Yelp Has a New AI Bot for Home Repairs, and It’ll Quiz You on Your Needs

As online search evolves to become more conversational thanks to generative AI, review platform Yelp is riding the wave with a series of new features that allow you to pinpoint relevant businesses by interacting with an AI assistant.

Called Yelp Assistant, the feature lets you interact with a large language model — the same sort of process as when you type a prompt into ChatGPT or a similar chatbot — to find the right professional for jobs around your home.

By asking you a series of questions about the issue at hand — like, say, an upcoming move or a mysterious dripping sound — Yelp Assistant diagnoses the problem and helps connect you to local professionals. Available categories include home, auto, beauty, pets, real estate, event planning and financial services.

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“It takes the power of LLMs and the depth of our content and our taxonomy, which we’ve developed over the course of decades, and marries the two of them together,” said Akhil Kuduvalli Ramesh, senior vice president of consumer product at Yelp.

Generative AI is working its way into more and more consumer-facing products, from general-purpose chatbots and AI-assisted web search to tools you can use for travel planning, getting stats from golf tournaments and more, as well as eye-catching proofs of concept like Microsoft’s rapping Mona Lisa. A study released last week by Boston Consulting Group found that 80% of survey participants were aware of generative AI, while 75% said they have used gen AI to address an unmet need.

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The LLM powering Yelp Assistant has been trained over the last six months on Yelp data, including business information, as well as information gleaned from its Request a Quote feature. For certain projects, like moving a large item such as a piano, Yelp Assistant is able to provide specifics thanks to reviews on the site, which it has ingested and learned from.

Yelp manages hallucinations, or the false or misleading information that may be generated by AI, with a supervisory system that intervenes when answers go off the rails, as well as with policies governing content and conversations, Ramesh said.

He noted that services now account for more than 50% of Yelp’s revenue.

You can find Yelp Assistant on the company’s iOS app under the Projects tab. It will roll out to Android this summer. 

Meanwhile, Yelp’s Project Ideas feature will include personalized recommendations via predictive analysis following an update this summer. Ramesh said Project Ideas will predict what home projects a given user might want to do by considering their location, as well as the time of year.

In addition to Yelp Assistant and Project Ideas, the platform is adding natural language search to the API used by its partners.

“Utilizing Yelp’s reliable local data and content — including business information, reviews and photos — the Yelp Fusion AI API enhances discovery on third-party platforms by enabling conversational queries like, ‘Find a vegan brunch place with a patio that’s open this Sunday at 10 a.m.,’ or, ‘Recommend a good gym in Miami that has a swimming pool,'” Chief Product Officer Craig Saldanha wrote in a blog post.

The Yelp Fusion AI API can answer single questions now. Multistep conversations will be available later this year. 

Yelp also announced updates to its Guest Manager features, which help improve front-of-house operations and the guest experience. For businesses, that includes analytics for a better understanding of consumers’ needs, such as more effective staff utilization, better preparedness for upcoming shifts and streamlined operations, the blog post said.

On the guest side, updates to an existing Waitlist feature tap into neural networks, or machine learning systems that are trained on giant datasets to find takeaways in patterns, to improve wait time accuracy.

“Keep an eye out for even more ways we’re leveraging AI and new engaging content, like AI stitched videos using real photos, videos, and information from Yelp, to help you find the right business for your needs,” the blog post said.

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