Yelp, Uber-Like Services and Robotic Mowers — Oh My!


I can’t recall a single instance where I’ve Yelped — published an online review about a local business on or with the Yelp app. Figuring it’s not worth my time and effort to do so, I’ve never handed out an online attaboy or whined about a particular product or service. With 95 million Yelp reviews monthly, a lot of people apparently think it’s worthwhile to post reviews, however.

Another person like myself that isn’t a big fan of Yelp (at least in its present form) is Justin Crandall, CEO and co-founder of Robin. He and a partner, with $1.2 million in seed money, in May 2015 co-founded Robin, a lawn care service, in Dallas, Houston and Austin.

A very different company

Robin is a very unique lawn care company. It offers two very different lawn care programs, one being an Uber-like service similar to those offered by TaskEasy, Plowz & Mowz, LawnStarter and GreenPal. Lawn care service providers sign up with Robin and when a property owner (typically a homeowner) requests a service, the company then quickly connects the homeowner with a landscaper who can take the job or not depending on the price and how busy they are.

Read more: TaskEasy Links Property Owners with Contractors

But Robin offers another service that sets it apart from the others: it offers robotic electric lawnmowers. The Dallas News reported early this spring the company had installed 36 robotic mowers on clients’ properties and had plans to install about 50 more per month. Plans start at $99 per month for the mowers. There is an installation fee.

Several manufacturers now offer these small electric units, which are very popular in Europe where lawns are smaller. These mowers are not toys. Husqvarna, for example, says its Automower 430x equipped with GPS navigation can mow up to 0.80 acre, including slopes with an incline as much as 45 degrees.

The Robin Lawn Care website lists Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Miami, Tampa and Atlanta as markets it serves, presumably with its lawn-care-by-request service. As of this point it appears that Robin has placed most of the robotic mowers in and around Dallas-Fort Worth.

Read more: The Rise of Robotic Lawn Mowers

Feedback welcome on Facebook, Google, etc.

But back to co-founder Justin Crandall’s views on Yelp, as it’s not unreasonable to wonder if they mirror your views, too. Crandall, in a blog post on the Robin website, is not happy with Yelp in its present form.

Crandall, in referencing Uber and Lyft as examples of Yelp bias, says no company can provide perfect service every time, suggesting that Yelp’s reviews are skewed primarily by people who are angry enough to seek out Yelp and take the time to write a review. The great majority of customers who appreciate an amazing service do not share it on Yelp, he says.

Also, Crandall writes that Yelp’s anonymous approach does not give business owners an opportunity to know who posted the review and to respond to these individuals, investigate what happened and possibly resolve their issue.

Crandall in his post says he will not respond to reviews on Yelp until it requires real names from reviewers and it allows a business owners like him to ask customers for reviews. Meanwhile, he says he will continue to respond to customers’ reviews on Facebook, Google, Thumbtack and other online review sites.

“I strongly believe customer feedback improves businesses and helps to create better experiences for customers,” says Crandall in his blog.

Feedback is obviously critical for any company offering products or services. Without feedback, how can business owners make adjustments to improve the products or experiences they deliver to consumers? This is the rationale that most articles I accessed online give in recommending Yelp despite the misgivings many business owners have about it.

Beyond that, the business model that Crandall and his partner Bart Lomont have brought to lawn care, especially Robin’s robotic mower service, fascinates me. I look forward sharing more about their efforts in future columns.

Read more: Online Reviews Can Make You or Break You