Tips for responding to negative Yelp reviews

Business has been going great and you couldn’t be happier. You are online and decide to look your business up and you see it – a bad yelp review. Don’t despair! You can remedy this situation.

A bad review is not the end of the world! Sometimes they work a great purpose and are actually helpful in figuring out what changes you need to make in business (is this an issue you have heard in the past? Or was it a one-off mistake/bad day)

Luckily, “yelp-ers” are able to edit their reviews. Most of the time a bad reviewer will state that they are seeking a remedy for their issue. Once this is achieved they will usually edit their post and let people know. The important thing to focus on here is on how to fix an issue and how to remedy the situation.

So  – how should you respond to a negative review?

  • Breathe: First things first – take a deep breath and never respond to a negative review while you feel riled up or upset – this will show in the response and come off as sounding overly defensive and rude.
  • Read the review carefully: Don’t accidentally miss important information because you are quickly skimming through the review. Slow down, write down important details (names, dates, hours, named employees, etc)
  • Investigate the situation and the reviewer:  Now that you have written down important details – make sure you find out what exactly happened. Speak to your staff and ask them about it.  Look closely for issues you can explain, or causes for the complaint, so you’ll have something to discuss in your response. If the issue is very serious, you may want to discuss it with your lawyer first.

    Check out the reviewrs profile. Are you noticing that you’re possibly dealing with someone who always writes negative reviews? This may be a red flag and a good sign that maybe their review doesn’t merit a deep company overhaul. When every review that person writes is negative, you’ll know that the writer is probably picky person that might not ever be happy, no matter what you might do.

  • Choose a response method: Once you feel cool, calm and collected decide which method you will use to respond. Yelp allows a business to respond to a customer publicly OR in a private message setting to both great reviews and negative reviews. Some companies will actually respond both ways – 1. A simple public apology/explanation that you regret the situation and would like to remedy it. This public message allows other readers to see that you are proactive and care about your customers. 2. The private message can be used to  be more detailed with the reviewer and build trust. This is a great way to offer remedies, depending on your industry, such as a free “lunch” or “class”, etc.
  • Keep It simple: Both public and private messaging should be kept simple: thank the reviewer for their business and their feedback. If you can be specific about the customer’s experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust.
  • Be polite: You will be surprised as to how a negative review can change into a positive by simply being nice and listening to your reviewers concerns. If your response comes off as rude or condescending or disingenuous – you could make matters worse!
  • Don’t be afraid of apologizing: Some people feel that if they apologize even when the customer was wrong then it means the business was at fault. Remember, there are ways of saying “I am sorry” for a situation or misunderstanding (on either or both sides) without it defining who is “taking blame”. Make sure your apology follows the rules of being polite and can not be construed as sounding rude (i.e.: a communication issue can easily go south with a response like:  “Sorry you didn’t understand what we were telling you” vs. “we are sorry for any miscommunication”)
  • Explain the issue and your resolution: Let the reviewer know you have taken the time to look into the matter and how you’re fixing the issue or a company/employee issue so that it ensures the same event never happens again. “We are so sorry that you were unable to order our delicious Friday special. We had an unanticipated larger crowd earlier that day due to a local event. Unfortunately, we ran out before we could offer/serve you. We’re working with our local hotel (who held the local event) to ensure that we always are aware of their larger events and attendance and that it never happens again. Won’t you come back?”

    If you are responding to a review and claim that is meritless – defend your company in a non-confrontational manner. i.e: “On Friday we had plenty of our special: freshly made crab cakes on hand, in fact we had a few extra at closing. I’ve checked with all of the staff working that day, and recalls a party of 3 being told that were were all out of Friday’s Special.  Maybe this is a mistake? We hope so. And we hope to see you soon!”

  • Monitor and Repeat: Stay on top of all of your reviews and make sure to keep all of the tips in mind. Do not respond to ONLY good reviews publicly if you are not going to respond to bad reviews. (that looks like you only care about the positive and you are ignoring everyone else and not listening to their issues – consumers do not like that)

According to its own corporate website – Yelp has a 1/9/90 Rule. That means 1 percent creates content, 9 percent edit content, and 90 percent just consume content. When you’re writing a response, aim for that 90 percent. Those are the people who more than likely haven’t yet had the pleasure of your company’s goods and services. They’re not biased against you or what you can do. At the moment, they have no opinions at all. Since it is estimated that 90% of consumers say Yelp impacts purchase decisions, it’s vital to win over these undecided votes!

How do you handle reviews for your business? Let us know in the comments below!

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