It happens to all customer-facing businesses at one point or another – the dreaded negative Yelp review. It’s a perfectly natural part of the business’s lifespan. It’s been said over and over again that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and to some extent, that may be true. However, how a business responds to a negative review can make an impression on past, present and future customers.

About Yelp

Before we delve into how to respond to negative reviews, let’s break down what Yelp actually is. On the surface, it’s a website dedicated to reviewing local businesses. Customers (Yelp users) write reviews for restaurants, car dealerships, hair salons…pretty much any customer service-related business. Although it’s primarily a review site, it’s also very much a social network. Users can friend other users, send private messages and post questions for the Yelp community to give feedback on. Those users who are very active and dedicated to writing reviews can also be upgraded to “Yelp Elite” status, a prestigious designation that is vied for by loyal Yelp reviewers.

What Yelp Says About Negative Reviews

Yelp has written a nice guide about responding to reviews. In regards to negative reviews, Yelp suggests “…keep your message simple: thank you for the business and the 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.”

Easier said than done, am I right?

 

The Dos of Responding to Negative Yelp Reviews

Do wait – Give yourself a moment to pause, breathe and think before writing a response. Take a walk or make yourself a cup of tea or coffee before typing away at that keyboard.

Do respond – Sticking your head in the sand won’t make the bad review go away.

Do thank the customer – Although your insides may be burning with the flames of a thousand suns, be sure to thank them for being a customer and offering constructive feedback, no matter how harsh their review may be.

Do apologize – Whether it was truly bad service or a simple misunderstanding, own up to the issue at hand.

Do offer a resolution – Depending on the review, this can get tricky. Sometimes it’s a staff training issue. Other times, a gift certificate or coupon may suffice. Whatever the issue is, find a way to make it right.

Do treat this as a learning opportunity – Sure, it stings right now, but wouldn’t you rather know if something was not up to your customers’ standards?

 

The Don’ts of Responding to Negative Yelp Reviews

Don’t get defensive – No matter what. Period. End of story. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. What matters is that a customer is not happy for some reason or another, and a review has been written. A public argument will not make the situation better.

Don’t post fake positive reviews – Not only is it against the terms and conditions of Yelp’s user agreement, it’s just plain wrong. Don’t do it.

Don’t go on a witch hunt – Yelp encourages users to post their real names and photos of themselves. Don’t confront customers for posting their experience.

Don’t make substantial changes based on one review – Before making any significant changes, speak to regular customers, and get their opinion first. Do some marketing research. You can’t expect to please everyone. Don’t risk alienating your regulars due to one bad experience.

Don’t take it personally – Sometimes there are just off-days. Learn from the experience, and move on.

A negative review doesn’t necessarily have to harm your business. Taking the appropriate steps to resolve the issue can speak volumes. If you spin that review into a positive customer service experience, you’ll build goodwill and win over even more customers.

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