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3 Options for Handling Negative Reviews on Yelp

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Yelp is a battleground for many businesses. The power of a single review can make or break the future of your business, depending on the circumstances. A well-written positive review by a noteworthy personality can attract thousands of new people to your brand and bolster your visibility in search engines, but all it takes is one devastating review to draw people far away.

Most modern entrepreneurs dread the prospect of getting a negative review. But while negative reviews can be intimidating, they are not unconquerable. In fact, most businesses will encounter at least one scathing negative review throughout the course of their development. You can mitigate negative reviews as much as possible by constantly listening to feedback and improving your business, but sooner or later, a negative review will pop up, and how you respond to that negative review can go a long way in overcoming—or enabling—its potentially harmful effects.

In Yelp’s current format, there are three main options for handling a negative review, all of which are intended to improve your brand image and limit the potential damage from the review:

1. Offer a solution.

articleimage1308 Offer a solution

Your first course of action is to find a resolution for the problem at hand. Let’s say a customer recently bought a product from you that turns out to be defective. In anger, they turn to Yelp and write a negative review about it. The simple solution is to reach out to that individual and offer to replace that item with a functioning version; in most cases, this is more than enough to repair the damage, and any review readers will see your commitment to customer service.

Unfortunately, not all complaints can be resolved so simply. Others may take issue with the level of service you offer, the friendliness of your staff, or even the convenience of your location. People are picky, and especially in service-based industries, it’s not possible to offer an immediate solution. Instead, all you can do is pledge to make an improvement following the user’s critique. If you find multiple people with the same complaint, you owe it to yourself to fix it as soon as possible.

2. Apologize and make it up to the person.

articleimage1308 Apologize and make it up to the person

This is straightforward, and doesn’t require much attention to detail. Assume for a moment that you have an angry or slighted reviewer who cannot be satisfied with a simple solution. At this point, all you can do is apologize for whatever circumstances arose and offer a chance to make it up to the person. When it comes to apologies, simpler is always better; you’d be surprised what a sincere and direct “I’m sorry” can do for your customers’ sentiments of you.

As for the “making it up to them” part, this is a little trickier, but it’s also flexible. For example, you can offer the customer a discount on their next order, or send them a free sample. You can also ask the customer directly if anything will make up for the situation. For example, they may request that you make a change to how you do business (which you may or may not comply with). The key is to show other readers that you’re willing to make things right.

3. Explain the situation.

articleimage1308 Explain the situation

Finally, you have an opportunity to contextualize the situation. This is arguably the most confrontational of the three approaches, and should be reserved for situations that you know are being unjustifiably cited for the negative review. For example, if a customer gives you a bad review for taking an excessively long time to complete a job, but the timeline was made clear to the customer up front, you can explain the situation. Keep a positive, amiable tone, but kindly point out to the reviewer that there are circumstances that led to this situation that are either beyond your control or were made clear well in advance of the transaction.

Ideally, your response would contain elements of all three of these approaches, but not every situation can support such an ideal response. Utilize these options as you see fit, responding to each negative review as you deem appropriate.

What Not to Do

There are always alternative ways to handle things, and your brand may have some unique qualities that allow for a differentiated approach. There are, however, a handful of approaches you’ll want to avoid no matter what:

  • Don’t try to delete or remove the review. This isn’t an option on Yelp, but it exists in other online review formats. Trying to cover up a negative review will always end up in disaster—the original reviewer will likely become irate and even more insistent about the negative review, and your brand will look shady to any third party spectators.
  • Don’t become confrontational. Accusing the reviewer of ill intentions or stating that the customer is completely in the wrong (even though they might be) will make you look immature and make your business look undesirable.
  • Don’t ignore it. If left untouched, a bad review can make it seem like you don’t care about your business or your customers.

Keep these best practices (and worst practices) in mind as you grow accustomed to managing your business’s presence in Yelp and other third party review sites. Hopefully, the negative reviews you receive will be few and far between, but when they do inevitably creep up on you, you’ll be prepared to neutralize them.

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Kathrina Tiangco

Kathrina is AudienceBloom's project manager. She works closely with our writers, editors, and publishers to make sure client work is completed on time.

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