I tested out Yelp's AI assistant to find a house cleaner — here are the results

Screenshots of Yelp's new AI assistant
(Image credit: Yelp)

Just like everyone else, Yelp is getting into AI too. The app is offering a new chat assistant designed to help you find the professionals you need to get projects done around your home. It won't help you find a place to eat, but we have to imagine that the AI features will branch into other parts of Yelp before long.

I decided to give the new AI assistant, which is powered by a mix of its own and OpenAI's large language models (LLMs), a try to see how it handled finding a local cleaner for my apartment. I also used the existing Yelp Projects tools to see how the results compared and I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. But it's not the AI's fault.

Putting Yelp's AI assistant to the test

All things considered, Yelp's AI assistant is intuitive and easy to use. If you're on an iOS device, you simply need to tap on the Projects tab at the bottom of the screen and then hit the button labeled "Find the right pro with AI."

From there, you'll spring into a chat screen where you can ask the assistant to help with the kind of job you need. In my case, I asked to find someone to clean my apartment

Once you ask your initial question, the AI assistant will ask you follow-up questions to help you find the best company for the job. For me, it asked me about my apartment, asking me how many bedrooms and bathrooms I have, if I need carpet or windows cleaned, if I have any product preferences, and so on. It feels like you're on the phone with a company narrowing down the right type of cleaning.

When all the questions are answered, the AI will ask you if you want to submit your request or add any other details. Once you decide to submit, it'll send the job off to sponsored companies to get offers. 

Yelp sponsored pros AI assistant

(Image credit: Future)

Sponsored companies are where it lost me. In my case, it was sent to two local cleaners, one with a single review on Yelp and the other with zero reviews. Sure, they're backed by the Yelp Guarantee, which covers up to $2,500, but it would have been nice to see a wider range of options, including some more established brands.

I also tested the Projects tab without using the AI chat assistant, and the results were the same. Instead of framing it as a chat, though, Yelp just has you go through different checkboxes to find the right cleaner. The checkboxes were exactly the same as the questions the chatbot asked. At the end of the process, I got the same two unknown companies, too.

Could these cleaners be great? It's possible, but I generally don't book people to come into my home without reviews. The fact that they're sponsored results means I have no idea if these are companies Yelp actually feels are right for the job or if they're just the firms that paid the most to be pushed to the front.

While the AI (and the standard search) does what it promises — asks questions to find service pros — it won't be useful until it offers results based on actual Yelp reviews. After all, the whole platform is built around users voicing their opinions, and if you just get results based on the highest bidder, the results aren't particularly useful. 

Additionally, the fact that AI doesn't do anything different than the standard search is disappointing. It almost seems like the company just wanted to get in on the AI hype without actually making a tool that stands out in the crowded space.

In its press release, Yelp touts "its effective and precise matching capabilities, Yelp Assistant is delivering highly relevant, detailed leads to businesses, enabling them to more efficiently assess the project and get hired." I think that sums up the service's goal — it's about delivering leads to businesses and not necessarily delivering the right professional to you.

Will I end up using either of these companies? I'll give them a fair chance, but they're fighting an uphill battle with their lack of reviews and being "sponsored."

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Dave LeClair
Senior News Editor

Dave LeClair is the Senior News Editor for Tom's Guide, keeping his finger on the pulse of all things technology. He loves taking the complicated happenings in the tech world and explaining why they matter. Whether Apple is announcing the next big thing in the mobile space or a small startup advancing generative AI, Dave will apply his experience to help you figure out what's happening and why it's relevant to your life.