands to earn great reputations through great, authentic experiences." 

Davis does note, however; that there’s a marked difference in how reputations are established compared with in the past. 

"Technology has democratized the formation and evolution of brand reputation and put that process on a very public stage, in real-time," she said. "Neither crises nor customers can be managed. Retailers that look to employees and customers as co-creators of both brand reputation and the shared value it represents will make the transition well. However, as we’ve already seen, those that refuse or move too slowly will struggle to stay relevant."

That's why InMoment created its CX platform, that strategically helps build that positive reputation by collecting and integrating a range of data from and about customers, as well as contextual information like financial and operational data. 

"Our proprietary analytics engine surfaces meaning from the full range of structured and unstructured, human data like voice, video and text and delivers intelligence to various places across the enterprise," Davis said. "For example, we work with a large athletic wear brand to help them understand the specific front-line behaviors that both improve customer satisfaction and motivate customers to spend more."

With that intelligence, the athletic brand has now made changes to its hiring practices and has created a comprehensive coaching program to ensure associates understand how to deliver a win-win experience for both the customers and the business.  

RELATED: 69% of women rely on product reviews for shopping decisions 

Looking toward the future, Davis says that customer reviews will continue to play a strong role in both consumer decision making and brand reputation.

"We’re already seeing reviews that contain images and video, and as digital assistants like Alexa proliferate, we’ll we more audio-based reviews as well. Thanks to advanced machine-driven process like deep learning, brands are beginning to understand the full range of information and emotional cues inside these conversations," she said. 

Unfortunately, Davis says that most retailers still look at online reviews in a silo. So while they do an okay job of engaging with individual customers online, they fail to aggregate reviews, as well as other customer feedback sources, to gain a broader picture of what’s working, what’s not, and why or why not.

"In the past, we didn’t have the technology to engage with customers in the ways and places they’re naturally sharing their experiences. In less distant past, we didn’t have the tools to mine this data at scale. Now we do," she said.