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How to respond to negative Yelp reviews

Yelp can be a powerful tool for small business owners, but unfortunately it’s not one that you yield much control over. The premise for Yelp is that it is community-driven, so Yelp provides few tools for business owners to manage unwanted attention. Occasionally you’ll get negative Yelp reviews and your knee jerk reaction may not be the best bet. Here’s how to handle a negative Yelp review:

  1. Keep your cool
    Your business is personal to you. When someone unfairly accuses your business and employees it can be tempting to lash out with a scathing response to set them straight. Don’t. You can’t win this battle by going tit-for-tat with the reviewer. You will come off looking arrogant and will only damage your reputation further. Don’t take it personally, think before you respond!
  2. Take inventory
    Be honest, is there anything legitimate about the review? Is there a particular employee that tends to get more complaints? Is there a problem with you food? Was the client overcharged? Make sure to take note if there’s actually something to be learned from the situation, and respond appropriately (see #4)
  3. Keep it private
    The very best method to open the lines of communication with an unhappy customer is to private message them through Yelp. Don’t make it a public reply, but contact them privately with a personal message and an offer to make it better. As all business owners know, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. Consider offering a discount or special on their next service/appointment/meal if it seems appropriate. With this approach we have actually had a review go from one star to five stars for one of our clients. The reviewer was so impressed by the immediate response and willingness to rectify the situation, he edited his review.
  4. Go public
    Not all Yelp reviewers will respond to personal messages. In those cases write a neutral response such as “We’re sorry to hear you had an inadequate experience with our company. We continually strive to improve our processes and have taken note of your complaint. We hope to see you at our establishment again soon.” By responding, other Yelp users will see that you are monitoring your account and caring about the reviews. This helps neutralize the negative review.
  5. Report the review
    If the review is truly inappropriate or a personal attack, flag it and Yelp will manually review it. We’ve seen disgruntled ex-employees leave messages about the company and Yelp was willing to remove them after going through their process. But be aware to use this only when it truly calls for it, see Yelp’s guidelines.
  6. Unfortunately there are cases where you can’t win. There are some reviewers who simply enjoy voicing their negative opinion on Yelp and see it as a platform to do just that. If your reviews are mostly good then let the sour ones go. It’s not worth your time and energy, Yelp users are savvy enough to recognize a “ranter” over a true review. If your reviews are split 50/50 bad and good reviews you may want to go back to step#2 and figure out what the problem is, but otherwise keep in mind that it’s the sum of all the reviews that really counts.

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