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Trustworthy alternatives to Yelp

May 06, 2015

Online crowdsourcing has been around as long as the Internet. For decisions from finding the best pizza to hiring a contractor, there are local and special-interest message boards and listservs that appear trustworthy if they're non-commercial. But for a quicker answer about a business without reading through meandering message threads, people turn to customer-generated review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews, and too many others to count.

While collecting customer feedback and experience can be greatly useful, some of the usual methods are flawed. There's no shortage of detractors pointing out factors affecting trustworthiness of online user reviews. Yelp has been accused of gaming its reviews system to favor advertisers (a charge the company denies), and the paid service Angie’s List has come under similar criticism. Google local search recently removed links to third party customer review sites from its Knowledge Panel results. And what about all those fake reviews that show up on Amazon? One source estimated that as much as 30% of customer reviews are fake.

Consumers want reviews and have come to expect them. But what provider can be trusted? Here are five ways that online services and apps offer alternatives.

AUTHORITATIVE RECOMMENDATIONS

For diners who defer to the pros, the Chefs Feed app and website lets nearly 1,000 chefs like Thomas Keller, David Chang and Daniel Boulud recommend favorite dishes they order when they're dining out, from high-end to hole-in-the-wall spots in 24 cities.

The Chefs Feed website also lets chefs address their frustrations with Yelp with videos of them reading selected bad customer reviews for their own restaurants. The latest one features Telmo Faria of Tacolicious in San Francisco reading a review whose writer gave Tacolicious one star, but admitted they hadn't even eaten there.

ASK A FRIEND

A 2012 Nielsen survey showed that the most trusted form of advertising was recommendations from people the respondents knew. (Known reviewers were trusted by 92%, versus 70% trust rate of general online reviews.)

Building on this tendency, the app Chekplate allows users to review and rate restaurants, to be shared only with people they know, and users can in turn access the reviews of the friends, family and colleagues who they follow. Another recommend-to-a-friend online resource is the reader-generated book review service GoodReads, which is now owned by Amazon.

CONFIRMED CUSTOMERS ONLY

Bazaarvoice is a top provider for online ratings and reviews for global clients like Samsung. Client Ryan Keeton, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer at Carvana, describes how the service works. “When selecting a review tool for our website, we chose Bazaarvoice as it is a highly reputable review engine that enables us to automatically send out a request for a review after a Carvana customer has purchased a car online from us and then seamlessly post it to our review page. Our investment in a third-party tool has been beneficial to us, as more than 40 percent of Carvana’s customers write a review after purchase, compared to the rest of the automotive industry, which is less than 2 percent.”

With this and similar services, such as TruReview.com and Yotpo, the review requests sent by the business ensure that only confirmed customers can generate reviews for the products or businesses.

REVIEWING THE SELLERS

Trustpilot is a review site that collects customer feedback about independent e-commerce retailers in categories including gambling sites, phone and internet services, and tobacco products. The company reports having over 90,000 business reviews--no doubt helped by the company's TrustScores being used to create businesses' Google Seller Ratings and Bing Merchant Ratings. Trustpilot also provides a widget for small businesses to display their good reviews on their websites. As with the other "confirmed purchaser" services above, Trustpilot charges the businesses on varying plans and is free for customers to use.

KEEPING IT POSITIVE

The Goodsnitch app positions itself as “a better way to provide feedback and recognize good service,” which allows customers’ “not-so-good” feedback to be delivered to the business and addressed privately. Feedback, called snitches, can be left for businesses, nonprofits, or any other organization. Using the positive feedback, Goodsnitch awards one Everyday Hero--and the person who recognized them--daily with $1,000 to share, with a goal of recognizing one million heroes.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.

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